This week, York Central MP Rachael Maskell met Peter Freeman, Chair of Homes England, to share her vision for York Central ahead of the crucial decision to select a developer for the York Central site.
Rachael emphasised that the priority must be on delivering a “new generation of highly-skilled, well paid jobs for local people, growing clusters of businesses that anchor industries in York as well as providing opportunities for York’s entrepreneurs to develop their enterprises”, so that this site can once again become the “economic powerhouse of the city”.
Housing was also a big topic on the agenda. Rachael reiterated how, with 23% housing inflation in York, many constituents are being priced out of the city, and that it is imperative that the housing being delivered on York Central, fits local needs and includes plenty affordable family homes that are in such acute shortage.
The visit closely follows the publication of this year’s Centre For Cities, Outlook 2023 Report. This found that whilst York has a highly skilled population and the lowest claimant rate of any of the places in the study, York wages are way below cities with similar skill levels like Aberdeen, Cambridge and Reading and has by far the least affordable housing in the North of England. York was also ranked in the bottom 10 for both new business start-ups and growth of private sector jobs.
Rachael also raised the frustration many constituents had expressed with the York Central engagement process to date, who at key times had felt shut out of the process. She urged Homes England to press their partners to reset the relationship with the community for the next phase.
Homes England confirmed that the partnership expected to appoint a Development Partner for the whole site in this summer. They told the MP that whilst they must balance competing demands, they are keen to select a developer who will take a long term view of the site and will provide new and genuine opportunities for the community to shape the plans in a meaningful way.
The meeting included a tour of Kings Cross hosted by Robert Evans, Joint Managing Partner at Argent LLP who have developed the Kings Cross site over 20-years and continue to play an active role in the management of the place. He explained how their holistic and long-term approach to developing Kings Cross, had helped them to deliver a new carbon neutral community with 40% affordable housing, double that planned for York Central, and many other community benefits including new schools, sports and swimming facilities, a university, restored heritage buildings, innovative work programmes & new public art installations.
“Talking to residents, I know there are fears that York Central is simply not for the people of this city, and looks set to become yet another factor pricing families out, and pushing them further away.
“In its day, York Carriage-works site delivered thousands of well-paid, high-quality jobs, for local people in the surrounding communities providing them with a good quality of life. As I saw today at Kings Cross, with a long-term vision and the right priorities, our former-carriage-works site could do this again for a new generation of York residents, whist also creating a really positive and carbon neutral new place with plenty of great things for everyone.
“Making this a reality at York Central will require the long-term commitment, ambition and focus of everyone involved. That is what I called for today.
“Much of this hinges on which company is chosen to develop the site, and this is a decision York residents have absolutely no direct influence on. I know how frustrated residents and businesses have been to date, as important partners in this project, and I will build a strong relationship with all the partners to ensure that York’s priorities are their priorities. I will do all I can in the coming months to push the Government and Partners to take a longer term view, and choose a partner who will deliver the best possible place for the people of York.”
Further information & clarifications
- Homes England and Network Rail are currently in the process of finding a partner to deliver the whole York Central Development. The MP has been advised, there is now a short-list of 3-bidders with a final decision due this summer.
- Argent LLP are not bidding in the process or are on the shortlist. Further information on Kings Cross can be found here. About the redevelopment of the King’s Cross area of London (kingscross.co.uk)
- Centre For Cities publish their Cities Outlook report once a year on the economic performance of the UK’s largest towns and cities. This found York to be by far the least affordable place to live of all places in the study (ranked 17th nationally, with the next northern city being Manchester ranked at 35. The full report can be found here Cities Outlook 2023 | Centre for Cities