York Civic Trust

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York Civic Trust

Past Planning: Proposed hotel near Monk Bar and the City Walls

The fundamental principles to be applied when assessing a scheme in the Central Historic  Core Conservation Area of York, apart from the design, are those of context and setting. In this case, the context is a linear site ranging from distances of 95 metres (32 ft) to 140 metres(46 ft) from the medieval City Wall which stretches from Monk Bar towards Peasholme Green.  This section of the Wall is known to have been repaired in 1579 and restored in 1871-78, and later, in 1957. The medieval wall originally had a rampart on the S.E side of about 95 ft. wide and 14ft. high, but was later lowered.

The City Walls of York are Scheduled as an Ancient Monument and as such are protected as a nationally important site of archaeological and historic importance. The City Walls as an entity are a defining feature in the City's townscape and contribute internationally to the overall character of the City. The part of the Wall from Monk Bar to Peasholme Green (as indeed applies to all the City Walls) is also 'listed' under Grade I as a building of architectural and historic interest.

It is therefore true to say that the application site adjoins an historic structure of international importance which is recognised in every legal way (ie. Scheduled Ancient Monument; 'Listed building' and Conservation Area). The application site itself contains single storey buildings which abut the footpath alongside St. Maurice's Road, and which originally formed the outbuildings and stores to the Public House (adjoining Monk Bar). For over twenty years the City Council tried to encourage the owners to repair these semi-derelict buildings, however in 1996 they were repaired and extended to provide a catering training centre. Whilst these buildings have little architectural interest, they fall within the curtilage of the listed Monk Bar P.H. and are therefore 'listed' as curtilage buildings. Despite their lack of merit architecturally, but they are single storey and are set away from the rampart of the City Wall and thus provide a 'glimpse view' from St. Maurice's Road of Monk Bar. This section of the City Wall attracts a large number of pedestrians who also get a 'high level' view of the Bar and also of York Minster. 

The proposal under consideration is to build a three storey hotel containing 26 rooms with a restaurant for approx. 150 covers. The restaurant is on the ground floor and the two upper floors contain bedrooms with ancillary facilities. The building has a flat roof to be covered in sedum and with solar panels. The walls have opaque panels with 'through-coloured' render, and large areas of horizontal louvres. At ground level there is a section of the above mentioned brick outbuilding which will be retained with the openings brick up.

Whatever the architectural merits of the proposed building in itself (and we consider there are few) in this location we believe this building would be a disastrous addition to the townscape of York. It would make a negative contribution to the setting of the various heritage assets, which this site has in abundance. It would not only be visible from St. Maurice's Road but also, and more importantly, from the section of City Walls which provide a viewing platform for hundreds of visitors. Most of all, it would create substantial harm to the character and appearance of the City Walls, Monk Bar and the Conservation Area.

We have no hesitation in urging the City's Planning Committee to reject this scheme; we are however aware that if that recommendation is not accepted this application will need to be referred to the Government Office to whom a copy of this letter will be sent.

The officers in the planning department agreed with this assessment and recommended refusal but the applicant withdrew the scheme before the committee meeting commenced. (23 September 2010)