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Clifford’s Tower set to be transformed in redevelopment

Photo credit: www.english-heritage.org.uk
Photo credit: www.english-heritage.org.uk

The City of York Council has approved plans by English Heritage for the redevelopment of Clifford’s Tower, the Grade I listed remaining part of York Castle. The work is set to commence in the coming months, after the City of York planning committee voted 11 to three in favour of English Heritage’s proposals last Thursday.

Intended to improve the visitor experience, a new visitors’ centre is set to be be provided at the base of the mound to expand current facilities, incorporating a shop, café, and other services. Inside the Tower itself, new stairwells and walkways will be installed to provide access to an enlarged viewing platform at the top. In addition, a number of medieval rooms that are hidden from the public at present are set to be opened in the scheme.

The owners of the building, English Heritage, have presented the plans as being essential to the improvement of the visitor experience, with the head properties’ curator at English Heritage, Dr Jeremy Ashbee, saying that the project will “reveal more of Clifford’s Tower than ever before and allow us to finally do justice to its remarkable history”.
Meanwhile, Hugh Broughton Architects, the firm in charge of the project, has described the plans as being “developed to respect this cherished monument”, with the scheme aimed around enhance[ing] access” to the tower, and “provid[ing] much improved [opportunities for] interpretation.”

Councillor John Galvin, backing the proposals, argued that visitors to York expect a “decent interpretation” of historic buildings such as Clifford’s Tower, and that the visitors’ centre is essential as there is not the space within the tower to expand the current facilities.

However, the proposals have been deeply criticised by conservationists, who fear that the historic fabric of the Tower will be damaged by the proposals, with particular criticism aimed at the planned visitors’ centre. The city centre’s Guildhall planning committee has criticised the centre’s apperance, likening it to a “public toilet” and the York Civic Trust, whilst giving approval to the works in the Tower itself, are objecting to the visitors’ centre.

Prior to consideration by the planning comittee, less than two-dozen objections  to the proposals were registered. However, an online petition on the website 38degrees entitled “STOP ENGLISH HERITAGE MAKING CLIFFORD’S TOWER LOOK LIKE DISNEYLAND!” has attracted over 1330 signatures at the time of writing. Meanwhile, a Facebook event called “Hands Off Clifford’s Tower – Protest!” is advocating for a demonstration on the morning of Sunday 6th November, calling the “young, old and in between to join us at Clifford’s Tower to show The Council and English Heritage that we are taking this issue VERY seriously”.