07/06/2018Rethinking Clifford's Tower
- Proposed visitor building will not go ahead, announces English Heritage
- But a visit to the tower is still far from ideal says the charity
The new plans to regenerate York’s Castle Gateway area combined with the deep attachment many people have for the mound at Clifford’s Tower means that English Heritage has decided not to proceed with the proposed visitor building at the base of the mound, the charity has announced.
English Heritage’s proposals to carry out vital conservation work at Clifford’s Tower, to improve the interpretation within the tower, and to create a new visitor building at the base of the mound, received planning permission from City of York Council in October 2016 .
However since then – almost two years ago – a lot has changed.
The masterplan to regenerate the Castle Gateway area has been produced and the Council recently announced a significant financial commitment to the project, opening up possibilities that did not exist when English Heritage first developed its plans for Clifford’s Tower.
English Heritage also has a new director for the north of England, Andrea Selley, who has been listening to the views of the local community. And while the proposed visitor building would have sat within a relatively modern part of the mound (dating from the 1930s) and did not pose a risk to the archaeology , it was clear that many people love the shape of the mound and disliked the thought of its circumference being broken.
Because of these reasons, English Heritage will not now place a visitor building within the mound.
However the charity still believes that the experience of visiting Clifford’s Tower is far from ideal and does not reflect the site’s importance, both nationally and within the city of York. Very few people repeat their visit to Clifford’s Tower or recommend others to visit – something still has to be done.
Therefore with our partners and with the help of the local community, English Heritage will now rework its proposals.
Andrea Selley, English Heritage’s Director for the North of England, said:
“There are a number of things which influenced this decision. The momentum behind transforming the Castle Gateway area is genuinely exciting and it may open up opportunities for Clifford’s Tower that previously did not exist.
“We also became increasingly conscious that many people have a deep emotional attachment towards the mound. Yes, the base of the mound is a twentieth-century construction and no, the visitor building would not have touched any of the medieval remains but like the wallpaper in our homes, that small mound is a deeply familiar backdrop and the thought of changing it – even slightly and even with the very best intentions – was too much for many.
“But the fact remains that although people love the tower, a visit is far from ideal – there is an ugly shop in the centre of the tower and little interpretation to tell its fascinating story. We therefore remain committed to doing justice to Clifford’s Tower and we will work with our partners and the public to get it right.”
1. In October 2016, after a full and proper debate, City of York Council’s planning committee voted 11 to three in favour of approval of English Heritage’s planning application for Clifford’s Tower. Councillor Johnny Hayes OBE instigated a Judicial Review questioning whether the planning application had been handled correctly by the City of York Council. That Judicial Review found in the Council’s favour and the councillor subsequently chose to appeal that decision. An original date for the Appeal in April 2018 was deferred (the judges being unavailable), and a provisional alternative date has been set for 23 July 2018.
2. In the 1820s, as part of the construction of the County Gaol, the mound at Clifford’s Tower was cut back to make way for a new road and a large retaining wall was built around it. In 1935, the lower slopes of the mound were reconstructed.