York Central plans overhaul – through an online ‘computer game’

YORK residents are given the opportunity to participate in the overhaul of York Central’s master plan – using an online ‘world-building’ style toolkit.

The method, developed by think tank Demos and hosted by campaign group York YoCo (York Central Co-Owned), will use crowdfunding and world-building techniques to enable local people to suggest changes to designs for the huge site.

They will be able to download the master plan and then redesign it online – adding new paths or public parks, sketching suggested designs for homes and buildings, and redesigning the way shops and offices are laid out.

The new “community plan” tool will be uploaded to the YoCo website on October 1st. All of the redesigned plans, along with the original master plan, will be listed on the site and ranked in order of popularity as people comment and like or dislike them. After two months, the most popular “community plan” will then be presented to the York Central Partnership, which manages the development of the site on behalf of Homes England, Network Rail, City Council and NRM, for review.

This is the first time the technique will be used for a development on this scale anywhere in the UK, said Jon Nash of Demos. “We’re going to start with the master plan and then invite the people of York to come up with something better,” he said.

The hope is that the program will increase “community engagement”, lead to new ideas – and involve younger people. “This is the younger generation that will be living with York Central,” said Jon.

The master plan for the huge 110-acre site behind York Station was approved by planners in March 2019. It includes up to 2,500 new homes, 110,000 square meters of commercial and office space, as well as new streets, shops and public spaces.

Often described as ‘York’s greatest contaminated site’, the development has the potential to generate jobs, create new homes and workplaces and change the face of York for generations to come.

The master plan was developed following a pioneering ‘My York Central’ consultation in 2018 that involved weeks of site visits, workshops, discussions and debates.

But that’s just a preview, with all the details yet to be filled in.

Phil Bixby, a member of YoCo, the York architect who helped lead the My York Central consultation, added that the master plan did not take into account all of the ideas from the previous consultation. One of the big ideas was that we had to move away from the idea of ​​“zoning,” he said – where development is organized into separate zones for housing, business and retail.

Mixed-use neighborhoods work much better, Phil said. There is less need for transportation, to begin with. “People can walk to the stores or to the cafe.” And these neighborhoods tend to be active at all times of the day, he added.

YoCo therefore joined forces with Demos to launch the new online consultation. “We are looking to see what an appetite there is to take over the master plan and do more innovative things,” he said.

York Central Project Director Ian Gray praised the YoCo approach.

“Creating great communities to live and work in is at the heart of Homes England’s work, and we welcome the committed approach of YoCo and Demos,” he said.

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