Former factory set for sweetest of conversions
For many years, Rowntree and the city of York were synonymous, a sweet maker whose influence was such that local football side York City even briefly switched to a chocolate-and-cream striped kit in the 1930s in tribute. But times have changed.
Rowntree was subsequently taken over by Nestle and production moved elsewhere. Since 2008 the huge old factory has lain empty.
Now, however, all that is set to change after the awarding of planning permission by the city council to developer Newby to transform the building into a complex of 258 apartments.
The company was selected by the local authority to come up with plans for the site last year and the new development, which will also contain a few non-residential elements, will be named Cocoa Works in tribute to its past use.
Newby will develop a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, built over six existing floors with a rooftop extension added. The transformation of the building from derelict factory to attractive residential hub will involve plenty of work fitting new insulation and waterproofing for the many shower units that will be installed in the residences. The redevelopment work will include some structural repairs where needed, as well as some work to ensure heritage elements of the architecture are maintained.
Commenting on the planning decision, founding partner at Newby Nick Moody said: "We are delighted to receive detailed planning consent for our redevelopment plans, which will deliver much-needed new homes in York City Centre. Overall, the public have shown overwhelming support for our proposals that give new life to a valued heritage building.
"The approved design will preserve the structure with little change to the façade, and also restore features such as the memorial library, clocks, railings and covered walkway, whilst providing a revised internal configuration."
He added that the development will be designed to accommodate those who want to downsize, young professionals and families alike.
In addition, Mr Moody explained, the development will contain a 4,000 sq ft convenience store, a landscaped area with feature lighting outside the front, plus a concierge facility which will be located where the Grade II listed former Joseph Rowntree Memorial Library was situated. There will also be 173 external parking spaces and room for 173 bicycles, the latter being a welcome green feature as well as acknowledging a handy mode of transport in a city that, like Oxford and Cambridge, is both small in size and features a street layout established long before the invention of the internal combustion engine.
The development is not the only project to be given the green light by planners in York this week. However, the other project to get the green light is a controversial one, involving the construction of 70 new homes on playing fields next to York St John University. Over 1,300 people have signed a petition against the plan, the York Press reports.
Such a reaction to construction on green fields demonstrates one of the clear advantages of construction on brownfield sites, where the desire to turn blight into buildings offers a stark contrast. Often, of course, that means an old factory needs to be pulled down to make way for new homes, but where there is an opportunity to maintain an old building by fitting new insulation and everything else necessary to make it habitable, the result is win-win all round.