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Planning and building

Castle and Eye of York

Latest news on Castle and Eye of York

In February 2022, the council submitted a planning application for a new public space at the Castle and Eye of York, the heart of the masterplan. The design was informed by extensive engagement with residents and businesses about what they want to see in the area.

You can view the planning application via the Planning Portal quoting reference number 22/00209/FULM.

Two funding bids which sought to deliver the public realm around Clifford’s Tower and the Eye of York have been unsuccessful, so there is a significant funding gap for the current project.

In November 2023, the council’s new Executive reconfirmed the re-purposing of the Castle Car Park to support the delivery of a revised Castle Gateway Masterplan, with retained Blue Badge parking. Castle Car Park will only close when a revised business case and planning application has been approved for delivery.

Executive agreed to review the design of the Castle and Eye of York scheme to be simpler and more affordable, and to reflect the more inclusive ambitions of the new Council Plan. The review will focus on:

  • the retention of blue badge parking numbers
  • flexible green space with children’s play provision
  • the river edge and the creation of walkway to increase connectivity in the city
  • reducing capital and management costs
  • draw on the wealth of insight that already exists from engagement to date and will to engage on the redesign of the Castle and Eye of York space to inform revisions to the planning application, while meeting the aims of the masterplan

You can comment on the statutory planning consultation via:

The proposals seek to enhance the strengths of the Castle and Eye of York area as an important historical asset and re-establish it as a key destination of heritage and cultural activity.

Watch a full fly-through of the Castle and Eye of York site.

The future success will be secured by introducing a diverse programme of events for the local community and visitors.

A bird's eye view of an artistic impression of the proposed castle and eye of york site

Illustrative view of Castle and Eye of York site (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)

See details of the planning application's proposals:


How the Castle and Eye of York should look and feel was the topic of our public engagement throughout 2019 when an Open Brief was produced through events, exploration, conversations and testing.

The final Open Brief was published in May 2020 and has been used by the designers, alongside work with stakeholders, to produce a design response for the Castle and Eye of York area.

We shared evolving designs to replace the Castle car park with a new public space and events area in the Castle and Eye of York via events and blogs throughout 2021, including a blog which considers how the final design responds to the Open Brief.

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New public space

Watch a flythrough of the new Castle and Eye of York public space.

Castle approach

Castlegate Square is a place of arrival from Castlegate and the Coppergate Centre, and as such, the designs seek to reflect the importance of the site.

An illustrative view of the proposed new castle approach on a sunny day

Illustrative view of new castle approach looking from Castlegate towards the Castle Museum (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)

Castlegate Walk will reinstate the castle and museum approach from the city. This walkway is historically significant in the context of power and authority as it was a processional route for judges.

A illustrative bird's eye view of the proposed Castlegate walk, in between the Castle and the River Foss

Illustrative view of Castlegate Walk, the central space and water feature, with motte to left and River Foss to right (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)

Central space

The central space transforms the existing Castle car park into a public square and flexible events space. The new space will be paved, and will have power and water connections available to enable pop-ups and communities to use it throughout the year.

The edges of the space will be framed by water, planting and seating providing an opportunity to meet, sit and play. The design respects the setting of Clifford’s Tower and the historic buildings, and responds to the initial brief that it will work well both with and without events.

The water feature references the site’s history, as water once flowed freely through the site. The water feature and the accompanying seating will attract visitors and create a lively and playful space.

Illustrative view of water feature in front of sunset and line of trees, with people walking around the feature

Illustrative view of the water feature, with River Foss to left, Castle Museum in distance (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)


The edges of the site will have a reflective and quiet character, particularly given the historical sensitivity of the area, such as the space near the former female prison drop.

This will be delivered via soft landscaping and planting, which will provide greater flexibility for future change, such as the lawn space and shaded garden to safeguard the area of the proposed future expansion of York Castle Museum.

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River edge

Watch a flythrough of the Castle and Eye of York river edge.

River walk

A riverside walkway and board-walk will be created to link the site to Castle Gardens and Piccadilly via the new pedestrian and cycle bridge which already has planning permission as part of the Castle Mills apartments element of the Castle Gateway Masterplan.

An illustration of a bird's eye view of the path running adjacent to the river Foss with Clifford's Tower to the left

Illustrative plan showing river front park and river walk linking to existing path beside the Coppergate Centre to the north and Castle Gardens (part of Castle Mills planning permission) (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)

The river corridor has ecological value and provides a range of habitats, therefore the existing vegetation and trees will be retained where possible. The timber board-walk will be elevated to ensure habitats are protected, and the river embankment will be maintained to avoid any change in the flood storage capacity. It will create a wildlife walkway and will provide access to unseen parts of the castle walls.

Illustrative view of the proposed river walk with Castle in the background and people sitting on benches in the foreground in front of trees

Illustrative view of the river walk with views towards Clifford’s Tower and the Coppergate Centre (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)

River Park

The green corridor will continue from the board-walk into a linear park which will open up the river edge of the site along the top of the Georgian prison walls. The riverside walkway will have viewing points, so people can get close to River Foss.

The informal planting in this area will include a rain garden for sustainable drainage, and will create a playful landscape with seating, incidental pathways, steppingstones and water. Paths will connect the river park back to the central events space and water feature.

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Eye of York

Watch a flythrough of the proposed Eye of York.

Read more about the design of this space on the My Castle Gateway website.


The Eye of York courtyard is the space enclosed by the York Castle Museum (former Female Prison and Debtors’ Prison) and the York Crown Court. The central tree will be retained with the space designed to be outward looking, responding to the surrounding buildings and their associated importance and heritage.

Illustrative view of Eye of York showing education space, retained central tree, lawn space and museum terrace, with the existing Crown Court building to left

Illustrative view of Eye of York showing education space, retained central tree, lawn space and museum terrace, with the existing Crown Court building to left (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)


The oval lawn has been redesigned to provide a more flexible space for activity and greater synergy with the surrounding historic buildings. This includes an educational space in front of Clifford’s Tower, and a terrace for York Castle Museum which could be used for exhibits, café seating, or as a quiet seating space. Areas of lawn, seating and planting will be created for people to gather and enjoy the space.

Illustrative view of the Eye of York from York Castle Museum towards Clifford’s Tower, with a large central tree and people walking

Illustrative view of the Eye of York from York Castle Museum towards Clifford’s Tower, retaining the existing central tree (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)

The road which encircles the lawn space will be replaced by a paved surface to encourage pedestrian movement whilst still allowing for necessary vehicular access to the museum and courts. This would create opportunities for gathering and activity in the space, such as occasional speakers or performances on the female prison steps and podium outside of court hours. A small amount of parking will be retained to enable the Crown Court to operate.


Informal planting will be used to contrast the authority imposed by the built form, with more trees to provide some enclosure and shelter. Planting colours will reflect the different Ridings of Yorkshire as historically the boundaries of the 3 Yorkshire Ridings met at this point. There will be less activity at the courtside of the space, and it will be screened by taller planting.

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Clifford's Tower

The proposed scheme will create a circular path around the base of the Clifford’s Tower mound, with enhanced planting separating the new path from Tower Street and the surrounding paved area.

Watch the flythrough of the proposed area.

Radial path

The circular path was designed with input from York Liberal Jewish Community to enable people to participate in a contemplative walk as an act of memorial for the lives lost in the 1190 Jewish massacre. The path will have a reflective and peaceful character, and will include a dedicated space on the eastern side where the events of 1190 and other key historical events can be remembered and reflected upon.

Permission was granted in 2020 for English Heritage to undertake conservation and improvements to the visitor infrastructure at Clifford’s Tower, including an information hub and paved area at base of steps where visitors can meet prior to visiting the tower. Work on this is underway and will complete in 2022.

An illustrative birds eye view of a circular path surrounding Clifford's Tower, with people walking along an adjacent wider path

Illustrative view of radial path around the base of Clifford’s Tower, with the memorial space, Castlegate Walk and the central events space to right, and part of the planted swathe to the top (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)


There will be a bold swathe of planting enclosing the site which is designed to reflect the historic flow of water around the site and Clifford’s Tower. This swathe will create a dramatic vista from the top of Clifford’s Tower, and will provide an attractive and welcoming environment for people to dwell and gather. The planting scheme provides a cohesive link between the three areas of the site serves to define the space as a distinct area within the historic fabric of York.

Illustrative view of Clifford's Tower in the sunset with people walking alongside a road in the foreground

Illustrative view of the site when arriving from Clifford Street (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)

An illustration of the view of the proposed site, with Clifford's tower to the left and people walking in the foreground

Illustrative view of the site when arriving from Tower Gardens (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)

Tower Street

A reconfigured Tower Street, with set paved carriageway and tree planting is designed to be an extension of the public space. Disabled parking spaces on Tower Street will be retained, and outdoor dining spaces will be included for traders along Tower Street. Alongside hostile vehicle measures, there will be a line of bollards between Tower Street and the entrance to the new public space.

An illustrative view of Tower Street on a sunny day with two parked cars and trees in foreground

Illustrative view of Tower Street, showing the remodelled area with paved surface, blue badge holder parking and planting (source: BDP Design and Access Statement)

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