Clifford's Tower visitor centre to go ahead

High Court rejects challenges to development at site of medieval Jewish massacre in York


Plans by English Heritage to establish a visitor’s centre at the site of an infamous attack on English Jews look set to go ahead, after the High Court struck down a challenge by protestors.

City of York council approved the £2 million development plan at Clifford’s Tower last October, with a gift shop, interpretation centre and new stairs improving access to the site. 

Clifford’s Tower is the last remaining part of York Castle, once a major centre of political control in northern England. It is where 150 Jews were murdered in 1190 as they attempted to flee an antisemitic mob.    

Campaigners had applied for a judicial review of the planning proposals, arguing that the significance of the site had not been fully recognised and that planning guidelines had been misinterpreted. Their issue appears not to have been with the idea of the visitor's centre itself, but the nature of the architectural plans suggested.

Mr Justice Kerr rejected the challenge, handing down his verdict on Friday.

The judge noted that: "The perceived public benefits were considered substantial, even though the proposals generated substantial opposition.

"The supporters of the proposal included the statutory body with responsibility for preservation, Historic England, and its managing agent, English Heritage.

"The project enjoyed the support of the city council, in the person of its most senior officers with professional responsibility for heritage matters."

He also ordered campaigners to pay £5,000 towards the council’s legal costs.

Ben Rich, chair of the York Liberal Jewish community, confirmed that the congregation was “consulted properly by English Heritage, they did ask us our opinions on their plans before they submitted them.

“Whilst you will find a range of views within the community about the architectural merits of what they’re proposing, we do agree that having more high quality educational material about Clifford’s Tower is important, not just about what happened to the Jews, but the whole history [of the site] which is very badly covered at the moment.

“Secondly, anything which improves access to the site is also to be welcome. One of the things in the proposal is to reduce the gradient up to the top of the tower, to make it a little more accessible.

“Those [things], perfectly arguably, could have been achieved in other ways. We’re not architects, civil planners, and it’s not therefore for us to say”. 

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