Earlier in the week, I had the privilege of meeting The Fifth Quarter, a set of individuals who run their own successful commercial enterprises down the Gillygate and Bootham area in York.
The meeting was arranged to discuss the future plans for the currently disused Bootham Park Hospital and surrounding areas and I was flattered that they allowed me to attend and listen in.
It might be worth, at this stage, sharing a little history of the Bootham Park Hospital (BPH). Being as old as the United States of America, BPH was described as “one of the first purpose-built mental health asylums in England”. It’s with this accolade that makes Bootham Park Hospital’s future a fundamental talking point in York at the moment. Running for 238 years, the hospital closed in 2015 after it was deemed to be unable to meet today’s requirements for mental health services. So what now for the beautiful Grade-1 listed building and the entire 18 acre site?
Prior to the meeting and given the nature of the industry I work in; my bias was to, subject to planning, if at all possible, build ‘x’ number of mixed use residential and commercial developments. This was reinforced by the housing shortage we find ourselves in, both on a regional and national scale. However, I was more interested in hearing what the others had to say.
The general consensus was that the grounds should be used and redesigned with the general public in mind and following the meeting, the image that came to mind is a large palatial well-lit park with some architectural homage to Bootham Park Hospital’s history.
One of the concerns that came to light was the level of anti-social behaviour that was present within the Bootham Park area mainly in the evenings. Much of the discussion revolved around renovating the area to reduce this and restore an environment where people felt comfortable walking through in the evening.
The topic of high-end housing and privatisation of the Hospital arose which caused concern as this could lead to said development, almost having a right over the surrounding grounds which could compromise rights of public access.
However the talk of anti-social behaviour followed by gentrification reminded me of an article I read some time ago concerning ‘broken windows theory’ where if a problem is not attended to, the environment has an effect on the attitude of the general public which inherently leads to more problems. Question, could gentrifying an area, dissuade such anti-social behaviour?
What excited me about the meeting was the enthusiasm at the possible improvements to infrastructure within the area, namely increase in footfall which has a positive impact on local businesses, better access links especially for emergency vehicles going to and from York Hospital to name a few.
Whatever is decided about the future of Bootham Park Hospital, working on Gillygate in York myself, I will be keeping a close eye on its development. What do you think the site should be used for?