Leader statement on former Argos proposals

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Due to the amount of deliberate misinformation circulating about the former Argos building development in Scarborough, a decision on the planning application has been deferred until December in order to carry out further engagement. You can read a statement below from our council leader, which explains in greater detail the reasons for the pause. The statement is followed by a series of facts to dispel the claims being made.

Councillor Steve Siddons said:

"There has been a lot of coverage – and much discussion – in the last week or so about the revised proposals to redevelop the Argos building in Scarborough town centre.

"There have been allegations of ‘done deals’, and suggestions that we are completely ignoring feedback.

"While construction costs nationally have clearly risen over the last year, dubious maths about rising costs have been used to fuel claims about the financial viability of the project and people with an axe to grind have used public forums to whip up untruths.

"The amount of deliberate misinformation being spread about this scheme is worrying.

"I would specifically like to address the issue of car parking which appears to be causing some concern.

"Residents of the building will not be issued with parking permits or scratch cards for on street parking.

"Separately, we are working with the county council to carry out a review of on street parking in Scarborough old town.

"The need to do something with the ugly former Argos building has been on the agenda as far back as 2003. It is not an overnight issue.

"Finding a new purpose for this site is central to our transformative plans for Scarborough.

"However, given the fact rumours and inaccurate information are circulating, I think there is a need to pause and take stock and I have therefore asked for the planning application to be deferred to December.

"While there is a desire for us to get on with this project, I do recognise there is a need for further engagement so the point of the overall scheme can be explained and clarified.

"We are arranging meetings with stakeholders such as residents, business groups and students and young people so we can understand any concerns they have about these proposals. 

"I urge people not to get caught up in the rhetoric and to see this as our opportunity to finally fix this unloved part of Scarborough.

"Together with the complementary proposals for a new St Helens Square and more visible Market Hall, we could transform our town centre.

"The alternative is that the ugly Argos building will remain for years to come."


The claims The reality
The spiralling cost of materials will push council borrowing past £30 million

In July 2019 following a meeting of the full council with debate and discussion from councillors representing all political views we agreed to borrow £22 million to fund the project.

We have an obligation to buy the building if planning permission is granted and, following the completion of a financial viability assessment, proceed with the development.


Full council set the maximum amount that we would be willing to contribute at £22 million. Any increase on the budget would be met by the developer or the plan will not go ahead. If we wanted to increase our budget the full council would have to approve any change.

There must also be a minimum return for us on our investment after loan repayments have been met.


The £30 million claims are based on faulty sums which make incorrect assumptions, including that the full cost only relates to building materials.

There is no parking for the students and NHS workers

We know that modern student developments do not include parking facilities as students do not tend to bring cars with them to university.


The development is located next to public transport links and reducing traffic levels and emissions in the town is a key part of our climate change strategy. Cycling, walking and public transport will be encouraged for students travelling to the campus.


Discussions with North Yorkshire County Council over improving public transport around the development are a key part of the travel plan for the project.

Parking for university students has been intentionally restricted and resident’s permits allowing on street parking will not be issued to students occupying the flats. 

Parking for NHS key workers will be available by way of contract parking within off street car parks in the town centre. 

The building is too big for the area

Following feedback from the first set of designs produced, the size of the building was altered to vary the height of the development.


As such, Historic England, has welcomed the new plans, saying they are sensitive to the "character of the conservation area and key views, particularly to and from Scarborough Castle". 

The space could be used just as a public square

There is no regeneration funding available to deliver a major town square in this area.


Images from the almost 20-year-old “Kissing Sleeping Beauty” document showing a full market square on the land have been widely shared on social media. This idea was never fully scrutinised.


It shows the buildings from the Shakespeare pub to Eastern Paradise in St Helen's Square being demolished to create the square. Due to the nature of the conservation area this would likely face strong opposition from Historic England and SAVE Britain’s Heritage.

Our scheme has been designed to bring vibrancy to this largely overlooked area of the town by animating the space throughout the year.

By retaining the pub and existing retail and restaurants and creating more, it will enhance the area as well as opening up the market hall visually and providing a space for outdoor markets and activity to take place.

The Scarborough blueprint, which was approved by councillors in May this year and supersedes the Kissing Sleeping Beauty plans, includes plans for a new festival square elsewhere in the town and it remains an aspiration of ours.

There has been a lack of engagement about the proposals

Across two planning applications the developer has consulted widely with both local businesses and groups and residents.

A consultation newsletter was sent to approximately 400 residents and local businesses containing details of the plans. The newsletter also provided details as to how to comment on the proposals. 


A dedicated consultation website was also launched.


We are now pausing the planning application until December to take part in further engagement, including face-to-face meetings with a number of groups and organisations. 

Students/NHS trainees don't want to live in the town centre

Providing a place for young students and trainee NHS staff within the town centre means that they will be close to the main shopping, dining and nightlife locations in Scarborough.

This will increase spending in shops, improve the night-time economy and encourage further investment and regeneration of the town centre.

We want to create a 'town centre experience' and attract students to local pubs, bars, live music and cultural venues and sports and leisure facilities.