City of York Council leader James Alexander has welcomed the news that two of the UK’s leading property companies have bought The Chocolate Works – the former Terry’s factory in York.

Henry Boot Developments Ltd and York housebuilder David Wilson Homes have jointly signed a deal to acquire the whole 27 acre site from owners GHT Developments LLP (Grantside) for an undisclosed sum. The move looks set to kick-start work on the site as part of the city’s Get York Building programme.

Says James Alexander: “This landmark deal is excellent news for York. It marks the start of a bright new future for The Chocolate Works. The Council is committed to providing new homes and helping businesses thrive. The Chocolate Works is a central platform in that programme. We are delighted that two such well-resourced and respected names in housebuilding and commercial property development have taken up the reins and we will do everything we can to support them. York is open for business and this is a clear demonstration of that.”

David Wilson Homes Yorkshire East MD Paul Newman has pledged to get building new homes on the north side of the site as soon as possible, to help meet the city’s housing need:

“The site has planning approval, subject to a 106 agreement, and we are already talking to the council’s planning team to speed these matters through so that we can get started. Demolition work has already been completed and we are keen to get the infrastructure in place to start building homes this year. “We believe that there is extensive local support for the new homes planned for the site and we intend to keep talking with neighbours as our plans develop. Every indication is that the council too is keen to support the quick development of the site. All being well, we could begin on site in the summer, creating up to 200 new construction jobs in the process (measured in employment years). We’re tremendously excited about the opportunity to regenerate this deteriorating brownfield site to make it into a vibrant part of the local South Bank community.”

In the deal where David Wilson Homes was advised by Rosemary Edwards of Shulmans Solicitors in Leeds and Irwin Mitchell advised Henry Boot Developments, Henry Boot Developments Ltd will take responsibility for the development of commercial buildings – The Chocolate Works has planning consent for a variety of uses including residential units, offices, hotels and shops, with mainly residential development on the north side of the site.

Says Ben Ward: “This is an important strategic business location close to the racecourse and easily accessible from the city centre. The unique buildings on the site will offer a high quality product and we are excited about the potential that it offers to inward investors looking to locate in York. We have an excellent track record of project delivery and the skills to unlock the potential of the site, for the benefit of the city as a whole. We are already talking to potential occupiers across a range of sectors which is really encouraging and reinforces our belief in the location.”

The initial plan, says Ben, is to safeguard the listed buildings on the site which have fallen into disrepair in recent years:

“Our immediate task is to assess the damage, secure the iconic buildings and make sure that they are water- and weather-tight, to prevent further deterioration. Along with David Wilson Homes, we will be maintaining a positive dialogue with our neighbours and with the business community as our plans take shape. We will be working closely with the business development team at City of York Council to ensure we attract the right kind of businesses to The Chocolate Works, who will contribute positively to the city’s economy.”

Cllr Dave Merrett, Cabinet Member for Transport, Planning and Sustainability, said: “I welcome this major step forward. Residents have been concerned at the deteriorating position of the site and historic buildings, and look forward to an early start on rescuing the buildings and welcome new family housing.”