Clifton Explore Library Learning Centre Development

Our Vision

A new Explore Library Learning Centre at the heart of Clifton,
Where you come in wanting one thing, but go out with so much more.
A friendly, accessible, safe space, where you will always feel welcome,
A library with great books to borrow, the place you meet up with friends,
A workspace with Wi-Fi connection, a place to learn something new,
A flexible venue for events and groups, hobbies and meetings,
A place you can trust for advice when life changes or challenges you.
Help us to create your library in Clifton shaped by your needs.

Update April 2022: planning application is now live

The planning application for the Clifton Explore development is now on the City of York Council planning portal and they want to hear from you.

Clifton Explore: Development Update March 2022

Since Summer 2021, we’ve been sharing with you and hearing your thoughts on relocating the current Clifton Explore Library Learning Centre to the former Clifton Without Junior School on Rawcliffe Drive. This move, along with secured investment from City of York Council, will transform the library service for the community at Clifton: we’ll be able to do more of the things we are good at, in a bigger space, and for longer opening hours.

These are the things you told us you want:

  • A Library with more books and space to enjoy family friendly events and activities.
  • Meeting rooms where city centre advice organisations can come to you.
  • Flexible space which transforms into a performance area in the evening.
  • A Reading Café where you can meet friends,or just sit quietly and enjoy a cup of tea.
  • Flexible outside space – you said this is as important to you as the indoor space.
  • Enough parking space to minimise the impact of parking on local streets.
  • A building design which has as many sustainable elements as possible.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and keeping the conversation going so far.

What next?

We aim to submit our plans for planning consent in March 2022. Sign up for updates using the button at the top of this page and we’ll let you know when the planning application is live so you can comment if you wish.

Following the planning application, we hope to start conversations with you about details of the Library, Reading Café and outdoor spaces. We want as many of you to get involved as possible.

We’d like to know:

  • What should we consider when developing the building so it is flexible and can be transformed into a high quality performance space?
  • What does a lively, contemporary Children’s Library look like?
  • What will you be doing in the Library that we need to consider as part of the design?

Please hover over the different areas on the latest images and plans below and click for more information.

Clifton Explore – entrance view

Clifton Explore – entrance view
Reading Cafe The Main Library and Children's Library The Main Entrance Community area

Reading Cafe

The Reading Café will connect the old and the new areas of the building. It will open onto a south facing terrace with a covered area so you can enjoy a cuppa whatever the weather.

The Main Library and Children’s Library

The Library is the focal point at the centre of the old school. You told us to keep as much of the original building as possible so we will renovate and keep original features.
Acoustic panels will reduce noise from the Reading Café and create quiet spaces as you move further into the Library itself.
We will be working with you to design the Children’s Library. You asked for a fun, lively space with a link through to the outdoor terrace. Here children can explore the joy of reading, learning through play and activity.

The Main Entrance

The main entrance will be from Rawcliffe Drive. Windows and glazed doors will invite you inside and you’ll be able to see into the Reading Café and get a sense of what’s going on in the Library. Glazed walls give views into the heart of the Library.

Community area

Community partner organisations, adult learning classes and meeting rooms for hire will be located in this part of the centre.

Clifton Explore – side view

Clifton Explore – side view
Play Space Outdoor seating area Cycle storage Community area Car parking Car parking Main Library and Children's Library Reading Cafe

Play Space

Play space: a secure, grassed area where children can play and join under 5s rhymetimes in summer.

Outdoor seating area

A secluded place for quiet reflection, or to meet up with friends on a warm summer’s day.

Cycle storage

Covered cycle racks so your bike is protected whilst you use the Explore Centre.

Community area

The ground floor will be occupied by our community partners Snappy, the council’s Home Tuition Service, and Accessible Arts and Media. On the first floor are meeting rooms used for York Learning adult education classes and other events and activities.

Car parking

Car parking with spaces for 26 vehicles, including accessible bays and electric charging points. Event overflow parking will be available at Vale of York Academy subject to agreement.

Car parking

Car parking with spaces for 26 vehicles, including accessible bays and electric charging points. Event overflow parking will be available at Vale of York Academy subject to agreement.

Main Library and Children’s Library

The main Library and Children’s Library are at the heart of the old school building.

Reading Cafe

The Reading Cafe connects the old and new parts of the centre.

Old School Tours

We know that the old school is a special building for many of you. Before we make significant changes to the building, we are offering tours for anyone interested in having a final look round. You could even share memories of your schooldays with us.

Clifton Explore: the conversation continues

In the summer we asked what you thought of our plans to relocate Clifton Explore to the former Clifton Without Junior School. 90% of you liked the idea. You told us some of the things you’d like to see included as part of the new Explore Centre development.

We then came up with a basic first draft design (shown below) for inside and outside based on what you told us. During December 2021, you shared your thoughts with us on this draft design.

83% of you told us that you liked the design, particularly the reading café, the size of the library space and the number of suggested meeting rooms for events and community meetings. We will work up these designs in more detail ready for further conversations with you.

You still didn’t like the amount of parking provision, so we need to do some more work in this area.

You also shared some further ideas about the design of the building and different uses for the library space that you would like to see, such as a quieter area for study, and ensuring full access to spaces on the first floor.

We are now working on your feedback and we will be sharing another set of designs incorporating further developments in February 2022.

Please hover over the different areas on the images and plans below and click for more information.

Clifton Explore Library Learning Centre: ground floor plan

Our vision is for Clifton Explore Centre to be a hub at the heart of the community, where you choose to come and visit, are inspired to read, learn, create or just to have fun and meet new friends.

Clifton Explore Library Learning Centre: ground floor plan
Main library area Children's library Reading Cafe Community partners area

Main library area

We will convert the old school hall with its high, sloping ceiling into a stunning multi-functional space with 15,000 books by day and events in the evening. The design will incorporate study space and computers and the activity room can be used for smaller events or for hire by community groups.

Children’s library

We know that developing a love of reading is important for every child’s wellbeing, so we will create a special place for families to read, learn and have fun together. This area will open onto the terrace where children can play safely.

Reading Cafe

At the heart of the building is a Reading Café. You told us that a cafe is a key feature for a modern library, a relaxed place to meet up with friends, and enjoy books, learning and events.

Community partners area

Working in partnership with other Community organisations is central to Explore’s vision for the new centre. We will work together, spark new ideas and connections, and create joint events and activities for local people. We will be announcing our partners very soon.

Clifton Explore Library Learning Centre: first floor plan

How big is this library?
The old library was 272 m2 while the new library will be a total of 1431m2. Main library space 253m2; Reading Café 124m2; meeting rooms and offices on the first floor 387m2.

Clifton Explore Library Learning Centre: first floor plan
Main library roof Main Entrance Accessibility Learning facilities

Main library roof

You told us that the architecture of the old building is important to you so the old roof of the school hall will be retained and restored.

Main Entrance

The main entrance has been designed with glazing panels and natural roof lights to maximise the amount of natural daylight.


Accessibility: it’s really important to us that you feel welcome, are comfortable and can move around freely in your new library. Accessibility features will include wide automatic powered doors, a Changing Place toilet, and a lift to the first floor.

Learning facilities

Modern facilities for learning  are located on the first floor. Learning is at the heart of our vision and Explore and York Learning have worked together for 15 years. So these first class teaching spaces give us scope to enrich the learning programme. The rooms will also be used for talks and events and made available for hire.

Do you have views about the Housing development? Or about the School Access Path? Please contact City of York Council

The Council is proposing to work with a local housing association to build a number of low carbon affordable homes. The income from developing this area will help fund the library project so this is an essential part of the overall site development. For further information and to share your views on this aspect please contact the Council

Although the School access path is part of the site development, the land is under the control of Vale of York School. The school and the Council are working together to create this important, safe access for students. For further information please contact the Council.

What did you tell us at the consultation in August?

We asked you to share your views about the first stage of the proposals in a consultation during August 2021. We had 233 responses to the online survey, as well as feedback through other means. We’re grateful for the time and thought you put into your feedback. The data shows that a large majority of you support the overall proposal about moving the library to the proposed new site.

About the inside:

You told us what you would like to see in the new library learning centre so we will now draw up plans that includes a Reading Café, space for us to be able to hold lots of different types of events and activities to meet all of your needs as residents – with author talks, children’s activities, music, theatre and arts performances and drop-in surgeries from city centre advice organisations being the most popular with you. We will include free Wi-Fi throughout the buildings and spaces for you to be able to sit and use computers. You also told us some examples of specific events and activities you would like to see ranging from yoga classes to special sessions for people living with dementia and their carers. We will carefully design our inside spaces based on all these suggestions and start working with our partners on what that might look like as we go forward. Some of what you told us will inform what we offer in the new location, but we will also be able do some of what you told us now while we are still in the current library in Rawcliffe Lane and we will keep you posted on this.

A boy whose expression shows how excited he is about using a digital making kit

About the outside:

You feel as passionately about the outside space as the inside! You want to see lots of different spaces to sit, relax, read and enjoy being with one another, with space for families and children but also space for you to meet with other adults and just enjoy being together. We will factor these multiple needs into the design of our outside spaces and talk with you further with what we come up with so you can continue to inform the look and feel.

You want to make sure that there is space for car parking somewhere on the site and we will factor that into the design of the whole area.

You care about the environment in all areas of the development, with encouragement from you we will investigate and incorporate elements of eco-design into the scheme and complete surveys to increase our awareness of current wildlife and ecology on the site before any work begins. We will explore this more and aim to have some examples of where we can include this into the design ready for our next conversation with you. You have also raised concerns over the impact of removing the hedgerows, so we will mitigate this by retaining as much of the existing green space as we possibly can and replacing the removal of existing greenery by a planting scheme which creates new natural habitat areas

The housing and the play park proposals:

We are feeding back your views on both. 47% of you were opposed the proposed re-location of the play park to the new library site. This information will be shared with Clifton Without Parish Council who are responsible for the play park and who will make a decision on next steps based on this response. We will keep you updated as we have those conversations. 59% of you were in support of seeing a small development of affordable homes on the site. This has been shared with City of York Council and they will continue conversations with you on what these homes will look like.

The access route to Vale of York academy:

You had a few questions about this route into the school. City of York Council defined this as the most convenient place to locate the new school access path to maximise safety for students  The alternative location would have been alongside the vehicle entrance off Rawcliffe Drive and in the Council’s view this was discounted. The lease is now in place between the Council and Hope Sentamu Learning Trust (who are responsible for the school) and we are committed to providing safe access for students as part of this project. We still believe the proposal is the safest for students.  The Water Lane access for students will remain and the new Fairway access will be gated and locked out of school hours.

And finally….

What will happen to the current library site once we have left it? This question came up a number of times. We lease the land from City of York Council, so the land belongs to them. We will speak with the Council and hopefully have more information to share with you as we continue the conversations.

The full results are available on York Open Data Platform. We have taken steps to make this document as accessible as possible, but get in touch if you need any assistance with accessing or interpreting the information.

Next steps – continuing the conversations:

We have taken all of your feedback and this will now feed into the first design of the building and the surrounding space which we will then share with you. We hope to have something  prepared by  mid-November. We will continue as before by producing printed information to share with you and having open sessions for you to come along and speak to us.

The Proposal

City of York Council’s commitment to libraries

As part of our contract with Explore City of York Council made a promise that the number of staffed libraries in York would be protected. We want to build on the success of our libraries, re-imagining them as centres of opportunity and learning for everyone. In February 2019 the Council agreed to spend £4m on significant improvements to the Explore Centre libraries in Clifton and Acomb. Clifton Explore’s current site is too small, so over the past year we have researched new sites in the local area. After an options assessment, we think the best site is on Rawcliffe Drive, the old Clifton Without Junior School.

Why did we choose this site?

The Location: the new site is accessible on foot, cycle or by car from Rawcliffe Drive, Rawcliffe Lane and Fairway. It is easy to find, close to the existing library, Vale of York Academy, on bus routes, and local amenities, and it has lots of people passing by.

The Building: We will breathe new life into a vacant site and restore a local building of character and history. The site is big enough to let us deliver the true vision of an Explore Centre where many organisations can work together to benefit local people.

Clifton proposal

Clifton proposal
Explore Library Learning Centre Play Park area New Housing School Access

Explore Library Learning Centre

A landmark library building with over

  • 15,000 books at its heart
  • 250 square metres of flexible space – library by day, performance space in the evening
  • A Reading Café where you can relax, eat, drink and meet friends
  • Meeting rooms for community use or to hire
  • PCs to use and free wifi
  • Outdoor space to sit, reflect and play
  • A friendly, accessible, safe space, where you will always feel welcome

Play Park area

At present Rawcliffe Lane play park is next to Clifton Library. We could move it to the new site so that children and their carers can use the café and library when they come to play.

New Housing

There is a suitable piece of land alongside the library for a small housing development. We have the chance to work with a local housing association to build a small number of low carbon, affordable new homes here.

School Access

We will create a gated path for cyclists and pedestrians so everyone can get to school safely from Fairway.

When will the new development happen?

We need to carry out thorough checks on the site, understand all the costs, and make sure that there is money in the budget to pay for the development. Only then can we ask the Council for agreement to start work. So we have no firm dates at the moment, but we hope that work will start in 2023.

What are the next steps?

  • August 2021: Stage 1 consultation ran
  • Autumn 2021: We are evaluating your responses and start to draw up designs
  • Winter 2021: Stage 2 consultation – we will share early site designs and update you on progress.
  • Winter 2021/Spring 2022: Tours of the former Clifton Without Junior School site.