Lowfields playing field development – decisions expected on Thursday
Despite no planning permission having been granted for the proposed development of the playing fields at Lowfields, the York Councils Executive will debate on Thursday how construction work will be funded.
We have already commented on the bizarre claim that a new football pitch, being established near Bishopthorpe, will in some way compensate for the loss of pitches at Lowfields.
Another report on the Executive agenda addresses how the Council can fund its Lowfields plan. It intends to use a new Housing Development Company (HDC) to undertake the work.
The report refers to a previous meeting in December 2016 (right) when the decision was taken to sell off the site for £4.5 million. At that time the Executive also decided to ask for reports on how health facilities, a police depot and football facilities could be provided. Of these, only the report on football pitches has been forthcoming.
The new report claims that in July 2017 “66% of people who provided feedback gave support the plans”. The report fails to mention that the Council consultation didn’t offer the opportunity for residents to object to the development of the playing field. Most of the favourable comments – as they are with the current planning application – came from people living outside the area who were lobbied to support the “communal build” section of the development (which will not be located on the playing field).
The report makes other contentious claims.
It says using the Councils HDC will reduce the time that builders will be on site. The Council has no control over how long self-builders, the community builders, the Health centre, the care home and police builders will be on site. None of these uses is included in the detailed planning application.
The Councils claim of a 30-month development period is therefore highly optimistic.
They hope to start building towards the end of 2018.
The report also lauds the “6,434 sq. metres of public open space” being provided.
Currently there is 33,150 metres of usable green space on the site. The new design includes a, so called, “pocket park” which is little more than a wide grass verge while the usable part of the “village green“ is little bigger that the existing green space at the junction of Lowfields Drive and Dijon Avenue
However, the main concern for most taxpayers will be the plan to borrow an additional £9 million to fund building work. The Council already has a total debt of over £357m (including £139m historic council housing debt).
Around 13% of residents Council Tax payments are used to pay interest charges. This is set to increase to 14% next year.
The development (houses and infrastructure) will cost £25 million.
The Council hopes to sell houses for £28 million, making a £3 million profit.