Coronavirus York updates; 25th August 2020

Deaths and test results

TWO additional positive tests results have been recorded today. That brings the cumulative total up to 955. There have been no more hospital deaths recorded.

The latest split of the cumulative death toll among York residents, released by the government today, shows that a total of 171 fatalities were recorded in the period up to 24th August.

Of these, 76 died in care homes, 9 at home, 3 in a hospice and 83 in hospital.

No fatalities have been recorded during the last two weeks.

(NB. The variance with the hospital and care home figures shown below arises out of some non residents being included in the table count)

Coronavirus case numbers in York, per head of population, remain below both the regional and national averages

The government has also updated its map which show the distribution of positive test results. The only area in York with more than 3 confirmed cases between 15th and 21st August remains the Woodthorpe/Acomb Park/Foxwood neighbourhood.

Conservation controversy on Piccadilly

The decision by the planning committee last week to allow the replacement of the old tax office (Swinson House) on Piccadilly with a modern hotel, has prompted a debate about the boundaries of the central York Conservation area.

Central York Conservation Area

Some say that the loss of the 30’s building – together with other developments on the street not least the ugly Spark container village – means that the street now has little conservation merit.

They have a point.

The current Conservation Area appraisal for the historic core – which can be read by clicking here – lumps Piccadilly in with the Castle as a character area.

A detailed analysis (click) goes further.

Piccadilly is rather a barren street, lacking trees or visible greenery and dominated by large buildings. The Foss is very much hidden behind buildings which back directly onto it, a legacy from its industrial past. This means there is almost no public access to the river; the exception is the Travelodge by Castle Mills Bridge. The large buildings and their positioning also block views to the Castle, only a glimpse of which is possible from Piccadilly Bridge.

The tax office is not identified as a building of merit. The Red Lion pub is as was the, now long gone  Airspeed/Trolleybus shed on the site of which Spark now park their shipping containers.

Council decision sparked criticism

One of the suggestions in the assessment, which have been largely ignored over the last 10 years, was the need for more tree planting on the street.

Whether the time is right to take Piccadilly out of the Conservation Area is a matter of opinion.

There will be those who think that Council resources could be better deployed at this difficult time. Planning permissions which have been granted – and not implemented – can be superseded by new proposals. There must, for example,  be a limit on how many modern hotels the City can sustain.

Perhaps the Conservation area status gives greater weight to those who seek a quality approach to the regeneration of the Piccadilly area.

Certainly at present it is little more than a blot on the streetscape.


Councils decision making in limbo?

Each week the York Council updates a list of upcoming “decisions” that it intends to make. It is known as the forward programme and covers a four month period. It lists issue areas and gives the date that a decision meeting will take place on.

The intention is to give back bench councillors and members of the public advance notice that changes may be proposed.

City of York - York City Council Meeting 12/17/2019
York Council meeting – archive photo!

The system has always been slightly opaque with some quite obscure descriptions covering potentially radical change. Nevertheless, the system works after a fashion and was sustained during the peak of the COVID crisis.

During that time decisions were delegated to officials on the basis that they needed to act promptly to address health concerns.

The York Council has been slow to get back to a fully transparent and democratic decision-making process, with meetings still taking place “online”.

Many may think that this is not a bad thing as far as what are termed “executive member decision meetings” are concerned. Essentially this involves one person siting in a room solemnly declaring agreement with often mundane officer recommendations.  Provided that written representations are allowed and recorded, remote meetings of this sort have the advantage of avoiding unnecessary travel (and can be viewed live on video by interested parties).

Meeting to consider community stadium shelves

The Councils planning and scrutiny processes are rather different.

There some real debate and probing is necessary to ensure that all options are fully understood and considered. Other Councils have returned to “live” meetings. York should follow suit.

It could start by scheduling its first full Council meeting for 6 months.

The latest “forward plan” suggests that a backlog of work is building up. No fewer than 7 items which have been included on the plan – in some cases for over 6 months – are now shelved.

There is no indication when, or even if, decisions will be made.

They include a review of Homelessness, the agenda for which was published last week and then hastily withdrawn without explanation.

Another report was intended to provide an update on the commercial arrangements at the new Community Stadium complex. There is no clue given as to when a report will be ready despite the start of the new football season being imminent.

Make it York targets deferred

Several of the deferred items relate to housing issues. A new Head of Housing has recently been appointed. He will need to get to grips quickly with the backlog.

 In the meantime the Council should either schedule the shelved meetings or withdraw them for the list

The deferred items include

  • 25. Homeless Review 2019-20 Decision maker:  Executive Member for Housing & Safer Neighbourhoods Decision due:   ; The original meeting this item was scheduled to be considered at has been cancelled, therefore this item has been postponed until a new meeting date has been identified. Originally due:   25/08/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 28/07/2020
  • 26. Make it York Service Level Agreement Decision maker:  Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities Decision due:   ; In consultation with the Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning Originally due:   14/04/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 24/02/2020
  • 27. Project Executive Fee Level  Decision maker:  Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education Originally due:   21/04/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 02/03/2020
  • 28. NSLC Commercial proposals (Community Stadium) Decision maker:  Executive Decision due:   ; This item has been deferred to enable a more detailed report to be prepared. Originally due: 13/02/20  Notice of proposed decision first published: 13/01/2020
  • 29.  Organisational Development (OD) Plan Decision maker:  Executive Originally due:   23/04/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 16/03/2020
  • 30.  Garden Assistance for CYC Tenants Decision maker:  Executive Member for Housing & Safer Neighbourhoods Originally due:   30/04/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 03/02/2020
  • 31. Communal Areas Policy (Housing Owned Land) Decision maker:  Executive Member for Housing & Safer Neighbourhoods Originally due:   14/05/20  Notice of proposed decision first published: 03/02/2020