That was the year that was – 2020

April – June

The quarter stared with a full scale lockdown in place. Infection rates were to peak in May.

The Government and Council responded with a range of support packages.

Many, including emergency funding and local community hubs, were welcomed.

Food supplies were secured and local supermarkets rose to the challenge of lockdown. An increasing number o small independents started to offer doorstep deliveries.
The refuse collection service was sustained despite problems with staff sickness and increasingly unreliable vehicles. The Council was forced to suspend green waste collections
Roads were deserted, bus service frequencies were reduced
The Council offered free car parking for key workers
The Council issued a list of key services and their availability
The Council updated its weed treatment programme
Plans for a new building to house the York Bridge Club were approved. They will move at a site at the Acomb Cricket ground.
By Mid April queues at supermarkets had reduced.
Mourners were allowed to return too the York Crematorium
Bad news for the local economy as consumer spending crashed
Pollution levels in the City reached a – modern time – low. This improvement was to continue for the rest of the year
The Council announced its 20/21 road resurfacing programme. Many areas were disappointed to find that they had missed out.
The Council announced a £23.65 million budget deficit.
Temporary homeless accommodation
The James House homeless accommodation building was finally opened. It was over 12 months behind schedule
The City decided to press ahead with its plan to invest £700,000 in new visitor signposts
Despite the efforts of Council staff fly tipping became an increasing problem during the summer months.
The City lost one of its “nicest people”. RIP former Councillor David Horwell
24/7 checks revealed that there was a high compliance with speed limits in the York area. Speed camera vans still managed to catch 135 motorists exceeding the imit. Most were using the A64
The Councils decision to make Bishopthorpe Road, near the shops, one way proved to be unpopular. Roadworks on the alternative Blossom Street loop made matters worse
A Planning Inspector refused an application to build on land near Askham Bogs. There had been concerns that the wildlife sanctuary could be jeopardised by the proposals
The lockdown restrictions began to be eased from the middle of May. Pike Hills Golf Court reopened
A COVID testing centre was set up at the Poppleton Park and Ride site. It emerged that Coronavirus test results were not being shared with local authorities. The whole test and trace system lost credibility but it was to be several months before local authorities took up some of the responsibility for contact tracing. Even today, little information is published on the source of infections.
West York was snubbed by the Council when a list of cycling and walking improvements was published. The budget was £1/2 million
Work started on resurfacing Tadcaster Road and St Helen’s Road (not for the first time). Two weeks after the work was completed, at a cost at a cost to local taxpayers of £500,000, the government was to announce funding, for a drainage scheme, which will involve digging up Tadcaster Road again.
Another consultation started on “reopening” Haxby Railway Station. It was the fourth such consultation in the last 25 years.
Spring saw the usual problems emerging. Hedges and trees overgrew several foot and cycle paths. It took a long time to get them trimmed back. Potholes, not filled in after winter frost damage, added to hazards for cyclists in particular.
Councillors wrote the media to say that there would be over 700 deaths in the City by Autumn. In reality the total death toll among York residents , to 18th December, has been 211.

On 23rd May the Council confirmed that the current Lord Mayor would continue in office for an additional 12 months.

The Council decide to reduce the size of he Marygate car park by up to 100 spaces. This was to accommodate a socially distanced cycle route. The alternative, of cyclists using the car park service road, was not evaluated.
A more urgently needed improvement for cyclists were repairs to the York Selby cycle track. Parts had become dangerous fallowing damage by tree roots.
Minster FM – Apps on Google Play
York was set to lose one of its local radio stations. Minster FM had built up a good relationship with the local community and would be missed.
Electric Vans Archives - Electric vehicle news by Fuel Included
The Council – belatedly- ordered 12 new refuse collection trucks. The older vehicles were already proving to be unreliable. No explanation for the delay in ordering replacements was given
First buses announced a new App which gave real time details of the spare capacity available on each bus.
Deans Park reopened on 1st June. There was pressure for the Museums Gardens also to reopen.
File:Blake Street, York - - 1059330.jpg ...
The Council decided to extend the footstreets to include places like Blake Street, Lendal and Kings Square.
The York Minster school announced its closure. Pupils would later be accommodated at St Peters.
There were increasing concerns about the number of empty Council houses in the City
The number of positive test results for COVID in the City continued to decline, bringing hopes of a more “normal” summer.
On 13th June, that Council announced that road closures in The Groves would start in 2/3 weeks. The scheme was criticised as no safety audit had been completed.
York Minster reopened its doors on 15th June
The Council announced its post COVID travel plan. Free parking for key workers was discontinued
Socially distanced shopping was restarted in June
Pressure to reopen the Museum Gardens increased. It was to reopen on 25th June
Plans to erect a 20 metre high telecoms mast on Bellhouse Way attracted opposition. It was later refused planning permission being branded as overbearing in a residential area

Coronavirus York updates; 31st December 2020

Deaths and test results

THREE additional deaths announced by York Hospital Trust today. Two occurred on Tuesday and one yesterday. Brings the total number of fatalities since 1st September at the York and Scarborough hospitals to 157.

Local COVID related hospital deaths since September

TWO HUNDRED AND TWO (202) new positive test results announced today.

That is a record high.

The 209 infections reported on 29th December is also the highest single day figure ever recorded in the City.

The previous highest was 159 recorded on 13th October.

The Tuesday figure may have been influenced by delayed results from a Christmas backlog, but this does not entirely explain the surge in cases.

The rate /100k population stands at 266.8. It is set to rise to at least 370.8 within the next three days.

The neighbourhood figures do not yet include the large post Christmas spike in infections. They are likely, therefore, to get worse over the next few days.

End of shuttle service for disabled

Following feedback from service users the temporary Blue Badge shuttle service from Monk Bar car park is set to end on 31 December.

The service will be replaced with improved city centre access arrangements and more parking locations.

Feedback on the shuttle service and single drop off from Monk Bar was that it was not popular and viewed as inadequate by some blue badge holders. To make it easier for those who used the shuttle service to visit the city centre, vehicle access and Blue Badge parking is being reinstated from Monk Bar to Deangate, and College Green.. 

Free blue badge parking will be available in locations including:

•    in ten dedicated spaces at Monk Bar Car Park
•    in 4 additional dedicated bays at Bootham Row Car Park (Off Bootham next the BBC Radio York building)
•    as well as on double yellow lines on Monk Bar to Deangate and College Green (up to and past the Cross Keys pub)

The original changes were brought in quickly at the start of the pandemic to allow for social distancing and the opening of pavement cafes. This helped York’s city centre to recover more strongly than most other cities in the UK, including giving many pubs and cafes the outdoor space which allows them to keep trading.

The latest plans follow extensive engagement with disabled residents and advocacy groups. It revealed broad support for the increased safety of the footstreets but dissatisfaction with the arrangements put in place to replace the lost Blue Badge parking. The proposed changes included:

•    Vehicle access and Blue Badge parking would return from Monk Bar to Deangate, and College Green.
•    The taxi shuttle service for which feedback was poor will finish at the end of December.
•    Ten Blue Badge spaces would be retained at Monk Bar Car Park, and four created at Bootham Row to add to the additional free on-street spaces at Dundas Street, Carmelite Street, St Saviourgate, Duncombe Place and the existing spaces on Piccadilly, Tower Street, Castle Car Park and all other council car parks.
•    A single information point for disabled people to plan journeys.
•    Explore ways to allow disabled people who use cycles as a mobility aid to use them with care on the footstreets.
Following the announcement that York will be in Tier 3 from 00.01 on 31 December footstreets will be open to traffic from 5pm as bars, pubs and cafes will only be able to open for takeaway service due to the restrictions.

Councillor Andy D’Agorne, deputy leader and executive member for transport, said:

We recognise that there is a balance to be struck between re-opening the city by extending footstreets whilst also ensuring disabled residents are able to access the city centre.

“Following further engagement we have looked to adapt these changes to better reflect the needs of everyone. We think this strikes the balance realising the benefits of footstreets for businesses and most of their customers whilst mitigating the negative impact for blue badge holders.

“When we no longer need to protect the people in our city centre from coronavirus, we will have to protect the large crowds which will return from the very different threat of terrorism.  It is right that we look now at the long-term footstreets arrangements as part of that protection working with businesses and all types of users to find the most appropriate solutions.” 

Council simplifies Tier 3 support grants for businesses

We will make Tier 3 grant support as simple and smooth as possible for York’s businesses – and urged qualifying companies who have not yet made a claim to make sure they are not missing out.

All businesses that have applied for and are receiving grants in Tier 2 do not need to reapply for Tier 3 grants. The council will automatically process the grants under existing schemes.

The council will automatically register and pay the appropriate grants to any business which has successfully applied for:
•    The Local Restrictions Grants brought in to support business through Tier 2
•    The Additional Restrictions Grant introduced to support businesses which were severely impacted, but not forced to close during November’s lockdown.
Tier 3 grants include:
•    Businesses forced to close by law, including most hospitality, indoor entertainment and accommodation, can access Local Restrictions Grants (Closed) of up to £3000, depending on their rateable value,  per month.
•    Businesses not forced to close but with trade reduced by over 75% due to the pandemic can receive between £500 and £3000 for every two weeks we remain in Tier 3.

These grants will be paid automatically – businesses do not need to contact the council.

Councillor Nigel Ayre, executive member for performance and finance, said:

Throughout the pandemic we’ve made sure that York’s businesses are getting their grants as quickly as possible.

“As we move into Tier 3, we want to remove any additional stress so if we can pay grants based on existing information, we will.  

“So if you have applied for grants in the last 8 weeks, you shouldn’t have to reapply now.”

Councillor Andrew Waller, executive member for the economy and strategic planning, said:

Making sure grants get to businesses as quickly and simply as possible has been central to our pandemic response. This protects jobs, the supply chain and the city’s wider economy.

“If you haven’t applied for a grant recently, please check what you may be eligible for and apply straight away Council staff are once again ready to put in a huge effort to get this money into businesses bank accounts as quickly as possible

“While we have shaped the Additional Restricted Grants to help catch some of the businesses that have missed out on government support, we’re continuing to call on the Government to deliver more.

“As always, I would urge businesses who have fallen through the cracks, to please contact us as soon as possible at  and thanks to all the businesses who have already got in touch with the team who are looking at ways to provide help,

“There is also a lot more local support for businesses beyond these grants. Please get in touch with Make it York, York BID or the Federation of Small Businesses as soon as possible to find out more.”

To get notification when grant applications open, and up to date info on other business support, sign up for our regular bulletins here

Let’s look after each other

After the city woke up this morning in very high restrictions the council is reiterating that support is available for residents and businesses and asking people to look after each other.

From this morning York is under very high restrictions which mean:

  • We cannot mix with other households indoors
  • We can only meet people outdoors in open public spaces in groups of up to six (that means we can no longer meet in private gardens)
  • Reduce your number of journeys, avoid travel outside the area unless needed
  • Work from home if possible
  • All hospitality is closed, except for takeaways and deliveries
  • Retail can remain open

More details are available on the government and council websites.

Recently York has seen a sharp increase in the number of Coronavirus cases which is placing pressure on health services. The validated rate at 24 December stands at 240.2 cases per 100,000, above the regional average of 175.6. Cases are continuing to rise with the provisional rate for York standing at 312.4 per 100,000 at 28 December.

If you’re struggling to manage, or you don’t have any support, but need it because of COVID-19, our helpline is here to help you through this difficult time. Contact the Council by email: or telephone: 01904 551550.

During this period of very high restrictions residents are being asked to keep it safe, keep it local and support local businesses.

Keith Aspden, Leader of the Council, said:

These restrictions mean further changes to the way we live our lives and, undoubtedly, this will be difficult for many.

“The spirit of our wonderful city has been demonstrated throughout this pandemic and I know we will all do what we can to look after each other.

“Please check in on friends, family and neighbours in a Covid-secure way and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

“Please also remember to support our local businesses, who have done so much for our local communities throughout the year. Shops remain open and some bars and restaurants will be offering takeaway and delivery services.”

Sharon Stoltz, Director of Public Health, said:

We have reached the end of an incredibly challenging year for the city. Whilst we are all glad to see the back of 2020, please be safe and see in the new year at home.

“We need to all take extra care as the virus is increasing across the city. These next few months will be difficult but with the vaccine rollout there is hope but we aren’t there yet. Remember that 1 in 3 people do not have symptoms of the virus but may still be infectious. So take steps to protect yourself and remember hands, face, space.

“Looking after our physical and mental health will be vital. Please continue to exercise outdoors but do so safely, following the new rules and keeping a safe distance from those we don’t live with.”

By working together we can save lives, please:

  • Meet others outside and in small numbers (the rule of six applies)
  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds or more with soap and water
  • Wear a face covering when in busy public spaces
  • Give people space – 2m is best
  • Self-isolate when asked to by test and trace or if you have symptoms
  • Get a symptom-free test if you are eligible (book online)

That was the year that was 2020

January to March

as the New Year started roadworks were taking place on The Mount. Roadworks in that area and Tadcaster Road were to prove to be an embarrassment for the Council later in the year.
A 4% increase in Council Tax levels was announced. There would be expenditure on a £3 million “forest” while a Councillors pay increases would cost £141,000.
Plans to provide a “driverless shuttle” service in the pedestrian area were revealed – to be greeted with general incredulity
The Council’s new team of graffiti removers was having some success.
Council contractors blocked a footpath link from Acomb Wood to Acomb Moor. Twelve months later the right of way is still impassible in wet weather.
The Lowfields development got underway. Neighbours were unhappy as delivery lorries blocked roads and damaged verges
The Castle Gateway budget was revealed as £55 million. The Council intended to borrow £45.8 million to help fund it.
Bootham Park hospital would be sold for use as 125 “independent living” homes
Concern was rising about the delay in completing the £42 York Community Stadium. The York Knights said they would play there on 9th February 2020. As 2020 ends, the stadium has still to host its first fixture
The Low Poppleton Lane camera enforced “buses only gate” continued to attract criticism about poor signage. The Council gets about £100,000 for fines levied on drivers who misuse the route.
The Council stopped publishing responses to Freedom of Information requests on its web site. It was rightly critised for being too secretive.
The Council confirmed that the first Coronavirus case identified in the UK had been linked to York University. At the time few realised the impact that the virus would have on everyone’s life during 2020. At the time Public Health officials said that the risk was “very low”
The York Council decided to spend £2 million on anti terrorist security measures.
New Council bungalows – incorporating electric vehicle charging points – were completed on Newbury Avenue.
The controversial Spark container village on Piccadilly was coming to the end of its lease. The owners had not fulfilled some planning conditions and the expectation was that the lease would end and the site would be sold. It didn’t work out that way.
The York Council decided to sack its weed control contractor. The City had been overgrown the previous summer. New arrangements worked better during 2020.
The amount the Council intended to borrow continued to increase. Critics pointed to high redemption costs and interest charges.
The Council increased its investment in flood protection measures
Disabled tenants were told that the Council would not cut the grass and hedges in future. There had been no consultation. Later Council officials tried to backtrack on their letter
In a “behind closed doors” decision senior Councillors decided to make the York Council’s Chief Executive – who had been on sick leave for nearly a year – redundant. The cost of the exit package was put at over £400,000.
The Council and developers updated their plans for the York Central site which lies behind the railway station. The plans involved making the Leeman Road tunnel single lane working – raising a storm of protest.
The were an increasing number of complaints about poor quality road maintenance standards.
Another Coronavirus case was identified in York on 4th March. Lockdown 1 followed soon afterwards
The project to refurbish the Guildhall and establish a “business club” there ran into further difficulties. Costs spiraled.
The Council was forced to admit, following a Freedom of Information request, that it owned a large number of empty properties. Some had been empty for over 5 years.
The Council agreed to grant the Theatre Royal £500,000 for improvement works
The Council confirmed that it would try to sell the plot at Lowfields, allocated for an elderly persons care home, to a private developer. The developer would be expected to provide “extra care ” facilities. In effect the Council reverted to the original plans for the site which was agreed in 2010.

The rest of the quarter – and indeed the year – was to be dominated by the fight against the pandemic