The local Council Tory Leadership suffered a defeat this evening when their plan ot sell off land at Willow House was referred back for further consideration.
It is understood that one Conservative councillor absented himself from the meeting without appointing a substitute. (He was apparently elsewhere in West Offices when the meeting was taking place)
The result was that a vote on a “call in” was tied and the Labour chair used his casting vote to stall the development.
There are likely to be repercussions for the Council as the sale of the former elderly persons home site for development was needed to fund new elderly care homes.
The main concern apparently centred around an area of open space next to the home which would have been developed for the first time. Locals say that it is used for informal recreational activity.
There are several other controversial plans in the pipeline which would see similar open spaces developed. In the Acomb ward the development of the old Manor school playing field has been criticised while there is also a major campaign to save threatened open space at Lowfields.
The called in decision will now be referred back to the Executive who will have to decide whether to re-advertise the site for sale and, if so, with what conditions. Further delays to the care programme seem inevitable.
The disagreement within the Tories is the latest in signs of unrest with Council Leader David Carr heavily criticised since unilaterally sacking two executive members and later resisting publication of a report into contractor appointments.
Other projects such as the, Tory backed, shipping container village on Piccadilly and arrangements to sign the final Community Stadium contract are also mired in controversy.
Members of City of York Council’s Executive will consider plans for the next phase of the Older People’s Accommodation Programme on Thursday 24 November, when they receive the results of the consultation at Willow House older persons home and decide if the home should close.
Between Monday 26 September and Friday 4 November residents, relatives, carers and staff at Willow House were invited to take part in a six week consultation on the option to close the home in Spring 2017, as part of plans to modernise accommodation for older people in the city.
If the proposals go ahead, Executive will also be asked to approve that the Willow House site be put up for sale to generate a capital receipt to support the wider Older People’s Accommodation Programme.
The programme seeks to address the needs of York’s fast-growing older population, by providing modern facilities which deliver high quality care and support an improved quality of life. It also aims to make the best use of the city’s existing Extra Care housing, making it more accessible for people with higher care needs by increasing the support available at each location and by replacing the council’s out-dated Older People’s provision, with more modern accommodation.
The consultation on proposals to close Willow House engaged residents, relatives and staff. A number of issues, concerns and queries were raised during the consultation, which have been considered and factored into the Older People’s Accommodation Programme. Everyone affected by the consultation was offered the opportunity to talk on a one-to-one basis about the proposals.
Residents were also able to discuss the options open to them, based on their individual needs, including housing extra care housing or moving to an alternative care home.
The Moving Homes Safely Protocol has also been shared with residents. The protocol was used to support residents and their families through the closure of Oakhaven and Grove House and seeks to minimise any stress for individuals by focusing on the needs of each resident. If Executive approve plans to close Willow House it is advised the protocol is used again so that residents’ moves are carefully planned and managed.
Martin Farran, Director of Adult Social Care, City of York Council, said: “We recognise that this consultation process can be an unsettling and upsetting. Throughout this process we have been working closely with residents, staff and their families, to make sure they have the support and advice they need.
“The focus of the Older People’s Accommodation Programme remains clear: to support independent living at home and equip York with the accommodation and care that it needs for the future. Our residents are of paramount importance and the actions we take now will ensure that they – and future generations – will have the best possible quality of life and ensure that we can meet the needs of York’s ageing population.
“Whatever decision is taken by the Executive, we will continue to support residents, relatives and staff throughout the process.”
Executive will take place on Thursday 24 November at West Offices from 5.30pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch live online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts
To find out more about the report, or to attend, click
Residents, their relatives and staff at one of City of York Council’s Older People’s Homes – Willow House – are being consulted on the option to close the home in early 2017, as part of plans to modernise accommodation for older people in the city.
The Council says that, “the plans seek to address the needs of York’s fast-growing older population, by providing modern facilities which allow high quality care and quality of life. It also aims to make the best use of the city’s existing Extra Care housing, making it more accessible for people with higher care needs by increasing the support available at each venue and by replacing the council’s five out-dated Older People’s Homes, with more modern accommodation”.
Two city centre homes (Oliver House & Grove House) have already been sold by the Council. Willow House, located within a stones throw of the City Walls is likely to command a substantial price when marketed.
There will, however, be concerns that specialist properties specifically designed for older people – and with good access to a full range of amenities – are being lost.
In Acomb, the Council faces a major backlash over its plans to build on the Lowfields school sports fields. Residents had expected that site to be allocated for older people as it is also located very close to the amenities which exist on Front Street
A Council media release goes on to say,
“Each of the council’s Older People’s Homes was assessed against a number of criteria to determine which homes should be consulted on for closure first. Two Older People’s Homes – Grove House and Oakhaven – closed earlier this year as part of the programme and this week, Executive is being asked to approve plans for the sale of Grove House to generate additional capital to support the programme.
The criteria covered:
Whether there were any serious physical problems with the building which could impact on the quality of care provided to residents
Whether the site had potential alternative uses which will support the wider Older People’s Accommodation Programme
Whether there were any residents living at the home who had already been moved from another CYC older person’s home which had been closed
The size of the home, with smaller homes struggling to provide a cost-efficient service to residents.
None of the Older People’s Homes were found to have serious physical problems with the buildings, so the decision was based on the other three criteria. Willow House was chosen as the next home to be consulted on re closure because:
Willow House is one of the smaller homes with 23 permanent residents
Only a very small number of residents have moved home previously as part of the programme
Should Willow House close, the location of the site means that it would be likely to generate a significant capital receipt if sold, helping to fund the wider Older People’s Accommodation Programme and so benefit more older people in the city.
Michael Melvin, Assistant Director, Adult Social Care, City of York Council, said: “We recognise that this consultation process can be an unsettling and upsetting one and we will be working closely with the residents, staff and their families, to make sure they have the support and advice they need. Residents and staff at Willow House are rightly proud of their home, however, it is vital that we keep the aims of the wider Older People’s Accommodation Programme in sight.
“The programme looks to ensure that we are able to help older people to remain independent in their own home as long as possible, providing them with a wide choice of accommodation to meet their needs. Our residents are of paramount importance and the actions we take now will ensure that they – and future generations – will have the best possible quality of life and ensure that we can meet the needs of York’s ageing population. This consultation is another step closer to achieving the goal of modernising accommodation for older people in York.”
Residents, their relatives and staff have already been informed of the proposals and will be consulted on their views and any preferences they have about where they would like to move to should the home be closed, over the next six weeks.
The results of the consultations will be presented to the Executive on Thursday 24 November. Willow House also hosts day drop-in services for people with leaning disabilities in a self contained space. These service users will be consulted separately on proposed changes at Willow House”.
A Council statement reads, “as part of our drive to improve the quality and choice of care for older people in the city, we are consulting with residents of Woolnough House on its future.
Residents, their relatives and staff at one of City of York Council’s older people’s homes – Woolnough House – are being consulted on the option to close the home in late 2017, as part of plans to modernise accommodation for older people in the city.
The plans seek to address the needs of York’s fast-growing older population, by providing modern facilities which allow high quality care and quality of life. It also aims to make the best use of the city’s existing extra care housing, making it more accessible for people with higher care needs by increasing the support available at each venue and by replacing the council’s four out-dated older people’s homes, with more modern accommodation”.
The news comes as work nears completion on 25 new extra care apartments and two bungalows at Glen Lodge in Heworth.
Each of the council’s older people’s homes was assessed against a number of criteria to determine which homes should be consulted on for closure first.
Three older people’s homes – Grove House, Oakhaven and Willow House – closed in the past 17 months as part of the programme. (more…)
Date: Wed 9 Dec Time: 7.00pm – 9.00pm Cost: £14 discounts are available
Enjoy seeing Fairfax House after dark in all its festive glory, and hear about the merrymaking, decorations, feasting and activities that surrounded this festival in the eighteenth century. The tour is led by Director Hannah Phillip.
Date: Sat 19, Sun 20 Dec Time: 5.00pm Cost: Adult £8.50, child £6.00, Family £17.50 including a warm drink and mince pies.
Storytelling with Jenna Drury, Mud Pie Arts
As Christmas approaches and the nights draw in, join us for some enchanting winter tales and traditional storytelling. Meet Molly our scullery maid as she takes you through the house, sharing festive stories from Scandinavia and reading classic tales from Dickens and Wind in the Willows. She may even tell tales about secrets in the house! To keep out the winter chill, huddle round as we also enjoy hot chocolate, mulled wine and mince pies – the perfect Christmas treat for all the family. Suitable for age 4yrs and above.
Developers have submitted their final proposals for building on the remaining plot on Hungate.
The latest planning application would see an increase in the number of flats proposed from 169 to 226. No on-site parking will be provided. There will be some ground floor retail units.
The announcement comes hard on the heels of a planning application which would see 211 apartments constructed on Rougier Street.
While a lot of people will be pleased to see the Hungate development – which started over 10 years ago – completed, there will be some scepticism about the number of apartments being provided on a relatively small site.
The lockdown restrictions have highlighted the need for access to safe open space. Unfortunately land values – established during a very different economic climate – make the provision of the alternative to flats – terraced homes with private gardens – financially challenging.
This may be why the City center’s worst eyesore continues to lie empty and abused.
The site at the junction of Barbican Road and Paragon Street has been derelict for more than a decade. Originally intended for use as a student block, it has failed to attract serious developer interest.
Now it provides an embarrassing backdrop to the historic City Walls.
Perimeter hoardings now covered in graffiti.
Directly opposite – on the other side of the Walls – is the Willow House former elderly persons home which has been unused for over 4 years. The Council has still not responded to calls for the building to be used as temporary accommodation for the homeless.
The York Council itself is planning to build hundreds of apartments on the York Central site as well as at Castle Mills.
The next year will tell us how many people want to occupy small flats in high density city centre developments.
Post pandemic, we suspect that the option might be losing some of its appeal.
A report to a Council meeting next week offers a limited insight into the York Councils property dealings. It comes at an opportune time with various other Councils having been badly burnt recent by injudicious investments in land and property. Croydon and the Cambridgeshire County Council are both heading for the local government equivalent of bankruptcy.
Against that background taxpayers might would hope for York Councillors to now to adopt a more measured approach to investment. The commercial property market is likely – in the wake of the pandemic – to remain depressed for some time. It is not a good time to sell assets.
Instead we find a plan to borrow an additional £4 million on top of the £384 million already committed. That is a debt of nearly £2000 for every man, woman, and child in the City. 20% of tax payments will have to go towards paying interest charges.
This has remained empty since occupants were moved out – prematurely as it turned out – in 2016. The sale for a new care home to Ashley House fell through in early 2017. No attempt was made to find even a temporary use for the site which occupies a prime location near to local amenities and good transport links. Maintenance expenditure on the empty building continued to fall on taxpayers. Now the council is proposing an “off-market” sale to regional care home operator, Burlington Care Limited. The size of the offer has not been revealed. Ironically, the officer report admits “An open market exercise may be impacted by COVID 19 suppressing property values. The council budget has been significantly impacted by COVID and there is a need to realise value from vacant assets in the near future”
Another former care home, which has been empty for nearly 5 years, is Willow House. It is on a prime site located next to the city walls. The site was nearly sold for student housing in 2017 but ran into planning difficulties. Other offers were ignored by the Council and an offer from a company which utilises empty residential accommodation to accommodate the homeless in return for caretaking and security duties, was spurned. Now it seems that the Council intends to build 40 apartments on the site and will probably use its own “Shape” development company to manage the investment. The site is worth more than £2.3 million.
An elderly person’s home empty since early 2018. No use has been found for the site. It is to be considered for use by “self-builders” but if that is not successful it will be sold on the open market.
Moor Lane car park
This is the site currently in use as a flu vaccination centre. It has mostly been empty for the last 4 years. There has been a lot of developer interest in building on the site. The Council has decided not to include it in the Council house building programme and may therefore sell it on. On the open market – even in these depressed times – it is likely to be worth less per acre than the Willow House site.
The sale of this home to private care home operator “Yorkare” has stalled. COVID is blamed
& the strange ones
Generally, taxpayers have benefited in the long run when the Council has bought land and buildings in the City. There have been exceptions. For example, when the authority impulsively sold the site now occupied by the Hiscox insurance company on Peasholme Green. Had it included a betterment clause in the sale then taxpayers rather than shareholders would have benefited from the subsequent increase in land values.
It looks increasingly likely that the purchase of good quality agricultural land near Knapton, with the intention of planting trees on it, may go into the same ill-considered category. When wooded, the area will not have a resale option but will involve an ongoing maintenance liability. 180 acres will support 50,000 broadleaf trees making a, carbon sequestration, contribution to the £1.2 trillion additional trees which would be required on the planet to reverse climate change! The £1 million project is also hailed as a major new passive leisure option for residents although, in truth, it is poorly positioned to make up for the open space lost in recent years to building operations in the City’s poorer areas.
The major issue remains the lack of an environmental impact assessment. The land currently contributes to the local food supply chain. If the land is lost to food production, imports may increase resulting in longer transport chains and – critically – higher carbon emission levels. Storing carbon – like burying nuclear waste – simply pushes a problem onto the next generation.
The key to improving the environment is to reduce carbon emissions. Even the government seemed to recognise this, with its initiative yesterday aimed at replacing gas boilers with heat pumps and other benign energy sources.
The Eco centre is the small business facility at Clifton Moor which was promoted by the Council some 15 years ago. It was provided via a “design and build” contract on Council owned land.
Occupation levels have been encouraging although usually reflecting the general state of the economy. There are 63 individual units there. The Council currently leases back the centre and has managed the facility since 2015. The rent paid by tenant contributions is claimed to offset the current running costs.
Now officials are recommending that the Council spends £3.9 million buying out the interests of the owner of the building. The Council is not revealing how its business case figures stack up, but it claims that it may generate additional income by fitting PV (solar) panels on the roof.
Judged against the current economic volatility this looks like a high-risk strategy.
The plans for the non-listed section of the Guildhall have been an economic “basket case” for several years. The opportunity to sell part of the building for residential, retail or hotel use represented the least risk option and should have been pursued in 2012 when the building first became empty.
Instead, against a background of neglect and rapidly increasing repair costs, the Council opted for a risky plan to establish a hi tech small business start-up centre. The overall viability of the plan depended on letting part of the space as a high-end restaurant. The Council said it would run the unit itself.
£20 million of taxpayers money is at risk.
Now York University, via its Science City offshoot, has apparently offered to lease the business centre space at the Guildhall. Some civic and community use would continue. Science City has a generally good reputation and the offer to get the Council off its, self-inflicted, hook would seem to be an attractive one.
It is unclear how the success of the new enterprise would be judged. It is even less clear how the demand for City centre “incubator” space will mature in the wake of the pandemic.
The restaurant shell building will remain empty awaiting a resurgence of the local visitor economy.
The Council currently has a 9.2% minority stake in York Science Park Ltd. which it would sell.
The lease deal would be “off market” raising once again accusations of a “family and friends” approach to commercial dealings.
“Town and Gown” relations are already stressed in the wake of the pandemic and a perceived lack of accessibility for residents and visitors to the historic Kings Manor buildings in the City centre, which are currently occupied by the University.
The Council has pointedly not published updated business case figures which reflect the new offer being made as well as ongoing concerns about the cost of the renovation project..
On what must be one of the most risky approaches to the financial management of Council owned property, the Risk Management assessment included in the report amounts to only 7 lines of text and concentrates entirely on the planned bid for the Eco centre.
The York Council will hold a “virtual” Council meeting on 29th October. It will be the first since the start of the pandemic.
Those hoping for glimpses of firm leadership and evidence of cross party cooperation will be disappointed.
The agenda is dominated by bureaucracy.
A replacement for the long departed Chief Executive will be announced. Ian Floyd will be announced as “Chief Operating Officer” although apparently the Labour leader decided to boycott the interview process. Instead Trades Union officials observed the proceedings (and pronounced that they were satisfied with the process).
The ill-timed reorganisation of local government boundaries will take a step forward, “minor amendments” to the constitution (reducing still further accountability) will be tabled, and polling stations will be changed (and no there aren’t actually any elections scheduled).
The rest is mostly a ritual look backwards although Andy D’agorne has raised his head above the parapet on controversial transport initiatives such as the double resurfacing of Tadcaster Road, the failed Bishopthorpe Road closure and the underused Monk Bar taxi service.
Will anyone be able to nail these mistakes? We doubt that those using “Zoom” will manage to do so.
A report from the Executive member with responsibility for housing, completely fails to identify the problems with re-letting services and the growing number of empty properties.
It is not just under-used Council houses that are at issue.
Homeless people have tried to get access to long term empty properties like Willow House for temporary use, only to be “cold shouldered” by Councillors.
No mention is made of the senior management level vacancies in the housing department which have contributed to the decline in standards.
Probably what takes the biscuit though, for posturing and time wasting, is a contribution, in the form of a motion, from Labour.
It claims that it wants to see Councillors “acting responsibly and collaboratively at all times”.
It then proposes unilateral changes to delegated budgets. £100,000 would be sequestered from wards and allocated centrally in some unnamed way to “voluntary groups working with the vulnerable”.
This is not a Marcus Rashford style attempt to ease the burdens of those hit by the pandemic.
Instead it would rob the least well-off wards like Westfield of the resources needed to identify and address local needs.
One of the successes, of the Councils approach, has been the local “hubs” which have provided neighbourhood level support over the last few months. They have been supplemented by other initiatives like surplus food giveaways some of which have had financial support from some ward budgets.
In addition, the Council allocated £1.25 million to a local hardship fund earlier in the year.
Perhaps if Labour Councillors want to build up another hardship fund then they might consider donating 20% of their pay?
That would put them on a par with many workers in the City who have suffered a similar – or higher – reduction in income. Councillors are, after all, attending fewer meetings these days and their costs are therefore much reduced. Indeed, for some, this will be the first meeting they have “attended” since February.
A 20% reduction in pay across the board would produce a fund of over £100,000.