Graffiti , bins and footpaths reported

The Council is dealing promptly now with graffiti reports. The new system seems to be working well.

Graffiti on litter bin on little Hob Moor
Graffiti on a utility box also on little Hob Moor. Reports like these are passed on to the utility company but there is rarely a quick response. We think that the utility companies should ask the Council to clean the boxes on a rechargeable basis.
Footpaths in Newbury Avenue need reconstructing now that the new bungalows are almost ready for occupation. The damaged verge on the Newbury Avenue/Kingsway West junction needs to be repaired at the same time.
We’ve reported the full poop scoop bin at the entrance to Acomb Wood
Still waiting to hear when the public footpath at the top of Osprey Close will be reinstated. A local Councillor is now on the case.

Tudor Road choked with building site trucks.

Residents posting on the Save Lowfields Playing Field Facebook group ( https://www.facebook.com/LowfieldsActionGroup/ ) are reporting chaotic scenes this morning as large trucks queue on Tudor Road to gain access to the site.

There have been problems with congestion as the trucks arrived as pupils were making there way to school. Tudor Road is relatively narrow and is on a bus route.

Neither the contractors nor the Council have said how many large vehicle journeys can be expected at this entrance each day and to what timescales.

One of the objections, to the planning application for the development of the site, related to safety concerns about the Gale Lane/Tudor Road junction.

The York Council claimed that the junction had the capacity to deal with extra movements but many residents remain sceptical.

Haxby Hall care home plans

Haxby Hall

The Council will receive an update report next week on its Older Persons’ Accommodation Programme. It has confirmed its plans to privatise the running of Haxby Hall elderly persons home.

The council is being asked to approve land transactions and lease agreements to enable Yorkare Homes Limited to redevelop and upgrade Haxby Hall. When complete, this will help meet the need for good quality care in high quality care homes across the city.

Yorkare’s plans to extend and improve the accommodation at Haxby Hall will ensure uninterrupted care for the residents. Under the plans, residents will be able to stay in the home whilst work progresses on the site.  The plans will also ensure continued employment for the Hall’s staff by transferring their employment from the council to the operator.

Yorkare are an ‘outstanding’ CQC-rated operator and they aim to extend this popular care home and create over 60 new bedrooms, equipped with en-suite facilities for improved privacy.

To deliver this higher quality of care and ensure minimal disruption to residents, two neighbouring properties have been acquired to provide access to the rear of the site. The council’s Executive is being asked to agree to a long lease for the site, for which Yorkare will pay the council £450,000.

A period of consultation will take place with local residents, community groups and organisations before planning permission is sought.

Separately the Council has said that  “The executive will be asked to agree to procure an extra care developer and operator to develop a mixed tenure extra care development on the Lowfields site previously identified for a care home”. The meeting will take place on 19th March 2020.

Castle “Gateway” development will cost £55 million

Officials recommend York Council borrows £45.8 million to fund major development

The York Council is being asked to fund phase 1 of the Castle Gateway development next week. The development includes

  • Providing the replacement MSCP at St George’s Field that will allow Castle Car Park to close and be replaced with new public realm
  • A new pedestrian cycle crossing over the inner-ring road
  • A new pedestrian cycle bridge over the Foss
  • A new public park at the rear of the Castle Museum and a riverside pocket park on Piccadilly
  • 106 new apartments at Castle Mills – 20 of which would be new council housing – above street level commercial spaces suitable for small independent traders
  • New apartments above further commercial spaces at 17-21 Piccadilly

Contrary to expectations, the Council is planning to undertake the development itself putting potentially £55 million of taxpayer’s money at risk.

Masterplan for Castle Gateway

There is an estimated viability gap of £3.3 million even if all flats and commercial spaces are sold. £532,000 will be spent diverting a sewer on St Georges Field.

20 Council apartments would be built at Castle Mills at an estimated cost of £3.7 million.

The “delivery strategy” for the, long unused, 17-21 Piccadilly site (currently occupied by Spark) would not be determined before summer 2020. Officials want to build apartments above ground floor commercial units on the site. It is not clear why such a development could not be private sector led (reducing risks to taxpayers).

There is a danger that the Council, is now giving some elements of the £1.5 million “Masterplan” a “Moses” status.

The location of the £2.4 million Foss bridge, the £1.5 million Castle Museum park and the (frankly slightly odd) £800,000 inner ring road surface level crossing may all be nice to have but they are scarcely essential.

Even the multi storey car park at £14.2 million now looks like a very expensive way of facilitating the provision of a new park.

Simply selling the development sites – as surely the Council should have done with 17-21 Piccadilly by now – would produce a receipt of £6.6 million. This might be a useful insurance if the Councils other reckless property gambles (like the refurbishment of the Guildhall) go belly up.

Other major Council funding commitments like York Central and the outer ring-road are also imminent.

If the Council decides to go forward with the recommendations, then they would be wise to adopt a parallel path approach and seek alternative proposals from the market.

They would then be in a position to make an informed choice when they make a final decision later in the year.

A small change in the national economic picture could leave the Council with empty properties and no way of paying interest charges on its borrowings, without prompting massive public service cuts.

The Castle Mill development is scheduled to be completed in spring 2023; a few weeks before the next Council elections are scheduled to take place.

Bootham Park Hospital could become the site of an independent living development for older people.

Council leaders are set to consider the next steps to secure public access, better cycle and pedestrian paths and other local priorities for the former Bootham Park hospital site.

Enterprise Retirement Living has been named as the preferred buyer by NHS property services.

The plans would create 125 independent living retirement homes and would secure public access to parts of the 1777 John Carr designed grade 1 hospital building, including the boardroom, gym and bowling alley.

The site is ideally located for older persons accommodation being within walking distance of all amenities including the hospital and railway station.

Land ownership at Bootham Park

A report published ahead of next Tuesday’s York Council Executive meeting outlines the options available to the council, based on local priorities and potential benefits identified during the extensive public and stakeholder engagement process.

The council says that it has been working closely with health partners to influence future development on the site.  “These efforts are set to be rewarded, with the site’s current and future owners due to talk with the council about public access, cycle paths, retaining more of the sale receipt locally and other priorities of York residents.   Air ambulance landing site and NHS use of the Chapel are set to continue, ERL and NHS Property Services (NHS PS) are set to ‘positively engage’ with the council over other key requests identified during recent consultations to influence the future of the site including public use of the Parkland”.

Councillor Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, said:

“This is very encouraging news, and welcome reward for our approach to shaping the future development at Bootham Park.

“Our ambition has always been to make sure these historic buildings and grounds continue to serve our city, and we will continue to communicate the priorities of our residents with the new owners.“

The report asks Executive to agree that the Council will use its rights as owner of a strip of access road to secure b

  • beneficial public use of the parkland in front of the hospital building
  • Improved pedestrian and cycle routes through the site
  • Conservation and redevelopment to deliver homes and services which are of benefit to the city

City of York Council has been working with NHS Property Services, The York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Vale of York CCG to influence the site’s future.

This included a site development report informed by public and wider stakeholder consultation in 2018. The results of the 2019 consultation over this plan are contained within the Executive report, with 1657 comments identifying public access to the green spaces, key worker accommodation, better cycle and pedestrian pathways and suitability of any new buildings as the priority.

These activities were funded as part of the government’s One Public Estate programme, which supports public bodies to use public land and property to boost economic growth, supply housing and regeneration, and integrated public services.

Executive takes place at 17:30 on Wednesday 21 January at West Offices and will be webcast live at www.york.gov.uk/webcasts.

York Minster precinct plans

The Minster has commenced the final stage in its consultation over a new Neighbourhood Plan.

There have been some changes since the last survey mostly for the better.

 The new plan and feedback arrangements can be found by clicking this link

 The major areas of debate are likely to concern the plan to build a new cafe and visitor centre at 1 Deangate. Plans to build next to the south entrance have (rightly) been scrapped. The Minster Stone-yard exhibition barn will be moved away from this area (allowing uninterrupted views of the Cathedral).

Admission tickets will be sold from a property at the end of Stonegate/Minster Gates.  

It is less clear how the new boundaries of the (expanded) Minster school campus will be delineated.

Two cycle routes have been retained with one curving through Queens Walk and Minster Green while the other follows the existing carriageway line. The opportunity to provide a, daytime only, cycle route (by passing Deangate) through Deans Park has been missed.  

The new “Queen Elizabeth Square” which incorporates part of Duncombe Place, is retained. It is compromised by allowing vehicular access to the Dean Court Hotel and the Purey Cust homes.  Some will feel that a dropping off point near St Wilfred’s Church would allow reasonable access during pedestrian hours (with an electric hand trolley service if necessary). Many will feel that providing a turning circle for the, outdated, Railway Museum “train” is also an unnecessary feature.

Still the plans represent a measured and welcome approach to neighbourhood planning and, in many ways, are an exemplar for similar projects elsewhere in the City.

Minster statement January 2020
The area near the South entrance will be remodelled

Turning into a pantomime?

It is understandable that residents want to know when the £42 million community stadium complex will be fully open for business.
Image

Taxpayers will point out that around £10 million of the costs have come out of their pockets.

Originally scheduled for a 2012 opening, delays dogged the project. Even after contracts had been signed for a June 2019 opening “labour shortages” meant that the actual stadium opening was put back to the autumn 2019 and then to the Spring 2020.

It seemed that the dates were firming up as the IMAX cinema admitted its first paying customers before Christmas while an excitable gaggle of Councillors started tweeted pictures of the “finished” stadium.

The Knights Rugby Club said that their first home fixture of the new season would take place at the stadium on 9th February. The stadium was also set to host a big “double header” with Super League clubs Toronto and Wakefield facing off on the 22nd March.

Questions at a York City supporters forum led to a statement from an executive councillor last week who confirmed that a transport plan was in place. It would get large crowds to the out of town, 8000 capacity, stadium site. (Currently, York City matches attract around 2500 spectators)

However, it remained unclear whether joint entry/transport tickets would be sold and information about public transport capacity was scarce, given that the opening (rugby) fixture was less than a month away.

A “trial” dinner event was then cancelled, and the Knights said that their 9th February fixture might have to be moved to Bootham Crescent.

We think that the stadium will be an asset for the City. When the interest level stabilises, after the first couple of games, transport arrangements should also be adequate.

We are less convinced about the viability of some of the other elements of the development not least the additional swimming pool.

But we are, where we are.

The Council and its contractors should now be able to give a clear programme of actions leading up to firm commissioning and hand-over dates.

NB. Local side York Acorn Rugby got off to a winning start on Saturday in their cup match against Hammersmith Hills Hoist. The score line was 36 points to 14. There were no problems accommodating the crowd at the Thanet Road Stadium (!)

Pantomime

Not been short on local news this week with a lot of speculation that the Theatre Royal’s annual pantomime will be ditched.

The seasonal event was a favourite with many residents and attracted a loyal following. In the 80.s and 90’s the income from the pantomime kept the Theatre Royal afloat.

The audience numbers were so large that the Opera House, and briefly also the Barbican, put on competing pantomimes.

Lots of people were prepared to pay for “more of the same” right up to the time that the star Berwick Kaler announced his retirement last year. Tickets sales were down, and reviews were mixed, for this years “Kalerless” event (he did do some script-writing).

With the benefit of hindsight, the Theatre might have been wise to boost the cast with some fresh – well known – names this year.

The theatre then announced last week that it would be taking “brave” decisions, so the writing was one the wall.

It coincided with a bid from the Theatre Royal for £500,000 of investment by the York Council. That implied a need for an ongoing public subsidy level similar to that seen in the last decade.

We have no doubt that there will be at least one pantomime in York next Christmas.

Nostalgia rules with a seasonal production of the 70 year old “White Christmas” having pulled in big West End audiences this season. The Theatre Royal needs to exploit that market. The City’s seasonal background atmosphere offers a huge marketing advantage.

Whether the present cast of the traditional panto can find another venue for their product – and continue to attract audiences – will become clear later in the year.

The Theatre Royals plans should become clearer this week.

Latest planning application for the Westfield Ward

 Below are the latest planning application received by the York Council for the Westfield ward. 

Full details can be found by clicking the application reference 

—-

Acomb Sports and Social Club, The Green, York

| Erection of single storey recreational building with associated external works and car parking

Ref. No: 19/02690/FUL 

This application has not formally been publicised yet, but details are on the Councils planning web site.

If approved it would see the York Bridge Club move from their premises in Holgate into Westfield. As such it would be the first new leisure facility that the area would gain after a decade which has seen the closure of several local amenities including the bowling club, football pitches at Lowfields, the multi user games area etc.

The single storey building itself is unlikely to be controversial but the site selected is currently allocated, in planning documents, as open sports space. It was last used as tennis courts some 20 years ago.

If the Bridge Clubs current premises in Holgate Road were to be converted into residential accommodation, then it is likely that this would weigh in the balance.

A planning decision is likely in the spring.

Existing Club and proposed new site
Proposed layout

Representations can be made in favour of, or in objection to, any application via the Planning on line web site.http://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/

NB The Council now no longer routinely consults neighbours by letter when an application is received