Verge damage – no improvement despite Council promises.

Damaged verge on Thoresby Road 2019

Its over 3 years since the York Council looked at the problem of vehicle damage to grass verges. A lengthy report promised improvements not least in taking action against drivers who carelessly damaged verges.

Verge damage was costing taxpayers around £35 per sq metre to fix. Enforcement action was promised and some “Ward Committees” also said they would use their delegated budget to provide lay-bys.

St Stephens Road

There has sadly been little progress. Problem locations such as the flats on Thoresby Road continue to be blighted. Promised lay-bys have not materialised. There has been no enforcement action, no protective bollards or “eco grid” surfacing have been installed.

Drivers do need somewhere to park their vehicles but the Council’s response has been glacial recently.

LED lighting in York

The York Council has converted 12,000 of its streetlights to LED working since 2013.

The remainder are Low Pressure Sodium discharge lamps (1100), high-pressure sodium lamps (5000), Metal Halide (150), plus 1800 other types

The upgrade cost £2.7 million and was funded from borrowing.  Some further conversion work is planned this year.

The Council admits that it did not consult before implementing its programme although some residents express concerns about sensitivities to LED lighting, e.g. people suffering from migraines, lupus and autism.

Some problems (relating to health and road and public safety) regarding glare and flicker are associated with LED street lighting.  Warnings about LED lights have been published (link)

The Council says that its lighting is fault free.

The Council says that it did consider the impact on wildlife such as bats.

LED lighting is regarded as more environmentally friendly as it reduced energy use. It is expected to be more reliable reducing maintenance costs. It is also claimed to reduce night time glare (light is directed downwards)

However, there have been complaints about dark patches on some paths.

Crime levels in York

The latest crime figures taken from the nation policing web site (click) show a stable picture in York.

A lot of effort has gone into making the City centre safer and this shows with a slight downward trend in crime reports during the last 12 months.  The number of reports each month varies between 450 and 550. The largest number of incidents were reported in December 2018 so all eyes will be on the figures for last month when they become available.

Crime stats for York

Anti-social behaviour accounts for 34% of the reports.   This is in line with the popular conception that the City centre can be a rowdy environment at times.

Looking at the area outside the centre, which includes a large rural neighbourhood, crime reports have averaged around 1300 a month over the last year.

Anti social behaviour again is the most frequent report (31%) but is closely followed by “violence and sexual offences” (26%). The latter is mainly domestic disagreements.

A lot of historic information is available at a more local level.

Crime stats for the Westfield ward

In the Westfield Ward crime reports average around 150 a month.  Reports peak in the summer months.

Anti social behaviour (33%) and violence (28%) are the biggest issues.  10% of reports concern criminal damage (vandalism, graffiti etc) and arson.

Westfield crime reports in 2014/15

A graph of crime reports in Westfield (left), prepared 5 years ago, shows a very similar volume of issues.

The Police are currently recruiting additional officers and PCSOs in North Yorkshire.

Public service standards on York Council estates

A few months ago an executive Councillor considered how to deal with problems relating to graffiti. As some of the problems had arisen on Council estates – with some tenanted homes being targeted – not unreasonably Council officials republished a copy of the relevant Service Level Agreement (SLA) or Customer Contract covering graffiti removal.

Service level agreement for Council housing services in York 2013

This had been updated in 2013 and specified how quickly issues like graffiti should be resolved.

The new graffiti removal process now seems to be working well on Council owned structures although utility boxes are still an issue in some parts of the City.

A recent Freedom of information response has raised more questions than it has answered.

Asked to publish the most up to date SLA for each public service area, the Council has so far only come up with one for Housing. It turns out to be different from that published in October although the new agreement apparently dates back to May 2019.

The SLAs for other public services have not yet been provided.

Closer examination of the housing services agreement  – now referred to as a “local offer” – reveals that many of service standards which make a neighbourhood a pleasant place to live have now been discarded.

The only work volume now being monitored relates to fly tipping.

There is no mention of anti social behaviour or other crime, no standards for grass or hedge cutting, no indication of how quickly estate improvements will be completed, nothing on road and footpaths either in terms of  numbers of complaints or public satisfaction and nothing on street cleanliness.  There are no figures for empty properties and garages.

There are some public satisfaction measures, but they are very general in scope with results unlikely to be reliable at individual estate level.

There are no stats on estate inspections either in confirmation of where they are taking place or what issues are being revealed.

There is nothing on the garden maintenance scheme.

“Local Offer” on Council housing standards May 2019

Officials say that the new measures have been agreed by a “tenant’s panel”. It appears that the Council has appointed six tenants to replace the tenant’s federation which lapsed some 2 years ago. How these tenants are appointed and – crucially – how they assess the views of York’s 8000 other tenants is something of a mystery. The tenants concerned are not identified. They apparently meet once a month, but no agenda or meeting minutes are published on the Councils web site.

It is likely that those individual Residents Associations that do exist, will now insist on having an input into a revised Service Level Agreement for Council housing.

We will publish the Service Level Agreements covering other public service standards in the City when we receive, them

Latest planning applications for the Westfield Ward

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

Full details can be found by clicking the application reference

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Former Lowfield School Dijon Avenue York

Condition 24 of 17/02428/FULM

Ref. No: AOD/19/00414 

Relates to sewer adoption

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Acomb Bowling Club Front Street York YO24 3BZ

Conditions 10, 14, 16, 17 & 18 of 18/00586/FULM

Ref. No: AOD/19/00410 

Relates to access arrangements for refuse vehicles, landscaping (see plan), drainage, road construction and cycle parking.

Front Street Bowling Club land landscaping plan

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94 Askham Lane York YO24 3HP

Single and two storey side extension

Ref. No: 19/02550/FUL 

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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

That was the year that was – April – June 2019

It was to be a good Spring mainly due to the efforts of volunteers across the community.

Volunteers clear up litter as part of the national Keep Britain Tidy spring campaign
Acomb Wood

Volunteer efforts also helped to conserve key environmental sites like local woodland.

Vandalised fencing

Crime levels rose with anti social behaviour once again the biggest source of complaint in sub urban areas.

Scarborough footbridge

Work progressed on a £4 million cycle/pedestrian footbridge linking the railway station to Bootham. Its opening later in the year was to highlight the fact that the City still had a long way to go before it had a comprehensive, and safe, cycle route network.

Lendal Bridge

Another bridge over the Ouse attracted comment. Corrosion on Lendal Bridge served to emphasis the on going cost of maintaining the transport infrastructure in the City

Potholes on carriageways

By far the worst aspect of the transport system was the condition of roads and paths. Potholes became more pronounced in many streets. The maintenance budget was to be increased later in the year but by then frost had already taken its toll

Full recycling containers

There was little change in the recycling rate in York. There was no lack of enthusiasm from residents who regularly filled recycling banks to the point where some overflowed.

Goal posts on Westfield Park

Some simple tasks seemed to confuse the York Council. A request for the goals posts on a local park to be repainted has been outstanding now for 2 years.

Scarborough Bridge

Another area of poor performance earlier in the year was the removal of graffiti. Following sustained criticism from residents, the Council was to completely change its graffiti removal service later in the year. Early results have been encouraging although there have been no recent prosecutions for graffiti (criminal damage).

Balfour Street trees

A self seeded tree in Balfour Street had grown to the point where it was engulfing the adjacent railings and damaging the public footpath. This represented a safety hazard. It would be two years after the problem was first reported before the tree was felled. The felling provided space for two replacement trees to be planted.

Changes made to redevelopment plans for Bowling Green site
Acomb Bowling Club
Site compound

The Council granted planning permission for the (privately owned) Acomb Bowling Club to be demolished and replaced with housing. The owners were required to make a Section 106 contribution towards replacement facilities but this money found its way into a club located in the Holgate area.

Meanwhile, without any consultation with residents, Council officials agreed that land earmarked for a library extension could be used as a site compound and spoil heap. This caused considerable annoyance to some neighbours.

The Council published details of the number of Council homes that were affected by “standing water” . The number had changed little over the years.

On a happier note, the highly successful, Knights Rugby community team organised community events during the Easter holidays.

With the local elections on the horizon the Council revealed the number of issues that had been recorded by Councillors during the previous 4 years. Mostly those who raised the most issues were the Councillors who got re-elected in May.

Labour, LibDem and Green Council candidates. Some Tories weren’t on speaking terms.

There was big choice of candidates in the local elections.

The election manifestos were more significant for what they didn’t say rather than what was proposed. The slow progress on the Community Stadium was air brushed from history, as was the escalating costs of repairing the Guildhall.

In the end, the results showed major gains for the, now 21 strong, LibDem Group who subsequently formed a partnership with the Greens to run the Council.

The Tories fell to their second worst election result ever while Labour made only modest gains.

A few weeks later the LibDems topped the poll in the Euro elections in the City beating off a challenge from the BREXIT party. It was to be a different picture though later in the year when views polarised during an unexpected General Election campaign.

Euro election results June 2019
Castlegate

The Council was criticised for the large number of commercial properties which it owned and which had been left empty. These included former elderly persons homes like Oakhaven & Willow House together with offices like those on Castlegate. The properties were costing taxpayers several hundreds of thousands of pounds each year in lost rent income and maintenance costs.

Camera Van

The Police and Crime Commissioner was criticised for an over reliance on income from speed camera vans. The 6 vans concentrated on trunk roads apparently because that was where the greatest number of offenders could be caught and fined. Critics said that accident and average speed trends on monitored roads should be published. This would allow the the success of the initiative to be judged

Woodthorpe Post Office Closure

It wasn’t just the central Post Office that was under threat. The Woodthorpe sub Post Office closed suddenly.

Minster precinct

A new neighbourhood plan covering the area around the Minster was published. It generally received a positive response.

Hollyrood Drive
Front Street
A59 entrance to the City

By late May it had become clear that something was seriously amiss with street public service standards. Hedges and trees were obstructing paths. Weeds scared key entrances to the City. It would later become clear that the weed killing programme had simply not taken place on many roads. There would be some improvements towards the end of the year but several issues were never fully resolved.

Work started on demolishing Windsor House
York staged its first County Cricket match for over 100 years
…..and the Community Stadium pitch started to grow.

It became clear that the new York Community Stadium would not be completed by the final, final deadline on June. A later Autumn opening date was also to pass with key Rugby matches having to be rescheduled to the Bootham Crescent ground.

Council report.

There were also ongoing concerns about the viability of some of the facilities to be provided as part of the stadium deal. It seemed that the Council were now underwriting more of the risk on the commercial side of the development

Meanwhile, the cost of providing new football pitches for a Bishopthorpe based football team was revealed to be nearly £1.5 million

The cost included a high specification clubhouse.

Most of the funding was to come from taxpayers.

What annoyed some residents were claims by officials that the facility was a replacement for the playing fields being built on at Lowfields. It was pointed out that the new site (near the York College) was some 3 miles from Lowfields and lacked a direct public transport link.