New interpretation board unveiled in Foxwood

One of Foxwood’s oldest residents Reg Turver has unveiled a new interpretation board on Foresters Walk today.

When a boy Reg, now 97,  used to help to bring the hunt horses from Clifton to  Kennel (now Foxwood) Lane

 The interpretation board charts the life of the kennels which were built at the beginning of the 20th century and were finally demolished in 1973.

The board was funded by the Foxwood Local History Group, a voluntary organisation which is part of the Foxwood Residents Association. Foxwood RA chair Shirley Gumley assisted Reg at the unveiling.

The Foxwood Local History Group (FLHG) secretary Sue Galloway says, “York city centre is the focus for visitors seeking to learn about York’s history, Our aim is to encourage visitors to spread their wings and discover more about the history of the surrounding area

The Foxwood Local History Group was formed 3 years ago to record 20th century history of the Foxwood area. 

So far we have erected 3 interpretation boards in the area. one details the history of CHESNEY Fields. another details the life of Air Vice Marshall DICKSON. A local park has been named after him.

The latest board details the history of the former York and Ainsty Hunt kennels.

Each of these boards cost OVER £1500 . All our funding is raised  locally.

We are now working on an online book to record information uncovered during our research. 

If you have any memories of the area you’d like to share with us please contact us on York 794111”.

The FLHG meets on an informal basis at Foxwood CC and more details can be found on our Facebook page Foxwoodlocalhistorygp

York Business Improvement District performance review

320,000 pieces of chewing gum removed from pavements.

York Councillors will be considering  a report on Wednesday that reviews the work of the York BID.  The, mainly business funded organisation, was formed in April 2016 and aims to improve the attractiveness of the City centre.

The report includes an impressive list of achievements. The blight of chewing gum on footpaths is produces a particularly eye catching headline. In addition, 961 pieces of graffiti and fly posters have been removed.

The BID ranger service has also helped to reduce anti-social behaviour and address other criminal activities.

There has been a 1.9% increase in footfall in the City.

The report comes at a time when the government has announced that it will not be funding an initiative to regenerate the York  “Future High Street” The shortlisted cities include places like Wakefield and Sheffield, but North Yorkshire has been snubbed.

Last month the government, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Heritage Fund announced a £62 million package of support to breathe new life into historic high streets across the country, to restore historic buildings, create new work spaces and cultural venues. As part of the overall funding, £55 million had been allocated from the Future High Streets Fund. We still hope to see York benefit from this type of government support.

The York BID has been successful initiative and has made a real difference to the quality of the City centre. It has been criticised for drawing Council resources away from sub-urban centres like Acomb but overall the BID is viewed positively.

There are ongoing issues with more improvements needed to the streetscape – too many weeds and too much graffiti – and of course empty properties. The latter in areas like Coney Street now look to be intractable problems, which is why the governments attitude to the City is so disappointing.

Some underused sites and buildings – including those owned by the Council – need to be redeveloped quickly now. The meeting on Wednesday will hear from the Executive member with responsibility for “Economy and Strategic Planning”. Members will no doubt be hoping to hear some positive news about the use of empty property economic development activities in the whole of the City.

We hope that corporate interests will similarly ensure that prominent, but derelict, sites like that next to the Barbican will also now be developed (or at least tidied up).

Overall the BID has had a successful 3 years and can look with confidence to an extension of its mandate.

NB. “Make it York” is reporting separately on its activities click here to read their report

York Councils empty property list revealed

Freedom of Information response confirms that buyer has pulled out of deal to buy 29 Castlegate
List of long term empty properties in York owned by the Council

The York Council has confirmed that it owns 12 substantial properties in the City which have been empty for over 6 months.

Two of the properties, Ashbank and the Guildhall, have been unused for over 6 YEARS.  

Ashbank was reported as being sold for £1.3 million a year ago. The Council now just says it is “sold subject to contract”.

The new Executive is expected to review the affordability of a £20 million scheme at the Guildhall which would see the creation of a “business club” there. If the project goes ahead, work will start in the autumn with reoccupation expected in 2021.

The estimated total value of the assets is put at between £30/40 million.

Little attempt has been made to secure short term lets for the properties which include prime sites like 29 Castlegate, the former youth advisory HQ.

Most of the properties have been exempt from paying business rates. Had they been occupied then Council taxpayers would have benefited from an additional £200,000 a year in income.

To this would be added rental income of around £400,000 a year or a substantial capital receipt.

The Castlegate property was to have been purchased by the York Conservation Trust with the York Civic Trust hoping to subsequently  lease the building as part of its expansion plans for the adjacent Fairfax House.

The agreed purchase price of £430,000 was criticised at the time as being “too low” for a building in such a prime site.

29 Castlegate

Now the Council says that it was notified on 21st May that the Conservation Trust would not be purchasing the building. However, the York Civic Trust had been told the same at their AGM last year. The Council say that they are now “reviewing” the position.

No public reports have been made on asset utilisation issues at the York Council this year.

The Council is spending around £80,000 a year on maintaining and securing the properties.

Only one of the properties has a temporary occupant (20 Piccadilly)

The table does not include underused assets like 19/21 Piccadilly (Spark) or land with a development potential. The latter includes land purchased in 2008 to accommodate an extension to Acomb Explore Library and which has been unused ever since.

19/21 Piccadilly

The Council says that it has only one Council house, at Glen Lodge, which has been empty for longer than 6 months.

The Council Housing department has been criticised in the past for allowing some of its estate garages to remain empty for extended periods of time.

The revelations have led to calls for a more proactive approach by the Council in the use of its assets. The new Council leadership has been advised to reintroduce a 6 monthly public report on empty property issues.

It may be that the time has come for the York Council to seek outside help in managing its huge commercial building portfolio

Askham Bog planning application set to be refused

The Planning committee is being recommended to refuse planning permission for the erection of  516 houses on Moor Lane near Woodthorpe.

The application caused an outcry last year because of concerns about its effect on the nearby Askham Bog. A host of celebrity experts lined up to oppose the plan. They pointed to the disastrous effect that changes to the hydrology in the area could have on the Site of Scientific Interest.

The report describes the existing site.

The application site extends to approximately 40.5Ha of farmland to the South of Moor Lane in Woodthorpe approximately 3.5km from the city centre. The farmland is divided by mature hedges, trees, a number of farm tracks and field drains. Marsh Farm sits within the centre of the site and consists of a farm house with a mixture of period and modern barns”.

The site is shown as Green Belt in the latest York Local Plan. This plan will be subject to a public examination over the next few weeks.

The need to preserve the Gren Belt boundary in the area forms the basis for the likely refusal of the application. However, concerns are also expressed about traffic generation from the site as well as other issues

Objections to the application were raised By Natural England, Historic England and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (who manage the Bog site). A wide range of other organisations and local Councillors have objected to the proposal. There were also 401 individual letters of objections and 7210 emails!

The Planning Committee meets to determine the application on Thursday 11th July at 4:30pm.

If the application is refused, the developer has a right of appeal to the Secretary of State.

This might result In a Public Inquiry.

Litter still blighting suburb

Despite several requests for a root cause analysis of, and action to address, littering hot-spots problems continue to grow. There are particular issues on routes used by some students on their way to and from school (although this may be a coincidence).

Hot-spots include snickets and bus stops.

We believe that the Council should increase its surveillance of such locations and issue penalty charge notices to offenders.

Litter at Cornlands Road bus top near school entrance. We need a new litter bin here.

The Thoresby Road snicket, near the shops, has a particular problem with litter
The snickets linking The Reeves to Thoresby Road need cleaning and resurfacing
The Tithe Close snicket is subject to littering. The main problem at present though is a thorn bush which is obstructing the footpath. It is potential hazard after dark

Westfield Councillors to debate what to do about building works at public meeting tomorrow


Bowling club building site not on the agenda?

The Westfield Councillors are right to insist on more information being provided on building works in the area, when they meet tomorrow (Wednesday)

However, they will be meeting only a few metres away from the spoil heaps and site compound which has been constructed on the Council owned land to the rear of the Library.

Large spoil heap on Council land at the Acomb Library

Some explanation for the decision to allow the contractors to use this Council owned site will be expected. It is an issue that is not likely to go away.

Some residents still hope that Council will offer some sort of compensation for the problems that have been caused by the use of the compound

Elsewhere, the Lowfields development saga continues.

There has still not been any explanation about how the York Council came to mislead residents about the inclusion of a “police station” and health centre/GP surgery in the original consultation plans.

Both these promises turned out to be bogus. It is unclear what will happen to what, otherwise, will be unused plots on the east of the site.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Carriageway-cracking-on-Kingsway-West-1300hrs-5th-May-2019-.jpg
The Kingsway West carriageway is already breaking up

On Ascot Way, access arrangements, for the heavy plant needed to complete the demolition of Windsor House, remain unclear. It seems that access for the plant will be via Kingsway West and Ascot Way It is clear that the roads are too narrow in the area to avoid major damage to adjacent verges and paths. A “one way” system has been suggested but not confirmed.

There are real concerns that the bus route will be obstructed by the likely congestion

The original hope had been that more parking lay-bys would have been provided by now.

…..and the problem of the promised replacement for the all weather games area seems to be no closer to resolution. The existing MUGA has already been converted into a building compound.

Games area is now a building compound. No alternative provision for children has been provided

There is no word about the proposed alternative site on the Thanet Road Sports Area although officials were asked to follow this up 3 months ago.

Residents will no doubt be hoping that some answers emerge from the meeting

Spoil heaps dominate neighbouring properties on Lowfields Drive

York annual weed growing contest off to a good start

We’ve asked residents to nominate the highest growing weeds on public highways in the City.

These are roads, footpaths , bridges etc which should by now have been treated for weed growth by the York Council.

If left untreated the weeds will gradually break up the surface of the highway causing additional expense when remedial work is undertaken.

The weed control programme is normally sub contracted by the Council. Residents may have seen (or not this year) quad bikers in some streets spraying weed killer

Weeds in the Leeman Road area. Currently about 1 metre high but growing strongly

Weeds higher than 1 metre at the A59 junction near Poppleton. Gives a poor first impression of the City for visitors accessing the nearby Park and Ride site.
A long time problem location with weeds now nearly 2 metres high on the parapets of the Ouse Bridge. Happens every year but no weed killer is applied by the Council.
This year the weeds have been supplemented by a strong growth in tin cans (licet stagni)
In the right place, wild flowers can make a positive contribution to the local environment. These are outside the Foxwood Community Centre. They help to sustain bee populations as well as supporting bio diversity more generally..

Small things affect a City’s image

There were some raised eyebrows yesterday when the Council announced that £40,000 from a “rates pooling system” would be spent on art initiatives on the Castle car park.  

The project was touted as being integral to the consultations still taking place on the future of the “Castle Gateway” area.

 That is the consultation which started off in an exemplary and inclusive way but which is now disappearing into a mass of self-contradictions and public agonising. 

Projecting artwork images onto Clifford’s Tower will tell us little more than we already know.

So, what could £40,000 buy that might make a bigger, and probably more sustained, difference to the York visitor economy?

The answer may lie in what you see when you look out of a train window when approaching the City. The Minster dominates the skyline but lower down we have a different picture.  We have our fair share of graffiti and weed infested public spaces.

It affects the image of the City and gives an impression of neglect.

The priority given to environmental crime by the Council can be seen in a report that its executive will receive next week. It reviews the successes and failures of the last year.

Littering and dog fouling don’t merit a mention. Prosecutions for those offences are rare

The number of graffiti cases does get a passing mention. There has been a recent upward trend in reports. N

o information is provided on the number of successful prosecutions.

Graffiti reports in York

It seems that people may have stopped reporting issues because the Council refuses to address those that are on “private property”. This includes boundary walls and telecoms junction cabinets. The real impact is probably much greater than the authorities will currently admit.

Some Councillors commendably are taking local initiatives.

In Dringhouses Cllr Stephen Fenton has been out with a graffiti removal kit.

Independent Councillor Mark Warters has called for the owners of street cabinets (companies like Virgin Media) to be more systematic in getting graffiti removed quickly.

The new LibDem administration has promised to reinstate the Street Environment Officer system which worked well during the last decade when dealing with environmental crime issues.

All these initiatives are welcome.

However, an initial clean-up of all graffiti in the City followed by the deployment of camera surveillance to identify any repeat offenders would be a good way to invest any LCR funds which may be available.

Hidden in open view?

We’ll get an idea of the calibre of the newly elected York Councillors this week when they begin to consider how to scrutinise the management performance of the local authority.

A series of updates are being presented.

A typical report is being tabled on housing and community safety issues on 24th June.   

Litter blights some neighbourhoods

What is immediately clear is that no performance indicators have been tabulated (or referenced out). Councillors aren’t being told how long it takes to do things, what any backlogs are, what quality checks are in place or what the levels of public satisfaction are.

Some of the information is available on York Open Data but you have to search for it. Many of the figures are not up to date.

Some major issues are not mentioned at all.  

Empty garages reduce local authority rent income

The housing section fails to even mention empty Council garages, tenants don’t feel they can influence decisions (most tenants organisations have folded) and there are delays on the Housing Estate Improvement programmes.

Similarly on community safety (mainly policing matters) anti-social behaviour in sub-urban areas hardly gets a mention. Trends in drug and alcohol abuse are not quantified. Vandalism, criminal damage, graffiti, all of which disfigure residential areas, are ignored. The trend in the number of prosecutions for this type of offence and similar environmental crimes (litter, dog fouling) is not revealed.

Graffiti scars some streets.

The challenge for new Councillors will be not so much to question the information that has been provided by officials, but more to probe the areas where reports are silent.