Help shape York’s new community woodland

City of York Council says it is “seeking the views of residents and local organisations on its plans to create an extensive community woodland area near Knapton”.

The project got off to a poor start with behind closed doors decisions eventually committing the Council to purchase farming land valued at around £2 million for the forest.

No business case was ever presented which compared the financial and environmental benefits of a forest with the existing food production use or indeed more obvious uses in support of environmental challenges.

The survey includes questions on the 194-acres of land to the West of York, including “suggesting a name for the new area“, which sounds slightly patronising to us. The important decisions have already been taken but if you think that Knapton Wood should be called Sherwood Forest North then please let us know!

The council says, “As part of its commitment to creating a cleaner, greener city and its ambitious target of reaching net zero carbon by 2030, the council plans to plant 50,000 trees on the site by the spring of 2023. As well as acting as a ‘carbon sink’, the green space will boost the health and mental wellbeing of local people by giving them somewhere to exercise, spend time outdoors in nature and a place for quiet contemplation. It will be an important wildlife habitat, enhancing biodiversity in York, as well as creating new green jobs and volunteering opportunities, helping to boost the development of green skills”.

In recent months the council has completed a detailed land character assessment to explore the site’s existing flora and fauna, landscape, soil types, drainage features and access points.  This process has given the council a good understanding of the opportunities and constraints presented by the site, and helped to shape a series of different design concepts showing how the woodland could look.

Residents are now being asked to share their views on the design concepts so that their feedback can help shape the council’s plans for the site, as well as offer an insight into the role that residents and local groups can play in its creation and ongoing management. As a part of the consultation, residents are also invited to suggest possible names for the new woodland that reflect the heritage of the local area and tie in with the project’s ambitions.

That was the week that was in pictures

Some streets cleaner

Good to see that progress has been made in clearing moss and detritus from the Grange Lane – Chapelfields Road snicket. Nearby hydrants sign – damaged 2 years ago – has still not been repaired

and the lane to the rear of the Front Street/ Beaconsfield Street is tidier than it has been for some time

March of the mattresses

We seem to have a blight of fly tipped mattresses in west York.

We reported one that had been dumped behind the railings on the Kingsway West/Green Lane snicket a few weeks ago. It’s still there as the Council claim that it is on “private land”. It’s actually on land that has traditionally been maintained by an internal drainage board. The authorities need to come to an agreement on how the “public realm” will be kept tidy in future.

Elsewhere a mattress appeared on Foxwood Park and was subsequently set on fire.

And another has been duimped on the Chapelfields Road – Wetherby Road snicket.

We think that it is about time manufacturers to come up with an accessible recycling system for bulky items like these.

Litter shame on A64

The pile of litter continue to grow next to a layby near Tadcaster. Problems on the A64 were reported several weeks ago but without any lasting improvement.

Deliberate fly tipping has now added to the woes.

Its a real shame that people don’t take their litter home with them and that enforcement action is rarely effective.

It is a shame as this is the first sight that some visitors will get as they approach York.

Elsewhere we have re-reported two fly tipping and leaf detritus issues in the little Green Lane area.

Graffiti on utility boxes in Windsor Garth has been reported.

Reports are coming in that 8 trees, planted by volunteers in Dickson Park during the summer, have been vandalised. The incident is being investigated by the local residents association.

Council help for bees

The City of York Council says that it is taking action to make York more pollinator friendly.

Roundabout on Hull Road last summer showed what could be achieved

There are over 4,000 species of insects in the UK that carry out pollination of our native wild plants and food crops, but they are under threat and in decline due to habitat loss and excessive pesticide use.

The council wants to introduce a new Pollinator Strategy so that it can ensure local residents, businesses and landowners are provided with information to help protect and increase pollinators.

Insects like bumblebees, butterflies and beetles all provide a vital part in pollination of our native wild plants and our food crops, ensuring the protection of our city’s biodiversity.

The new strategy aims to protect, increase and enhance the amount of pollinator habitats on council owned or managed land, and help to improve the status of any locally threatened species.

The most significant factors leading to these declines in pollinator numbers includes habitat loss (food, shelter and nesting), pesticides which have harmful effects on honeybees, wild bees and butterflies and climate change, which has long term effects.

A copy of the strategy can be read by clicking here

The Council’s initiative is welcomed. In particular, the the commitment to neighbourhood input into initiatives.

“Bee hotels” like this one in Foxwood have been established by some residents groups.

What is lacking in the the document is a recognition that much of the solution to the lack of pollinator attractive plants can only be addressed by the more thoughtful use of privately owned land.

In particular, more can be done in peoples gardens.

A ready source of advice, and a proactive approach to publicity, is needed from the York Council.

If approved, the council will adopt the new Pollinator Strategy and ensure the needs of pollinators are represented in local plans, policy and guidance – to help us all protect and increase pollinators.

The strategy will be taken to an Executive meeting for approval on Thursday 18 March from 5.30pm and will be available to watch online afterwards.

Almost £300k awarded to reduce emissions in York

City of York Council have been awarded £297,237 by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

See the source image

The funding will enable to council to carry out a feasibility study and subsequent pilot scheme to reduce emissions relating to deliveries travelling in to and out of York.

29 local authorities across England have been granted more than £5 million from the government’s Air Quality Grant to deliver innovative projects to improve air quality and reduce the impact of dirty air on people’s health.

The project will focus on how to reduce the number of deliveries made to the city centre and around York by LGVS and HGVs (such as small vans or larger heavy goods vehicles). A study will identify suitable sustainable alternatives which may include a delivery ‘hub’ allowing the last or first mile of the journey to be made by low emission modes, including e-cargo bikes. The project will aim to reduce both the overall number of vehicles undertaking deliveries and emissions from the remaining fleet. The council will be engaging with businesses, including delivery companies, on the study and pilot scheme. 

See the source image

There are five key areas for air quality improvement around York’s inner ring road which are included in York’s Air Quality Management Area  (AQMA). This project has the potential to reduce NOx emissions in all these areas and across the wider district. The new project will also reduce emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) which is known to be the pollutant of greatest harm to human health.  As well as improving local air quality the project will also help to reduce CO2 emissions to help achieve our Net-Zero targets.

The project will assist in delivering the following action points in York’s current Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP3): 5 (reducing emissions from freight); 11 (Local incentives for low emission vehicles and alternative fuel use); 12 (Attracting low emission industries, business and jobs to York).

The project’s benefits could be realised further afield than the city centre. Depending on the final location of the pilot project, the scheme may also help to address LGV and HGV emissions to neighbouring districts.

Pollution levels still low in York

Air quality remains good, and pollution levels very low, on Gillygate and at other monitoring sites in the City.

Traffic levels are, however, higher than were recorded during lockdown 1 last spring. They are likely to increase further from Monday when there will be a general return to school.

It will be April before shops and offices reopen.

Council plans to reduce road capacity at the Gillygate/St Leonard’s Place/ Bootham junction seem ill timed and insufficiently thought through.

The plans could increase congestion by 30%. That would delay bus services including the vital park and ride links.

In the meantime, residents can monitor hour by hour pollution levels by clicking this link

Meanwhile we understand that the Council will delay its assessment of the effects of road closures in The Groves area.

A review was due in the spring.

They are right to delay as traffic volumes and movements have been untypical during the Lockdown period.

However, it does mean that a reassessment of some of the more questionable aspects of the scheme – such as contraflow cycle routes – will remain in place as traffic volumes and safety hazards increase.

There have been no queues involving deer or cattle in The Groves during recent months

The trees are coming

The scale of the York Council’s afforestation plans are becoming clearer.

A meeting taking place next week will hear that increasing York’s tree cover from the current 10.76% of the total area to 13% (national average) by 2050 would require 608 ha of new cover, or 21 ha per year.

York currently has 2,926 ha of tree canopy cover, representing 10.8%
of its total area. 60% of this canopy cover is made up of trees outside
woodlands.

The report says, “the rate of viable delivery imposes a significant constraint on new canopy cover. The York Community Woodland project (Knapton Forest) in West York aims to deliver 50-60 ha of new tree cover over the next two years.

A 13% target for 2050 would require a similar level of growth every two years“.

City of York Council is a member of the White Rose Forest (WRF)
partnership which aims to provide tree canopy across large parts of Yorkshire.

The WRF project assumes an ambition for a 13% target for tree canopy cover by 2050, equating to around 22-27 ha per annum. This target would result in “an annual carbon sequestration rate at 2050 of circa 9,000tCO2 per year; equivalent to around 1% of the regions total CO2 emissions between 2020-2050“.

As with the Knapton Forest project, there has been no public consultation on the plan. The costs are unknown although, based on the Knapton land values, they could mean a taxpayers bill for several hundred million pounds.

The report doesn’t assess the scope for increasing tree canopy cover on existing amenity areas or private gardens.

The effect on food production is also unclear. The areas selected for afforestation are mainly grade 2 agricultural land.

They cover large areas near Poppleton, Skelton and Elvington.

click for detail