That was the year that was – 2019

….Jan to March in west York in pictures

2019 commenced with controversy in the air. The children’s games area (known as a MUGA) on Kingsway West faced closure as part of a plan to enlarge Lincoln Court. Objectors – which included Sport England – were calmed by Council assurances that a replacement would be provided elsewhere in the ward. 12 months later and there is still no sign of a facility for children.

Kingsway MUGA – Now a building compound

Volunteers were active in the area during the whole for the year. Monthly “whats’on” posters were produced and displayed on local noticeboards and social media.

What’s on Poster produced by the Foxwood Residents Association last February

Less good news in Lowfields, where the Council pressed on with the development on the football pitch. Once again alternative local facilities did not materialise. A plan from “Yorspace” to provide “communal ownership” style homes was also criticised by some local residents.

Work at Lowfields

The plans for an extension to Lincoln Court, and the construction of a centre for disabled children on an adjacent site on Ascot Way, ran into more problems. The cost of the plans was found to be much higher than originally estimated. Design changes were made only weeks after the original had been given planning permission.

Some good news in February with the brief return of a skip service to Chapelfields. Unfortunately the service now appears only rarely with an increase in fly tipping one of the consequences

There was concern that some unstable trees like this one on Wetherby Road posed a safety hazard.

Trees were a popular topic of conversation during most of the year. There was broad agreement that more were needed to combat climate change. However, maintenance arrangements for existing trees – particularly those adjacent to footpaths – were hopelessly inadequate with many needing “crown lifting” to prevent accidents.

Cart parking signs

Elsewhere in the City car parking signage attracted comment. As long ago as 2003, real time information signs on approach roads to the City centre provided “real time” advanced information about parking space availability at different car parks around the City. The information was also available on the web. This mysteriously disappeared in 2012 since when congestion levels have increased as motorists drive round trying to find a space. In February, the Council appointed contractors with a remit to reintroduce the space availability service.

Acomb Library

The Council announced that the existing Libraries management company would constinue in their role. The Council announced a £2 million boost for Acomb Library which would be expanded and fully modernised over the following 3 years. Unfortunately building works on the adjacent bowling club site would later compromise redevelopment options.

Harewood Whin

The landfill waste disposal site at Harewood Whin closed. York’s non recyclable rubbish is now incinerated at Allerton Park.

As work commenced at Lowfields on the road layout, one piece of good news was that the area was also being cleared of an invasive Knotweed infestation

The Council decided to proceed with its hugely expensive plan to provide a business club at the Guildhall. Several residents hoped that the upcoming Council elections might provide an opportunity for more reflection about the project.

Work had also started on a project to build 5 bungalows on a Council garage site on Newbury Avenue. With parking space already at a premium in the area, the main concern was the impact that vehicles, displaced from the garages, might have on parking availability.

Newbury Avenue
Lendal Post Office

The Post Office announced that it was closing its Lendal branch. A replacement would be provided in part of the nearby Smith’s store on Coney Street.

Later in the year it was revealed that the old Lendal PO building was likely to become a steakhouse.

Spark

There seemed to be never ending controversy over the “Spark” container village development in Piccadilly. The Council has granted the owners a 3 year lease on land formerly occupied by a tram depot. Spark failed to implement some of the planning conditions and a share of the developments profits – promised to the Council – did not materialise.

The Council was belatedly starting to get to grips with providing some sub-urban parking lay-bys. However, several of the projects were over 3 years behind schedule. Most came in a rush in March.

Spurr Court parking lay-by
Bachelor Hill
Askham Lane

Fly tipping, dumping and litter were increasing problems in West York

The Coop launched an imaginative scheme where shoppers could nominate a local voluntary body to receive a grant based on what that had spent in a local store. The Foxwood Residents Association raised around £2000 from the scheme

The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust also became more active in the Foxwood area. They tidied up the Teal Drive playground and would later in the year start a “drop in” open session at the local community centre. Sadly the slide disappeared from the playground and has not yet been restored.

Teal Drive Play area

The winter brought the usual problems with vehicle damage to grass verges. Part of the problem was the glacial progress being made in “eco grid” (matrix) surfacing of the verges to protect them .

Thoresby Road

The Council announced that it had produced a final, final draft Local Plan. The plan would define the size of the City for the next 25 years. Recent national population growth forecasts had been substantially refined downwards despite which some landowners and developers are currently trying to persuade an Inspector that the City should grow by more than 20%!

Following a relatively mild winter, Spring arrived in March and with it the daffodils that residents had been planting over the years.

Foxwood Park

and also other issues!

PROW application

The Council was cautioned by the Ombudsman for taking several years to determine Public Right of Way (PROW) applications in the City. In west York an application for a PROW had been lodged with the council for the link across Acomb Moor which connects Foxwood Lane and Osprey Close. The York Council say it will determine the application in February 2020.

In Woodthorpe/Acomb Park a very controversial planning application was made which would have seen the area between Moor Lane and the Askham Bogs nature reserve developed. Although rejected by the local Planning Committee, the application was subject to an appeal the results of which are expected in the new year.

Flooding was never far from the news.

As well as Environment Agency works aimed at preventing flooding from rivers and water courses, the Council looked at the separate issue of surface water flooding. This relates the adequacy of drainage pipes in the urban area.

The efforts of the residents association had resulted in paths being strimmed in several areas. The areas concerned looked much improved.

Path strimming works

The flashing speed warning sign on Wetherby Road had been removed. The sign had cautioned drivers entering the City at more than the 30 mph limit.

Councillors blamed each other for the disappearance of the sign

Unlet Garage in Chapelfields

Empty Council garages were a source of irritation to some residents. They mean a loss of income (there are waiting lists for all garages) but also increase “on street” parking problems. One garage in Chapefields had been empty of over a year apparently waiting for a new door.

Castle/Piccadilly site

The Council published further options for the redevelopment of the Castle Piccadilly site. They would later seek planning permission for a replacement car park for Castle. It would be a multi storey building in St Georges Field.

A major revamp of the area around the railway station entrance was announced. The Queen Street bridge would be demolished.

York Railway Station revamp

More electric buses would be coming to York. Coincidentally an encouraging report (for bus operators) on public satisfaction with local services was published.

Electric buses

Mandatory energy efficiency target for new homes to be considered by York Council

The York Council is set to ask the government to set high standards of insulation for new home built over the next decade. A meeting on 6th January will consider proposed changes to building regulations for new homes.

York Council report

The government sees a choice between either a 20% or 31% reduction in carbon emissions from new homes. Both options would see higher thermal insulation  standards linked typically with triple glazing and minimal heat loss from walls, ceilings and roofs, plus a waste water heat recovery system.  

The higher standard is achieved by mandating the installation of Photovoltaic cells on roofs (They convert sunlight to electricity).

Strangely both options being presented by Council officials involve the use of gas boilers. Gas boilers are the largest source of carbon currently emitted in the City.

The major benefits would come from heat pumps, a waste water heat recovery system, triple glazing and minimum standards for walls, floors and roofs that significantly limit any heat loss.

The report fails to provide any background financial information. The higher specifications will significantly increase building costs.

In turn that will knock on into purchase or rent costs.

The expectation is that energy costs will also reduce. Maintenance costs for the equipment are not fully tested (the achilles heel of some of the micro wind powered micro generators that were popular a few years ago).

Sadly, without a frank assessment of financial implications and the beginning of a campaign aimed at selling the options to future house purchasers, progress in getting public support for the plans  is likely to be harder than it otherwise might have been the case.

Still credit to the Council for at least putting their likely responses to this government consultation into the public domain.

Foss Islands Road tidy up hope

Overgrown verges on Foss Islands Road

We reported a few weeks ago that we hoped to persuade the York Council to get to grips with outstanding maintenance issues on Foss Islands Road. The main problem related to lack of care for the cultivated areas lying  between the public highway and the private shops boundary.

We said at the time that we were confident that it was a Council responsibility to cut back and maintain the area between the public footpath and the carriageway. 

The Council have now confirmed that this is the case.

Officials have suggested that this area is either wild flowered or reseeded and cut as with other roadside verges 10 times a year. Any remedial work will take place in the spring.  The Council will however be giving it a general cut back early in the new year.

Unfortunately no one is admitting liability for maintaining the area outside the public footpath although it seems likely that the frontagers will have some responsibilities.

This busy part of the City is seen by hundreds of thousands of people each year.

It is clearly on view from the iconic City Walls.

It should be kept in a tidy condition. 

 

Some progress made in tidying up the Westfield area

The Council has dealt with 2 long standing issues.

The weeds growing through the footpath on Windsor Garth – near Sandown Close – have gone.

The Tithe Close snicket is also now looking tidier than it has for some months.

So good progress there then but there will be less good news to report tomorrow unfortunately.

Plea to sort out Foss Island Road maintenance problems

We reported earlier in the year that the verge and planted areas on Foss Islands Road needed to be cut back. They were overgrown with nettles, thistles and other weeds.

We expected that this issue would have been sorted by now but a visit today revealed that the problems continue. This is particularly disappointing in an area which is visible from the City Walls and which a large number of people see each week.

We have now formally approached the Council to determine who is responsible for maintenance and to what standards.

Foss Islands Road

The York Council runs an ageing and polluting vehicle fleet

A couple of months ago the York Council was forced to reveal the age of the equipment in its 471 strong “fleet”.

The “fleet” contains a wide variety of machinery including chain saws, blowers and hedge cutters.

The actual number of vehicles is 267.

This includes schools (not academies), Dial & Ride who are owned by York Wheels and Travel Management vehicles.

Some were first registered as long ago as 2008. In effect this means that they predate the introduction of more stringent emission standards.

Of the vehicles listed the oldest was a 1996 John Deere tractor. There is also a 2003 Ford panel van still in service.

The fleet also includes some 12-year-old Citroen passenger cars.

One low emission car – a 2018 Toyota hybrid – was sold off recently.

Some refuse collection vehicles are 10 years old. This probably helps to explain the unreliability of some bin emptying services during the summer months.

Some of the vehicle fleet is leased. Much of it has, however, been directly purchased by the Council.

The Council was challenged earlier in the summer about their plans to more to a low or ultra-low emissions fleet.  At that time, the Council had no low emission vehicles. 242 of its fleet were diesel with 194 predating the latest Euro 6 emissions standards.

The Council says that new vehicles should be arriving shortly for the Building Services vans and highways fleet. There has been no public committee review of the Councils fleet management policy.

The Council also says,

 “Currently there are no manufacturers in the HGV sector leading on alternative fuels but with government backing hopefully this will change. In the next 2 years we will hopefully have all HGV’s to euro 6 standard as a minimum. The next time we replace these vehicles hopefully there will be an alternative to diesel for HGV’s”.

The Council is hoping to borrow and assess electric vans, 70 of which have recently been procured by the Leeds Council.

The Council hasn’t yet signed on to the “clean van commitment”.  https://www.globalactionplan.org.uk/clean-air/clean-van-commitment

It is however promoting a clean bus commitment.

“We are taking forward a comprehensive programme to reduce emission levels from buses in York. City of York Council is introducing a non-statutory Clean Air Zone in January 2020. This requires all buses using or crossing York’s Inner ring road more than 5 times per day to achieve Euro 6 emissions compliance. We are also introducing a local Traffic Regulation Condition to impose a 2-minute maximum on idling at bus stops”.

The Council has yet to consider the introduction of a School streets exclusion zone anywhere in York. The zones ban motor vehicle use near schools.

We think that, having established a “climate committee”, that body should have addressed the issue of the Councils own outdated commercial vehicle fleet by now.

£630 for fly-tipping furniture in car park

A York woman has been ordered to pay £630 for repeatedly fly-tipping, despite receiving waste disposal advice from City of York Council.

York Magistrates heard on Tuesday (3 December 2019) that Sharn Ogden (aged 27 of Martins Court, York) was seen disposing of a table and chairs in the car park of Martins Court on 29 July 2019.

City of York Council enforcement officers made multiple attempts to contact Ms Ogden, which she failed to respond to. On 13 August 2019, Ms Ogden admitted to leaving the waste and said she would take the items to the Household Waste and Recycling Centre. However when officers returned to Martins Court on 13 October 2019, the items had not been removed.

Since 2016, Ms Ogden has received several home visits from enforcement officers regarding waste issues in the area, six letters advising her how to present her waste correctly and two fly-tipping warnings.

Ms Ogden continued to present her waste unlawfully, has been charged for the removal of items and had now been prosecuted.

She attended court and pleaded guilty to one offence of fly-tipping. She was fined £312 by York Magistrates (3 December 2019) and ordered to pay costs of £286 and a surcharge of £32.

Tom Brittain Assistant Director for Housing and Community Safety at City of York Council, said: “We offer plentiful advice to residents on how to dispose of waste lawfully and safely and, as this and other cases show, we will take action when people fly-tip.

“It is important that rubbish is put out for collection as directed by the council. If you are unsure of your collection days, you can check at www.york.gov.uk/RefuseLookup or by calling us on 01904 551550.

“Residents can also take waste to our household waste recycling centres – see www.york.gov.uk/wasteandrecycling – or arrange for the council to collect it via www.york.gov.uk/BulkyWaste.”

Fly posters beginning to irritate residents

With the York Council having made some recent progress in getting to grips with the problem of graffiti in parts of the City, it is disappointing to see an upsurge in fly posting.

Fly posters have always been a problem with fairs, circuses and music venues among the main culprits.

But now the City centre is being covered in stickers.

These are mainly from fringe political groups. Ironically one of the main offenders is a climate change group who seem to be blissfully unaware of the environmental costs of removing the stickers

Given the move towards digital communications , there really is no justification for despoiling the City’s historic core in this way in the 21st century.

The Council, police and amenity societies need to take a stand against this trend.