The York Forest

With many eyes on the forest fires in the Amazon basin, it is perhaps a good time to review the health and extent of tree cover in and around the City of York.

York lies within the boundaries of the proposed new “Northern Forest

Northern Forest

By removing carbon dioxide, trees help mitigate climate change. The shade provided by urban tree canopies can also help minimize the urban heat island effect.

Trees planted in Kingsthorpe in the 1970’s have now matured into a small wood area.

 In addition, trees intercept stormwater, which can reduce flooding and improve water quality, and reduce air pollution, such as ozone, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and fine particulate matter. Reductions in air pollution has proven benefits to human health 

Not surprisingly in 2019, there is a suite of computer models available which give use a greater insight into tree cover in particular areas.

Many feel that the key priority – after the proper maintenance of existing tree stocks – is to maximise the planting of mature trees which will grow to provide an enhanced canopy.

The models have helped local authorities like Leeds and Wrexham to map their existing tree cover and draw up future planting strategies.

In turn, the work suggest that open spaces – rather than verges – should be the first place to look for new planting sites

There is scope to plant more trees and wildflowers on open areas in York near the rivers.

York has had a voluntary group “Treemendous” which has supported tree planting in public spaces for nearly 10 years.

Some work is already going on at neighbourhood level. The Foxwood Residents Association having already obtained a grant to plant trees on part of the Thanet Road sports area.

Not just west York suffering from neglect

Residents from the Huntington and Heworth areas have added their voices to the criticisms of the Council’s performance in keeping local streets clean and tidy. Although, like Woodthorpe on the west of the City, some streets in Huntington appear to have been well swept, they are outnumbered by those where even basic weed clearance has not taken place this summer.

One again it is the main entry roads into the City which are most neglected. It presents a poor image for visitors

Weeds block gutters and paths on Malton Road
Paved area on Huntington Road near Bell Farm has not been sprayed
Weeds engulfing street furniture on Jockey Lane
A blocked gully on Heworth Green. These need to be cleared before wetter weather arrives with winter.
Long term build up of detritus around traffic island build outs on Malton Road

More trees and wild flowers

How not to do it

The new York Council has rightly decided to plant more trees and expand the areas devoted to wildflowers with good propagation features.

More trees will help , in a modest way, to offset the losses both locally and internationally which have occurred over recent years.

The plight of bees robbed of propagating flowers in urban environments, because of increased hard surfacing and use of herbicides, is well documented.

The Council does however need to understand that such a policy is not a cheap alternative . The authority will need to plant the right species of trees to match the needs of specific locations. Too many well intended “plant a tree in 83” type schemes resulted in the wrong type of tree being planted in the wrong location.

This is particularly true in the case of highway trees (those in verges) where lack of regular maintenance has meant that many have grown the point that they interfere with passing vehicles, overhead plant or neighbouring properties. The only pruning that they get is from high sided vehicles which sooner or later impact on branches often sending them crashing down onto the highway.

High winds can have a similar effect.

The problem can be traced to an inadequate maintenance budget. This was given a modest boost in the Council most recent review.

Before planting more trees – there are plenty of spaces where new mini forests could be created in and around the City – the Council should first sort out its existing stock

On Balfour Street a (self seeded?) tree has been allowed to spread to the point where it is absorbing the adjacent railings and destroying the public footpath. It has been reported on several occasions with out a response from the Council. An obvious case for the local ward committee to use its delegated budget to tidy up the area.

For some people wildflowers are synonymous with pervasive weed growth. We have seen the neglect of highways over the summer although some lobbyists have argued that the weed growth will at least be “good for nature”.

We doubt that, with damage to paths and drains likely to pose an expensive hazard.

But there are locations where the Council could proactively plant low maintenance flowers which would greatly increase propagation opportunities.

The authority will need a proactive programme which will need to include a commitment to the long term maintenance of any planted areas.

This area next to the Leeman Road cycle track is actually paved. Neglect means that is has gradually become overgrown. If it serves no landscaping purpose, then the paving could be removed and a good propagating, low maintenance, plant such as lavender, could be substituted.

Local Councillor commitment to tackle untidy streets

Several councillors have now responded to complaints about weeds, detritus and overgrown hedges in local streets.

Front Street

Joining Mark Warters and Tony Fisher, who operate on the east of the City, Westfield Councillor Andrew Waller has pledged to personally remove weeds from the Front Street pedestrian area. The precinct has been weed infested for over 3 months with growth around street furniture and trees a particular problem.

That is a shame because the image of an area – which in recent years has become more economically successful – can be disproportionately influenced by what people see on arrival. Front Street doesn’t have the advantage of the, York BID funded, clean up contractors that have brought major improvements to the York City centre environment.

Elsewhere we have asked for weeds to be treated in several locations. We think it is now time for the Council to give a public commitment to complete a tidy up programme within a specific timetable.

Overgrown thorn like brambles will be a hazard as darker nights approach. We’ve asked for those on the access road to the Thoresby Road garage block to be cut back
Another example – this one on Kingsway West- where basic spraying or strimming of areas around street furniture has not been competed.
Contractors should spray up to the edge of the footpath
Snickets are particularly vulnerable to weed growth and litter
Problem areas are taking weeks, sometimes months, to address
Some footpaths are now being eroded and will be more costly to repair

Timetable to address York public service woes needed

Anyone expecting the York Council’s Executive to take decisive action, to address declining public service standards at their meeting yesterday, will have been disappointed.

Despite a plea from Independent Councillor Mark Warters that a team be set up to deal with outstanding complaints, the Councils leadership remained tight lipped.

Cllr Warters was echoing a similar call from a growing number of Liberal Democrat supporters in the City

Many residents may conclude that there is something seriously wrong at West Offices.

Not only is there no timetable for addressing outstanding issues, but communications with residents are poor while many local Councillors (not all) fail to roll their sleeves up and tackle issues directly in their wards.

The York Council is no longer a “can do” organisation. It’s become a “maybe things will get better next year” type authority.

That won’t do. Its the kind of complacent attitude that has prompted a rise in more extreme political ideologies elsewhere in the country and abroad. It needs to be reversed, and quickly.

Not everything is bad, of course. Some individual Council officials are making limited progress in improving our streets as we show here.

The drainage channel on Foxwood Lane has been cleared
The Field Lane cycle track has been cleared of obstructions
But for every success there is a failure. The footpath on Hull Road remains obstructed despite pedestrians being forced onto the busy highway
and weeds still haven’t been treated even on streets where Councillors actually live!
New issues are emerging each day. This footpath on Field Lane, near the Hull Road junction, is now obstructed.
Not the Councils responsibility, but there has been a build up of litter on the Teal Drive “pocket park”. Reopened 6 weeks ago, it is being well used but it does need routine cleansing (or a litter bin). Reported to JRHT.

Media haven’t got the whole story on weed growth in the City

The Press and other local media outlets are running stories today about excessive weed growth on paths and in drainage channels in the City. The local Tories are criticising the Lib Dem/Green administration for the problems. The published stories give the impression that the Tories have been actively campaigning on the issue.

That is misleading.

Problems with the effectiveness of the weed spraying contract became apparent in May. As the contract was relatively new, and responsible executive members were busy changing roles post the local elections, It seemed fair to allow a few weeks for things to settle down and for the chemical treatments to take effect.

We reported serval dozen problem areas including the longstanding weed problem on the parapets of the Ouse Bridg,e together with a build-up of silt on many traffic islands.

Nothing much seemed to happen. As usual with this sort of report there was no feedback from the Council to those who had highlighted the problems.

Tongue in cheek, in early July we launched a “biggest weed contest”.

There was still no response from Council officials. Councillors were notified but the only response came from Mark Warters who was having problems in his Osbaldwick ward.

6 more weeks passed and we felt we had no option but to make a formal complaint (see below). This was tabled on 15th August. It was copied to the Councils leadership.

An official replied on 21st August blaming the weather for the problems.

The complaint was escalated on 22nd August and we await a further response.

The Council’s leadership did announce yesterday (Wednesday) that they would conduct a review of weed control processes at a meeting which will be held in October. What happens in the interim remains unclear.

We are quite clear that a blitz on weeds and overgrown hedges, using mechanical removal methods, is needed urgently.

One other aspect that needs to be clarified is the responsibility for keeping former trunk roads like the A59 clear. Highways England confirmed that it was down to local authorities to deal with these highways. Yet the Council’s current weed control contract seems to exclude these roads (they have certainly not been sprayed).

We have submitted a Freedom of Information request in an attempt to clarify the situation.

Ironically a review of performance indicators, being considered by the Councils Executive later today, pointedly puts no focus on the appearance of the City’s streets.

While the Tories are being opportunistic in highlighting the current weed problems, they might have a point if a Council, committed at the recent election to raising street level public service standards, failed to address quickly and effectively significant failures when they have been identified.

Volunteers helping nature conservation in west York

….but little Hob Moor getting overgrown

Hob Moor

Invasive weeds were being cut back on Hob Moor yesterday. The area is fortunate in having supporters who will undertake this sort of task with the Friends of Hob Moor one of the most successful of local amenity societies

The Friends of Hob Moor organise various interpretation events.

However, there are some problems on the Moor. Hedges have become overgrown with several paths, including part of Kingsway West, being obstructed.

The cycle path link to the railway tunnel is becoming overgrown.

Little Hob Moor (adjacent to Tadcaster Road) is showing signs of neglect.

Weeds haven’t been sprayed and are now overwhelming the cycle barriers
Areas around street furniture need to be sprayed or strimmed .The grass was cut yesterday 28th August)

So there is some work to be done. As this area is off the public highway (and relatively “safe”) gardening could be undertaken by – suitably equipped – volunteers. The Council does, however, need to add amenity area management to its promised weed control review agenda.

How we control weed growth in York will be reviewed..

…but not until October

Senior York Councillors have confirmed that they will be reviewing how the City controls weed growth in gullies, on footpaths, on traffic islands and on other hard landscaped areas. A review meeting will take place on 7th October.

The move comes after many residents, together with some local Councillors including Independent Mark Warters from Osbaldwick, pointed out that this years spraying programme simply hadn’t had the required effect..

Ouse Bridge today with long established weeds (and cans)

More perceptive residents will, however, have also worked out that, by October, weeds will be dying back naturally anyway.

So some action over the next 6 weeks is still needed.

This can really only be done now using mechanical – rather than chemical – processes.

We can report that today the weeds that disfigure the Ouse Bridge still remain along with assorted empty beer cans.

It would take only 5 minutes to clean the area.

Weed control review added to Councils forward plan today

Post bank holiday clean up needed!

There was a disappointing amount of litter lying around in some neighbourhoods today. We’ve reported over 20 issues to the Council

As well as litter, these included weed growth, hedges blocking footpaths and dumping.

Litter was particularly bad on Chesney’s Field while a hedge overgrowing from Hob Moor is now obstructing Kingsway West.

We are told that the Council will be making a statement about the failed weed control contract within the next few days.

Problems with litter, weeds, overgrown hedges, dumping etc. These were in the Foxwood area.

Fly tipping

York Council “doesn’t know” clean up costs

A York Councillor has been told, in a response to a Freedom of Information request, that it doesn’t know what the cost of clearing fly tipping in the City is.

284 cases of fly tipping have been reported in the last month. Guildhall, Micklegate, Westfield and Holgate wards worst affected.

The Councillor claims that new charges and access restrictions to the City’s recycling centres are resulting in more fly tipping.

There are certainly issues to be addressed in both east and west York.

West York
East York