Green spaces – now government says they are important

Children’s ball games facility threatened

Not often that we agree with the Daily Mail and government Ministers but they’ve got this right.

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Communities need open spaces, outdoor sports facilities, green parks and amenity areas.

The York Council has a lamentable recent record in the Westfield area at least.

  • Our Lady’s school playing field – Gone
  • Lowfields sportsfield – Going
  • Acomb Bowling Green – Doomed
  • Kingsway kickabout area – Condemned
  • Hob Moor school playing field – Shrinking

….and that in the ward with the largest proportion of obese children in the City and the lowest life expectancy.

World Mental Health Day 10th October

To mark world mental health day (10 October) City of York Council has teamed up with York CVS to host a free event as part of a campaign to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health.

On Wednesday 10 October at 5.30pm City of York Council West Offices, Station Rise, will host a special event with the aim of bringing people together to discuss mental health in York and the Time to Change Campaign. It is part of the city’s work to tackle the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health, with a focus on the workplace and young people.

The event is an opportunity to:

  • Hear personal accounts from people with lived experience of stigma and discrimination around mental health
  • Learn about the Time to Change programme, a growing social movement changing how we all think and act about mental health.
  • Contribute to developing and supporting the Time to Change York Hub
  • Showcase examples of what it means to be a Time to Change champion or an employer that has pledged support.

All are welcome to attend the event. Registration is open from 5pm, and the event runs between 5.30pm to 7.30pm with sandwich buffet provided.

To book a free place, please register for the event at: https://york.learningpool.com/login/index.php.

Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care said: “Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and in England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week

“These figures demonstrate why we want to end stigma and discrimination. Time to Change is doing a great job to challenge this. It is so important that we raise awareness of mental health and get people talking about it which is why we are supporting World Mental Health Day and hosting this key event. It would be great to see many people and businesses as possible attend.”

York residents urged to stop smoking and get behind Stoptober

City of York Council is supporting this year’s Stoptober campaign and is urging the people of York to sign up to the 28-day stop smoking challenge.

Last year, nearly 400,000 smokers in England quit successfully,which is the equivalent to 1,069 smokers each day.

Despite new smokers starting and ex-smokers relapsing, there are now 1 million fewer smokers in England since 20142.

Of the 6.1 million smokers in England, six in 10 want to quitbut most try to quit using willpower alone (or ‘cold turkey’) despite this being the least effective method.

The best way to quit is with expert help from local stop smoking services together with stop smoking aids. In 2017-18, half (51%) of smokers who got this package of support managed to quit and among those who used an e-cigarette in their quit attempt, the success rate was up to 63%.4

Councillor Carol Runciman, executive member for adult social care and health said: “Our YorWellbeing service is there to support people who want to quit. Campaigns such as Stoptober, along with the support provided by local stop smoking services, play a huge role in helping people to kick the habit.

“Anyone who wants to join in the Stoptober campaign and stop smoking can get support by calling our team on 01904 553377 or visiting the Stoptober website.”

Dr Nigel Wells, a GP and NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group’s Clinical Chair, said: “Smoking increases your risk of developing many serious health conditions – some of which may be fatal, while others can cause irreversible long-term damage to your health.

“Giving up smoking could help you to live a longer and healthier life so if you’re thinking of stopping smoking, speak to your GP who can provide information and advice, or you can call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044 for guidance.

“It’s never too late to give up and initiatives such as Stoptober can act as a huge motivator to help you succeed in quitting permanently.”

To contact the Yorwellbeing stop smoking service call 01904 553377 or visit: www.york.gov.uk/stopsmoking for more information.

For information on Stoptober, or to sign up visit: www.nhs.uk/oneyou/stoptober.

Acomb Bowling Club development plans recommended for approval

Westfield set to lose another area of green space

The report on this planning application has now been published (click)

It is recommended for approval.

The development, as it is presently proposed, is not in line with residents wishes as expressed in responses to a recent survey. They wanted to see a comprehensive plan for all the sites which lie to the rear of the Library.

There are two significant tissues.

  1. Planning officers claim that no discussions have taken place on the possible extension of the library. We don’t believe this is true The future of the “allotments” land, and also of that to the side of Chancery Court, must be determined together. They are inextricably linked.
  2. To offset the loss of open space on Front Street, officials are proposing a section 106 contribution to provide part of a bowling green at the York RI. This is located in the Holgate ward, about a mile from Front Street. While this may meet the need for bowling facilities (the site is already  green field sports pitch) it does nothing to help Westfield or to address the cumulative deficiency in green space provision in the ward. (It is almost as insensitive as the Councils decision to “relocate” the sports field from Lowfields to land near Bishopthorpe).

There is a very good argument to be made that the Front Street area needs more open space to accommodate the incremental increases in population that are occurring, not least as a result of commercial properties in the area being converted into residential accommodation.

This latest proposal just adds more pressures onto the rapidly diminishing areas of green space in the area.

The planning meeting is open to the public and takes place on Thursday 4th October at 4:30pm at West Offices. The planning committee will visit the site the previous day shortly after 10:00am.

Bootham Park Hospital

The future of the 240-year-old former mental hospital is under the spotlight as Ministers consider its future.

The building was taken out of service 4 years ago when a catalogue of defects were found by quality inspectors. These included rat infested cellars and collapsing ceilings.

The hospital was ordered to be closed in September 2015 when it was declared “unfit for purpose” A modern replacement facility is being provided.

The events surrounding the closure were heavily criticised in a York Council report which concluded that NHS Property Services “significantly underestimated the logistic and practical challenges of upgrading a Grade I listed building where shortcomings had been identified over many years”

Running costs on a building of this age are huge.  Energy and repair costs represent a constant drain on owners.

Now the local MP says the building should reopen as an NHS facility. She says “key workers in the health health sector” should be accommodated there.

Really? Offering valued employees pre-Victorian housing standards will move us forward in some way?There is only very limited scope to build on other brownfield sections of the site

No costings for the “plan” are offered much less any source of funding. We are assured though that the open space on the site will be retained as an additional public “park”.

Converting the listed building into residential accommodation would be very expensive even if it was in sound structure condition.

It isn’t.

Costs would be measured in  tens of millions. If such funding is available, then it is desperately needed to provide modern buildings for our ailing NHS.

Bootham Park is a valuable part of the heritage of the City. It’s Listed status means that it can’t be demolished. Planners could ensure that the parkland surrounding it is respected (although, in recent years, urban green space conservation hasn’t been the strong point of the York Council).

It is by no means certain that the private sector would want to acquire the hospital. The high modernisation costs would be the same for them as would ongoing running costs. Grade 1 listing means that only very limited physical changes could be undertaken.

But all options should be put on the table.

In the end, if a different use for the building is found, and this produces a substantial capital receipt for health providers in York, then this could most effectively be invested in modern facilities for patients and staff in the NHS.

And the local MP should stop posturing. She is too quick to blame developers of “luxury homes”, student flats and hotels for every challenge that faces the City.

Indeed, we would be in a pickle if developers did not want to invest in York.

Could you be a community health champion?

As part of a continuing effort to improve the health, wellbeing and happiness of residents, we are inviting citizens to become community health champions after the launch of the initiative last year.

We’re looking for community health champions who are passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of their community. Health champions will receive training and support from the council that will enable them to;

  • Empower residents to make healthier lifestyle choices such as increasing physical activity and healthy eating
  • Develop new health and wellbeing activities based on community need, such as physical activity sessions
  • Promote current health campaigns including ‘Public Health One You’ through local interactions with

The campaign has already proven to be a great way to engage members of the community and aims to create a more supportive environment for local residents. One day training for community health champions is taking place on 28 September and 26 October 2018.

So if you are enthusiastic and ready to make a positive difference within your community, contact Richard Croker on 01904 553516 or email Richard.Croker@york.gov.uk to book your place on the training.

Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care said: “Being a community health champion includes learning new skills and using them to help make a difference in your community.

We are always aiming to improve health and wellbeing amongst communities across the city and found that the initiative was a great way to raise awareness. By having community health champions, residents are able to access advice and support to help them in their communities. Anyone interested in this opportunity is asked to call 01904 553377 to speak to the team for more advice and information.”

For more information on this opportunity visit: www.york.gov.uk/volunteeringopportunities, call 01904 553516 or email richard.croker@york.gov.uk.

Liberal Democrat’s look to end discrimination in mental health

The Liberal Democrats are calling for reform of the Mental Health Act in a move to remove discrimination in the UK’s mental health services and support our mental health services in York and across the country.

In a new policy passed at Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference, the Liberal Democrats are campaigning for:

    • Substantially more funding for mental health services to match the same levels of funding given to services that treat physical illnesses.
    • To give mental health services the same policy focus at Whitehall, as other health services currently receive.

(more…)

Figures show smoking will kill one in two – don’t be the 1, now is the time to quit

City of York Council is supporting a regional stop smoking campaign, don’t be the 1, and encouraging those that want to quit to contact the council’s YorWellbeing service.

The “Don’t Be The 1” campaign from Breathe 2025 highlights how one in two smokers[i] will die from a smoking related disease, some in their 40s and 50s and is asking smokers to quit for the sake of their family. These odds are infinitely greater than the reported risks of being hit by a bus (around two in a million) or the chance of becoming a millionaire on the National Lottery (around one in ten million).

Worryingly, surveys show nine out of ten smokers underestimate the one in two risk, with around half believing their risk to be one in ten or less.

As well as York, the don’t be the 1 campaign is running in Hull, East Riding, North Lincs, North East Lincs and North Yorkshire for four weeks.

For more information visit http://www.dontbethe1.tv/ , those who want to quit in York are asked to contact the council’s YorWellbeing service on 01904 553377 or email yorwellbeing@york.gov.uk

Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care said: “Smoking can have long lasting and devastating impacts on people’s health, which is why we have joined together with our partners and are supporting the don’t be the 1 campaign.

“In the run up to Stoptober there are more ways to quit than ever before and we are urging people to give it a go. Studies show you are more than four times more likely to quit with help. Our YorWellbeing service is there to help people quit and I would urge smokers who want to quit to get in touch.”

Dr Caroline Everett, Consultant Respiratory Physician, York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Stopping smoking is one of the single most effective things you can do to improve your health and life expectancy. Quitting smoking early can prevent the onset of many different life-limiting and life-threatening health conditions such as COPD, heart disease and cancer. However, it is never too late to give up.

“We also have lots of evidence from studies in many different conditions which show that, even once a smoking-related health condition has developed, people who quit live longer and with better health-status than those who continue to smoke.”

Another sports facility to close in Westfield?

Kingsway West all weather football pitch

Council officials are pressing for the neighbourhoods only Multi User Games Area (MUGA) to be permanently closed

The MUGA is located off Kingsway West and was provided at the same time as the Hob Moor school was rebuilt in 2004. It was hailed as one of the community facilities that the PFI funded new build school would unlock. It proved to be the only causal use facility provided on the campus, with other facilities like the nursery later closing.

Initially the MUGA was to have been located within the school perimeter fence. It would have been secured by caretaking staff when not in use. Following pressure from the PFI contractors the MUGA became a stand-alone facility accessible outside school hours.

It satisfied the demand for “kick about” facilities to the east of Gale Lane.

Initially it was successful with detached youth workers staging events there. However, the then Labour controlled Council shredded the youth service following budget cuts in 2013. The organised use of the MUGA ceased. Calls for the Ward Committee to fund events there failed to get off the ground.

An experiment in leaving the area open resulted in arson damage to the all-weather surface which was never repaired. The service access gate was also damaged and not reinstated by the Council.

It is now little used and often strewn with litter and detritus.

Council consultation card Sept 2018

Yet there is still a demand for play and sports facilities for use by children in the area. The nearest alternative is the Energise (Better) sports centre on Cornlands Road which is run on a commercial basis.

Typically the cost of hiring an all weather pitch for a match is around £50.

Now officials are consulting on replacing the MUGA with other structures. They suggest wooden climbing frames, tree planting and better lighting.

There is a demand for better play facilities in the area but not at the expense of existing sports facilities.

We have already seen the Our Lady’s sports field developed and more recently plans have been approved to build on the football pitch at Lowfields. The Hob Moor school playing field will be reduced in size and an application to build on the Acomb Bowling Green is being considered by the Council.

Officials promised that, as part of the Lowfields scheme, pitches on Chesney’s Field would be levelled and upgraded. But the football season* has started without any sign of improvement.

The Council acknowledge that there is already a deficiency in sports and green space provision in the Westfield area. The Councils own Local Plan identifies the existing shortfalls as 4.98 ha of outdoor sports facilities, 6.02 ha of children’s play and 2.86 ha of young persons facilities.

Life expectancy in the Westfield ward is lower than in other parts of York. This is partly put down to unhealthy lifestyles.

Council run consultation exercises were discredited by the Lowfields fiasco. Rather than asking people to record a vote in favour or in opposition to multiple options, the exercise depended on narrative responses.

These were easy to manipulate by official’s intent on justifying a particular outcome.

This must not happen again.

There is a demand for “off the streets” activities for young people. Facilities like the MUGA – if well maintained and promoted – can make a difference. The plans for the new children’s centre on Ascot Way could also unlock the potential for better play facilities for younger children.

But all age groups need to be catered for.

*NB. The Beagle FC beat Cawood 4-0 in their Chesney Field encounter on Saturday

York Council sports and open space need assessments