This is going to annoy people living in Westfield

“Yorspace” – the organisation trying to build “communal homes” on the Lowfields site – have announced that they still haven’t achieved their fund raising target.

Doubtful if anyone thinks this is “great news”

For the second time in 6 months, they are extending the crowd funding deadline – this time to the end of January 2020.

This will add to the overall development timetable for the whole site.

There are concerns that the (minimal) play and open space provisions on the development will not be available when new residents move in.

The main Council development is not now expected to start on site until the new year.

The playground is scheduled to be used as a building compound by Yorspace – shades of the situation a few hundred metres away where the Kingsway all weather pitch has become a builder compound.

There are other similarities with Lowfields as at both sites sports facilities have been lost without adequate replacements being provided.

Housing fraud prevention processes to be tightened in York

According to a report which will be considered by the Councils Audit committee next week more needs to be done to prevent fraudulent applications for Council houses.

There are concerns about sub letting.

The report says

The process for identifying housing fraud was found to be working reasonably well at the outset of tenancies in that the procedure for applying for properties is being followed with the necessary documents being obtained to support the housing application.

Applications for housing are input manually onto the housing system by Housing Registrations Officers based on a phone conversation or meeting with the applicant with no signature obtained to confirm the information on the application is correct.

Pictures were not routinely taken of tenants when they start their
tenancy nor is there an agreed process or timescale to take pictures of existing tenants.

This means that an important way to confirm that the
person living at the property is as expected is being missed.

Further details of homes plans for Ordnance Lane, Duncombe Barracks & Burnholme

The York Council says that the next stage of it’s work with York residents to design the homes, streets and open spaces planned for the city is underway, and everyone is welcome to get involved.

The latest workshops will inform our architects of local priorities before they start work at the drawing boards, and are open to all residents to join in. The next phase of these engagement events will be for Ordnance Lane, Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme site.

Duncombe Barracks housing site

David Mikhail, is the founding director of our architect Mikhail Riches and is the design director for the sites coming forward in City of York Council’s Housing Delivery Programme. He said: “Our design team and City of York Council are eager to learn from the people who live, work or study in the area.

“We believe in co-design and know that collaborating with people on our projects helps us to design and build a better place: a new place that belongs to the neighbourhood right from the start.” 

Tom Brittain, assistant director of housing and safer communities, said: “The three-stage engagement events for the council-owned sites will be guided by our housing design manual (www.york.gov.uk/housingdesignmanual). We want to encourage as many people as possible to continue to support these sessions so that they can help create the homes and settings for them that they want to see.”

The event at Hospital Fields Road will be the first for this site and will start conversations between residents and our architects from Mikhail Riches. This will include asking residents about the area and what they want from the homes, streets and open spaces on the site, as has already been done for Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme.

The events at Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme will be detailed, one-day workshops, with lunch provided. At them, residents can hear the ideas and priorities voiced at the first workshops held in October. They can then create 3D models of how they’d like each site to look like.

The third events are scheduled for spring 2020 for the Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme sites. At these, plans of the proposals will be drawn up and feedback on them requested, as well as from on-line surveys, ahead of planning permission being submitted.

Everyone is welcome to these next meetings as we are very keen to hear your views. They will be:  

For more information, please visit www.york.gov.uk/HousingDeliveryProgramme

So what public service standards should we expect in each York neighbourhood?

One interesting side effect of the Council report, on improving graffiti removal processes across the City, has been the re-publication of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) or “Customer Contract” for Council estates. The agreement was last reviewed in 2013 and is one of several SLAs which were agreed for different public service areas across the City.

All references to them were removed from the Council web site several years ago.

Service Level Agreement page 1

The SLAs have never formally been abandoned by the Council, but even a casual glance at some of the requirements (above), reveals failings.

The Council promises to “Publicise the dates of estate inspections on our website” & “conduct an estate inspection every three months and to show you (the tenant) the actions identified and progress with it on our web site

 Tenants will search in vain for such information on the Councils web site.

The Council no longer even publishes the agendas & minutes of resident’s association meetings on its site. Lack of support from the Council, means that many of the listed residents associations have ceased to function.

Although the Council promises to “remove dumped rubbish within 7 days”, proactive cleansing no longer routinely takes place. A mobile “estate worker” reacts only to reported issues. This may explain the lamentable drop off in street cleansing standards in some estates this summer.

Service Level Agreement page 2

Customer satisfaction and KPI stats are not published at an estate level. Most are not routinely shared with residents’ associations.

Good environmental standards on estates require a lot more than litter removal, of course. Many complaints relate to poorly maintained roads, street furniture and anti-social behaviour.

Even when problems like overgrown trees and hedges are identified as an issue the Council fails to take effective action.

Little progress on estate improvements this year

 In Foxwood a list of streets where hedges needed cutting back from public footpaths was identified 6 months ago. The estate improvement budget was identified as a source of resources with action to be taken over the winter period, but the work has, apparently, yet to be authorised by ward Councillors.

The Council should review and republish all its SLAs. Performance against target should be reported frankly and regularly at least on social media channels.

That fresh approach needs to start now. It will need the committed and public support of senior managers and executive Councillors

Council estate issues in central part of York

Generally public service standards on Council housing estates in the centre of the City have been better than those experienced in the suburbs.

This is probably because core services (highway maintenance, street cleansing, grass cutting, graffiti removal etc) are more in the public eye. Consequently issues are more likely to be reported.

However there are exceptions. There is emerging evidence that service level agreement standards are not being met.

The Hope Street/Long Close Lane area has its fair share of issues. Principal among them is of course the long term empty Willow House building. Lack of progress by the Council in selling the building – which could provide housing for dozens of people – is shameful

As well as Wlllow House, damaged street signs, graffiti and weed growth are issues in the Hope Street area.

Elsewhere the Groves area also has its fair share of problems

Graffiti on Groves Lane
Litter near the shops on Lowther Street
Graffiti on garage door in St Thomas’ Place
A lot of potholes are emerging. They are particularity hazardous for cyclists. This one is on March Street (and has been reported)

Self build plots on market at Lowfields

The UK’s first-ever council-led development of custom-build plots with some specifically designated for first time buyers, will welcome bids from buyers from 1 November.

The six custom-build plots are part of a larger mixed-use development of 140 new homes at Lowfield Green by City of York Council.

The development is controversial as it has seen a valued green open space – used for sporting activities – built on. Residents – who formed their own action group to oppose the plans – are also concerned about delays in the overall development timetable.

Two of the plots have been restricted for first time buyers only, as they offer a more affordable option, and are designed to help people on to the property ladder. This supports the council’s pledge to offer a breadth of options to a range of lower-income households and is in addition to shared ownership of homes from the open market as well as council-owned homes. 40% of all the homes at Lowfield Green will be affordable and Homes England helped fund work done to prepare the site for development.

Idealised image of self build homes

Custom-build plots are serviced with all required utilities – electricity, water and telephone cable – as well as with road access to enable buyers to get on site. With outline planning permission already secured, construction can begin immediately after detailed planning has been granted.

All plots are large enough for a detached home of between three and five bedrooms with an integrated garage if needed. They also benefit from south-facing back gardens and uninterrupted views of the new village green to the front. This former secondary school site has been sensitively master planned around a new green open space to contribute towards creating an attractive new place to live in the city.

To support this innovative self-build project, City of York Council has engaged Custom Build Homes – the UK’s leading enabler of custom build housing – to deliver aspects of the development process including; consultancy, pre-agreed mortgage lending as well as leading the sales and marketing for the site.

Bidding for all 6 plots opens on 1 November and all bids need to be in for 29 November. Prospective purchasers will have the opportunity to view the plots, with the first viewings to be arranged by appointment only, on the morning of Saturday 9 November. All bids will be assessed and, if no suitable applications have been received by first time buyers, the allocated plots may be offered to other applicants. More detail is available by visiting lowfieldgreen.custombuildhomes.co.uk

All serviced plots can be seen and bid for at lowfieldgreen.custombuildhomes.co.uk or email lowfieldgreen@custombuildhomes.co.uk for more information.

Extra winter beds opening for rough sleepers in York

People sleeping rough in York can safely bed down this winter as extra emergency beds are being offered again, whatever the weather, from 1 November 2019 until 28 February 2020.

Besides securing nearly £400,000 extra fund for additional outreach workers to give rough more intensive support especially around mental health, York goes above and beyond the national ‘severe weather scheme’. Regardless of whether it’s freezing or not, we make extra emergency beds available bringing the total up to 29 in the winter months: that’s 20 more beds than our current official number of nine rough sleepers in the city.

Five of the emergency beds have been created at a council hostel and are being supported by volunteers from the YES Below Zero scheme. Last year this provision supported 18 rough sleepers into private rented accommodation.

Also in 2018-19, the council resettled 58 former rough sleepers or single homeless people into permanent tenancies, and accommodated 66 households during a period of homelessness.

People leaving sleeping on the streets are placed in the city’s 101-bed supported accommodation schemes. Their dogs can also be brought into emergency accommodation as has been the case in York since 2000.

The people are offered support and education to help address any of the issues that may have contributed to them becoming homeless. This includes referral to services for mental health or substance misuse, and training for work and how to manage a lasting tenancy.

Once that stage is successfully underway, they are allocated space in the city’s 90 independent accommodation units before, hopefully, supporting them into either private or affordable fully-independent homes.

Councillor Denise Craghill, executive member for housing and safer neighbourhoods, said: “Rough sleeping has increased by 132% nationally since 2010 with only a small decrease of 6% nationally during 2018-19. We have secured nearly £400,000 funding for 2019/20 to explore new ways to prevent it, as sleeping on the street lowers life expectancy to 47 years.

“With our partners The Salvation Army, Changing Lives, Peasholme Charity, Restore, YES Below Zero, Carecent and KEY, we continue to offer all known people sleeping rough help to get off the street and into safer, more stable lifestyle, including extra support for people with mental health and substance misuse issues.

“Help is routinely offered to rough sleepers on the early morning walks undertaken several times a week when everyone is offered a bed.”

Charles Walters, of the YES Below Zero team, said: “We are looking forward to building on the solid start YES Below Zero made over the 2018/2019 winter season. The team of volunteers was encouraged by the significant number of positive outcomes.

“As we gear up to help contribute capacity to the emergency bed provision for this next winter season, we invite those who are interested in volunteering to contact us on atbarnett33@gmail.com.

  • To alert support services to a rough sleeper, please ring Street Link on 0300 500 0914.
  • Or, please join us encouraging people sleeping rough to go to The Salvation Army’s early intervention and prevention hub at 63 Lawrence Street, York YO10 3BU between 10am and 12 noon when they’ll be given support.
  • At night or the weekend, rough sleepers can call 01609 780780 for help.
  • To find out ways to donate and support people out of homelessness, please visit www.york.gov.uk/roughsleeping

Consultation with Council tenants in York

Disappointing report from the York Council.

Its over 12 months since the York Residents’ Federation were forced to fold. They were the victims of an over officious approach by some Council staff. Their independent input never seemed to be welcomed by senior Councillors or officials.

As with any voluntary body, those involved needed to feel that their contribution is valued. Too often it clearly wasn’t by the York Council.

Some Councillors to their credit saw this as a backward step and the LibDem manifesto at the May local elections gave a pledge to revive citywide consultation arrangements.

A report on the subject of tenant consultation has now been published and will be considered by one of the Councils scrutiny committees next week. The report can be found by clicking here

Sadly there is little new in the report. It has apparently not even been run past the several successful residents associations which exist in the City

The Council needs to take consultation and tenant involvement much more seriously.

Delays dog new Newbury Avenue bungalows

The five new bungalows being built by the York Council on Newbury Avenue are now several weeks late. The contract was supposed to be completed in early September.

Work still going on at the bungalow site on Newbury Avenue

The contract at the site has a value of £3/4 million.

The development was a controversial one because the Council declined to make adequate alternative off street parking space available for the former renters of the garages which used to occupy the site.

The development was delayed last year following a mix up over the relocation of a telecoms cabinet.

Extra funding for faster rough sleeper support in York

Nearly £400,000 extra funding has been secured by the council to help more people off the streets and into accommodation and support more quickly.

£253,000 has been awarded for 2019/20 from the Rough Sleeping Initiative to try and offer each individual sleeping on the streets the tailored support they need to help them into lasting accommodation.

In addition, £139,000 Rapid Rehousing Pathway funding has been secured to help people into accommodation and support. This is done by a specialist team of workers, known as Rough Sleeper Housing Navigators, enhancing current support by reacting rapidly to any reports of people sleeping rough as well as providing ongoing intensive support to rough sleepers.

People’s life expectancy plummets from 83 to 47 years when they live on the streets, so this funding will be used to support ongoing work to prevent people resorting to sleeping outdoors while developing new ways of addressing the individual needs of each person.

Whether it’s mental health support, dealing with drug or alcohol abuse, relationship breakdown or poverty, the right support at the right pace is given to try and help each individual into suitable accommodation and services. Once working with us and our partners in the city, we can look to address each person’s needs including getting benefits in place, training for work, money and tenancy management, before helping them into stable accommodation.

“It also complements the additional resource we invested in extending the Housing First model. This provides high levels of support to help people with complex needs such as substance abuse and mental ill health to live independently and to avoid them ending up back on the street.

“We have also provided more 24/7 supported housing which is actually what some people need. The council invested £130,000 in July in developing this new programme, working with health service partners.”

Anyone able and wanting to support this and our partners’ work by giving their time or sharing their skills with people going through resettlement, can contact For more information, please visit www.york.gov.uk/roughsleeping.

If you see someone sleeping outdoors, please call the StreetLink national rough sleeper reporting line on 0300 5000 914. They will notify us so we can offer help.

Cllr Denise Craghill, executive member for housing and safer communities said: “We are doing everything we can to develop new ways of getting people in off the streets and this is a welcome addition to our continuing work to prevent homelessness in the first place and to help more people out of rough sleeping. It reflects the team helping more people into accommodation and reducing the number of rough sleepers in the city from 29 in 2017 to nine in 2018.