Bootham Park Hospital could become the site of an independent living development for older people.

Council leaders are set to consider the next steps to secure public access, better cycle and pedestrian paths and other local priorities for the former Bootham Park hospital site.

Enterprise Retirement Living has been named as the preferred buyer by NHS property services.

The plans would create 125 independent living retirement homes and would secure public access to parts of the 1777 John Carr designed grade 1 hospital building, including the boardroom, gym and bowling alley.

The site is ideally located for older persons accommodation being within walking distance of all amenities including the hospital and railway station.

Land ownership at Bootham Park

A report published ahead of next Tuesday’s York Council Executive meeting outlines the options available to the council, based on local priorities and potential benefits identified during the extensive public and stakeholder engagement process.

The council says that it has been working closely with health partners to influence future development on the site.  “These efforts are set to be rewarded, with the site’s current and future owners due to talk with the council about public access, cycle paths, retaining more of the sale receipt locally and other priorities of York residents.   Air ambulance landing site and NHS use of the Chapel are set to continue, ERL and NHS Property Services (NHS PS) are set to ‘positively engage’ with the council over other key requests identified during recent consultations to influence the future of the site including public use of the Parkland”.

Councillor Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, said:

“This is very encouraging news, and welcome reward for our approach to shaping the future development at Bootham Park.

“Our ambition has always been to make sure these historic buildings and grounds continue to serve our city, and we will continue to communicate the priorities of our residents with the new owners.“

The report asks Executive to agree that the Council will use its rights as owner of a strip of access road to secure b

  • beneficial public use of the parkland in front of the hospital building
  • Improved pedestrian and cycle routes through the site
  • Conservation and redevelopment to deliver homes and services which are of benefit to the city

City of York Council has been working with NHS Property Services, The York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Vale of York CCG to influence the site’s future.

This included a site development report informed by public and wider stakeholder consultation in 2018. The results of the 2019 consultation over this plan are contained within the Executive report, with 1657 comments identifying public access to the green spaces, key worker accommodation, better cycle and pedestrian pathways and suitability of any new buildings as the priority.

These activities were funded as part of the government’s One Public Estate programme, which supports public bodies to use public land and property to boost economic growth, supply housing and regeneration, and integrated public services.

Executive takes place at 17:30 on Wednesday 21 January at West Offices and will be webcast live at www.york.gov.uk/webcasts.

Public service standards on York Council estates

A few months ago an executive Councillor considered how to deal with problems relating to graffiti. As some of the problems had arisen on Council estates – with some tenanted homes being targeted – not unreasonably Council officials republished a copy of the relevant Service Level Agreement (SLA) or Customer Contract covering graffiti removal.

Service level agreement for Council housing services in York 2013

This had been updated in 2013 and specified how quickly issues like graffiti should be resolved.

The new graffiti removal process now seems to be working well on Council owned structures although utility boxes are still an issue in some parts of the City.

A recent Freedom of information response has raised more questions than it has answered.

Asked to publish the most up to date SLA for each public service area, the Council has so far only come up with one for Housing. It turns out to be different from that published in October although the new agreement apparently dates back to May 2019.

The SLAs for other public services have not yet been provided.

Closer examination of the housing services agreement  – now referred to as a “local offer” – reveals that many of service standards which make a neighbourhood a pleasant place to live have now been discarded.

The only work volume now being monitored relates to fly tipping.

There is no mention of anti social behaviour or other crime, no standards for grass or hedge cutting, no indication of how quickly estate improvements will be completed, nothing on road and footpaths either in terms of  numbers of complaints or public satisfaction and nothing on street cleanliness.  There are no figures for empty properties and garages.

There are some public satisfaction measures, but they are very general in scope with results unlikely to be reliable at individual estate level.

There are no stats on estate inspections either in confirmation of where they are taking place or what issues are being revealed.

There is nothing on the garden maintenance scheme.

“Local Offer” on Council housing standards May 2019

Officials say that the new measures have been agreed by a “tenant’s panel”. It appears that the Council has appointed six tenants to replace the tenant’s federation which lapsed some 2 years ago. How these tenants are appointed and – crucially – how they assess the views of York’s 8000 other tenants is something of a mystery. The tenants concerned are not identified. They apparently meet once a month, but no agenda or meeting minutes are published on the Councils web site.

It is likely that those individual Residents Associations that do exist, will now insist on having an input into a revised Service Level Agreement for Council housing.

We will publish the Service Level Agreements covering other public service standards in the City when we receive, them

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.

Building work starting at Lowfields

Building work has started on the controversial Lowfield housing development.

The houses are being built on a playing field without any accessible alternative facility being made available by the York Council.

It has also been revealed that Yorspace has still not completed the purchase of the “communal housing” development site which is located near little Tudor Road.

The purchase from the Council was due to take place in September according to an EIR/FOI response (ref. IGF/16163) published by the York Council in August. There had been some controversy over the sale, as the purchase price agreed by the Council (£300,000) was pitched at a level well below the amount being asked for other building land in the same area.

Despite this, officials say that the sale is still “with solicitors”.

NB. The Council owned access to the site from little Tudor Road is currently blocked by what appears to be an abandoned mini bus.

Rough sleepers in York fell from nine to seven people in 2019 confirms Council

Following our story yesterday, the Council has now confirmed that the problems with rough sleeping in the City have eased a little over the last 12 months.

In a media release issued today they say, “After another year of prevention and giving tailored support to people sleeping rough in the city, more people have been helped into safer more stable accommodation.

The official, annual rough sleeper count in York showed seven people were sleeping on the street in 2019: down from nine in 2018.

The annual official count of rough sleepers takes place nationally at the same time. This year, City of York Council decided to do its count earlier than in previous years and before the additional winter beds open, to create a more accurate picture.

For two months before the count, information was gathered from statutory and non-statutory organisations, and it was established who was believed to be rough sleeping and who was confirmed to have accommodation. Information about where people often slept was collated from StreetLink reports, information from members of the public and from findings by the regular street walks.

On 30 October 2019 from 3.30am, officers from the council, the Salvation Army, North Yorkshire Police and local charities walked the streets of York looking for people sleeping out, and visited places known to be used by rough sleepers.

Seven rough sleepers were found and this number was verified independently by Homeless Link based on both the findings of the overnight count on 30 October and information gathered previously.

The number of people sleeping rough in York in 2019 is two fewer than in 2018. In 2017, the official number was 29, in 2016 and 2015 it was 18. Work continues to reduce this number further and help more people off the streets into safer, more stable lives.

Cllr Denise Craghill, executive member for housing and safer neighbourhoods, said: “While rough sleeping reduces average life expectancy from 83 to 47 years and we would rather no-one slept out at all, it is encouraging to know that fewer people are sleeping on the streets in York this year.

“While numbers of people sleeping out fluctuates throughout the year, this reduction shows the impact of our partnerships and our personalised work to help this people into the right kind of supported accommodation.

“I would like to thank our dedicated homelessness team and all our partners for their hard work and continued commitment to encourage more people off the streets.”

Cllr Keith Aspden, leader of the council, said: “This is welcome news. Sleeping on the streets is an indignity that no-one should face and the council is taking steps to support rough sleepers off the streets.

“Our homelessness prevention work has secured an extra £400,000 to help rough sleepers with more personalised support and to tackle complex mental health issues. The council and its partners have also opened 11 extra emergency beds this year, in order to ensure we can offer rough sleepers a safe place to sleep.”

Anyone who sees a person sleeping rough can ring Streetlink on 0300 500 0194 who will us to visit the location and offer support. Also, there are many ways to help people off the streets at www.york.gov.uk/roughsleeping .

We and our partner charities encourage people not to give cash direct to those appearing to beg, but to give to York Street Aid at www.tworidingscf.org.uk/yorkstreetaid/ . Money raised goes directly towards helping homeless people in York in personalised ways, such as buying clothing for interviews, a bike to get to work or paying rent on an allotment.

1444 on housing waiting list in York

There are currently 1444 people registered on the housing waiting list in York.

3 of these have been given an emergency classification with a further 204 in the top urgency category (Gold).

The York Council is leaving the North Yorkshire pooled “home choice” system next November (2020). It will then implement its own housing allocations policies.

There are currently 7512 Council homes in York. Around 600 a year of these become available for reletting. Since 2014, 522 additional homes have been added to the pool although this has been offset by 324 “right to buy” sales.

The Council hopes to build an additional 600 new homes across York over the next few years.

One major issue facing York is the demand for elderly persons accommodation. York has an estimated shortage of independent living and extra care properties which is forecast to be over 1100 independent living properties and almost 500 extra care properties by 2039.

68% of York’s’ housing is owner occupied. Average house prices have risen by 25% over the last 4 years to £235,000. That is nearly 9 times the average wage.  In the same period rents on private 2 bed properties have risen by 11.5% to £725 a month.

For those living on benefits, there is a major gulf between income and monthly private sector rents.

Housing affordability in York

Unfortunately, the Council has no influence on the terms of “Right to Buy” sales, so must try to bridge the gap with new build.

Homeless pressures easing a little in York?

Shelter the UK housing charity is claiming that “42 children in York” are homeless or living in temporary accommodation each day. The claims are difficult to reconcile with official figures published by the York Council earlier this week

According to the York Council, 29 beds are available for single homeless people facing rough sleeping.

The number of rough sleepers has reduced from 29 to 7.

Couples with children are given priority access to council house vacancies. 37 households with children were given priority housing last year.

In 63 cases this year couples were housed in temporary accommodation for a short time.  Families are not normally accommodated in “Bed and Breakfast” accommodation in York.

The figures reveal that the major cause of homelessness in the City was “family and friends no longer willing to accommodate the households”.

263 of the 684 homeless acceptances gave that as the reason for their predicament.

The next highest reason for homelessness was the end of a private rented tenancy.

A report to a meeting taking place later this week,says that the City of York Council is currently in a partnership with other organisations across York, under the guidance of the Homelessness Strategy 2018- 2023 Preventing Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Together. “This partnership has been well established for many years and continues to attempt to rise to the challenges of tackling all forms of homelessness”.

The report does however also observe that “We still have a strong street culture which remains difficult for people (especially those with addiction issues) to break away from, the camaraderie and financial gain made from begging remain strong contributing factors. This often results in members of the public assuming that rough sleeping numbers are higher than the actual number of people rough sleeping”.

Lincoln Court update

The same report provides an update on the Lincoln Court redevelopment
Ascot Way building site

“The Older Persons’ Accommodation Programme is currently working on site to refurbish and extend the Lincoln Court Independent Living Community in the Westfield Ward.

Once complete the building will have 35 one bedroomed apartments, communal lounges, laundry facilities, a salon and a communal kitchen.

Work is progressing well on site, with the development due for completion in late spring 2020.

The tenants who have expressed an interest in moving back into the new development have now had the opportunity to choose their kitchen and bathroom fittings, as the “tenants’ choice” works have been included in the contract”.

Work on site is indeed progressing although whether Lincoln Court could be re-occupied before the development (on the adjacent Windsor House site) of a disabled centre is complete, is open to question.

It is likely to be 12 months before the Centre of Excellence for Disabled Children is commissioned for use.

The development has involved some noise, parking and traffic issues for nearby residents.

Council set to abandon Oakhaven replacement plans.

Oakhaven

The former elderly persons home at Oakhaven has remained empty since elderly residents were moved out in 2016.

The building was briefly used as a homeless hostel and then for Police firearms training  

A report in October 2015 had set out the Council’s preferred strategy.

We said at that time “given the Councils shambolic record on project management, we doubt if we see any improvements much before the end of the decade”.

It turns out that we are being optimistic.

Delay followed delay

 As recently as 21st November 2018 the Council was maintaining that it would work with a private sector operator (Ashley House)  to build an “extra care” scheme. 

Now a report published today says the plans have been abandoned.

 “due to planning restrictions and financial viability this project has not progressed.

A number of alternative options for the site are being modelled for financial viability and officers expect to present a report to the executive making recommendations for the site early in 2020”.

Tens of thousands of pounds has been spent on maintaining and keeping the empty build secure. With increasing demands for older persons accommodation delays in excess of 5 years, in implementing projects, are simply not acceptable.

Some of the elderly tenants moved out of Oakhaven could have lived out their lives in a home that many cherished.

They deserve a better epitaph