Pensioners concerns over Council sheltered housing plans

Lincoln Court

Occupants of Lincoln Court had their first chance on Thursday to comment on the Council’s plans to modernise their sheltered accommodation.

In the main, the upgrade plans – which include new kitchens, bathrooms, heating and wiring, new front doors and windows, a new door entry system, roof repairs and external & internal decoration – were welcomed.

However, concern was expressed over the time that residents would be expected to live on a “building site”. This arises out of the proposal to demolish the adjacent Windsor House building and replace it with a centre for the disabled.

Proposed new layout

Residents, most of whom are in their 70’s and 80’s, felt that they could be inconvenienced for as long as three years while the work took place.

It emerged at the meeting that most of the work on Lincoln Court would not be undertaken until the adjacent new building had been completed. This led residents to point out that the noise and dust generated by any demolition process would filter into their living areas because of the inadequacies of the existing doors and windows.

Prior to the meeting the Councils plans to address parking and traffic congestion problems on Ascot Way had been criticised and these issues were raised again by residents. Residents were particularly angry that they might be expected to pay for residents parking permits because of pressure on staff parking. A plan was also needed to address parking needs during the building and modernisation phases.

Residents are also concerned that the existing bus stop – located outside Windsor House – is not shown on the new plans.

One resident went further and said

Hedges blocked view and light from Lincoln Court flats last summer

The new homes will take away our landing sitting areas, take away all light in the corridors and fill the few outside areas we have. The small, existing garden will not be freely available as we are to become, in effect, a community centre and can only access it via the community room (which is to be in use most of the time). We are also expected to cover all the running costs of the shared facilities as the fuel costs are shared by residents and no charges made to outside departments, clients etc. Even the electricity costs of all the offices and rest areas will be paid by us – we were told that it isn’t a problem at other developments & we can also use facilities! Not good enough”. 

Officials have apparently threatened to install security doors on each corridor prompting concerns that the building would resemble a “prison”.

Residents had complained last year about the Councils failure to cut a tall hedge at the rear of the properties. The hedge effectively blocked light from the flats, prompting a feeling of isolation.

The consultation event was dismissed by some as a “paper exercise” and there were calls for a fundamental rethink before planning permission was sought.

Local Councillors are now looking into the issues raised.

Demolition of Newbury Avenue garages set to add to parking problems in Kingsway area

Residents only have until 11th April to record any objections to plans to demolish the 28 garages on Newbury Avenue. 

There is a lot of concern that the planning application, to build 5 bungalows on the site, has been submitted before work on providing alternative, off street, car parking in area has even started.

Although the bungalow proposal has received more support that the original plan to build a block of flats on the site, parking problems have increased in the intervening 2 years.

As long ago as 2012 the Council stopped letting the garages when they became vacant. Some were used for temporary shortage, but several have remained empty.

There is a long waiting list of people wanting to rent garages in the area.

These underused garages, together with the pressures put on spaces by visitors to the new Hob Stone development, has led to a campaign by local residents to get more off-street parking (Email Hob.Moor@btinternet.com).

Last year, local Councillors identified at least 8 possible sites.

These included one on Kingsway West with the rest being on Windsor Garth and Ascot Way. The plan was to use matrix surfacing so the spaces continued to look like they were still part of the green areas (the technique has already been used successfully on other plots in the estate).

The spaces were to have been partly funded by the “Ward Committee” who have a delegated budget of around £50,000 a year. Initially it was hoped that lay-bys would be provided in 2016 but this didn’t happen.

A report to a recent meeting has now confirmed that none of the 2017/18 financial year laybys will be completed before November 2018 at the earliest.

To add to transport pressures on the estate, the Council is also considering major redevelopment plans for the Lincoln Court/Windsor House site which could further add to parking and congestion problems on estate roads.

Inadequate parking provision has led to access problems for larger vehicles and the bus service.

The planning application gives details of a  contamination survey that have been completed on the site together within internal layout plans for the bungalows.

Objectors to the planning application – who can ask that the planning committee impose a Section 106 agreement requiring the developer to fund 28 alternative parking spaces before any work commences – should be Emailed to the Council at planning.comments@york.gov.uk quoting reference 18/00410/GRG3  before 11th April.

Council bid for nearly £70m government housing fund moves a stage further

York Central

City of York Council has moved a step closer to securing nearly £70m government-funding to unlock up to 3,300 new homes in the city.

The Housing Secretary Sajid Javid today announced that both York’s bids to the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which would speed up major developments at York Central and a new garden village at Clifton Gate, have been approved to move to the final co-development stage of the competitive process.

The council has bid for £57m towards the complex infrastructure and access road which will open up the delivery of up to 2,500 homes on the York Central development. It would supplement the West Yorkshire Transport Fund money to deliver the bridge, spine road, and improvements in connectivity for vehicles, cycles and pedestrians.

At Clifton Gate, nearly £10m of funding would be used for vital access works and improvements, including an upgrade to Clifton Moor roundabout, new access roads tot he site, a subway for pedestrians and cyclists, and a pedestrian bridge. This would allow quicker delivery of the 1300 home site.

The Housing Infrastructure Fund is there to help deliver infrastructure projects which are essential to building significant numbers of new homes.  City of York Council will now work with the Ministry for Housing  Communities and Local Government and the developers on a detailed business case which will be assessed in the autumn before a final funding decision is made.
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New licensing rules for houses in multiple occupation

 

New national licensing conditions for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are being brought into effect which could improve the quality of accommodation provided in York.

A council motion on 26 October 2017 requested a review of evidence supporting the case for extended licensing. A report being put to senior councillors on 15 March, outlines the government’s recommendations and asks if there is a case to extend licensing locally through an additional, discretionary HMO licensing scheme.

The government’s changes relate to a national scheme which, subject to parliamentary approval, proposes to:

  • extend mandatory licensing to all HMOs – other than those converted pre 1991 and flats in larger, purpose-built blocks – that are occupied by five or more persons in two or more separate households
  • Introduce mandatory conditions for the minimum sleeping room sizes and maximum number of occupants in all licensed HMOs
  • Introduce a mandatory condition to provide refuse storage facilities.

Details of the scheme will be announced before it becomes law on 1 October 2018. Then, evidence on the legislation’s impact will be assessed to consider the need for an enhanced, local scheme.”

 

Enhanced homeless scheme secures £2.4m grant

Two extra new apartments and replacement windows are among the enhancements to what is now a 57-unit temporary accommodation building in central York, for which the council has secured an additional £2.4m funding.The updated plans have factored in conditions attached to a £2.365m grant from Homes England (HE). This funding adds to a £10.5m budget already agreed by the council for the purchase and redevelopment of James House on James Street, as well as costs associated with closing and relocating existing temporary accommodation for homeless households.

This extra funding means a saving of £500,000 to the council. Senior councillors are being asked to approve the revised budget for James House of £12.4m, financed by £2.451m from Homes England and £9.949m from the Housing Revenue Account.

The specification of the conversion has increased. Two additional flats will be created, making a total of 57, and some others will be increased in size to meet national requirements and the criteria of the HE grant. In addition, an access road will be built and windows on the scheme will be renewed with double glazing and improved sound insulation.

Following approval by senior councillors on 16 March 2017, James House on James Street was bought and planning permission was submitted in early November 2017.

The self-contained flats will be owned and managed by City of York Council. James Street consolidates into one building much of the temporary accommodation for homeless people currently scattered across the city. It will also replace the accommodation at Ordnance Lane.

£1.4 million Lincoln Court upgrade announced

The Council will spend £1.4 million upgrading the Lincoln Court sheltered housing scheme on Ascot Way next year.

Lincoln Court

A report be considered next week recommends modernising the existing 26 flats while building an extension which will provide an additional 8 units designed for dementia sufferers.

The extension will also provide a base for mobile care workers.This new build feature had not previously been revealed in the Councils plans.

The 4 existing “bedsits” will be converted into flats.

There is currently a shortfall, against demand, of over 1000 units of sheltered accommodation in the City.

The major upgrade will provide:

  1. 8 new, one bed apartments which will be dementia friendly.
  2. Conversion of 4 existing bedsits into 4 one bed apartments.
  3. A new and improved entrance lobby, communal facilities including a community lounge, WC, assisted bathing, hairdressing/therapy room, buggy store, office/s for care and other staff, gardens and improved car parking.

Planned investment and maintenance plans already included:

  • the installation of a new communal boiler and plant room;
  • the modernisation of individual flats to include new kitchen, bathroom, heating and wiring;
  • new front doors and windows;
  • a new door entry system
  • roof works;
  • external & internal decoration;
  • some high level external works to rainwater goods and asbestos soffits.

It is expected that, as soon as the budget for the scheme is agreed, existing tenants will be fully consulted on the implications of the building plans. With the adjacent Windsor House set to be demolished at the same time, some inconvenience is inevitable.

Residents are likely to question whether the inclusion of an office base on the site – together with the changes brought by the erection of the disability centre next door – might have a significant impact on traffic and parking issues in the area.

Housing hyperbole helps no one.

Call by MP for York Local Plan to be rejected was irresponsible and poorly researched

Claims by Rachel Maskell MP that people do not live in high-value, luxury apartments built in the City Centre, and that the homes were purchased as “an investment, or they are used just for holidays and race days or weekends”, don’t seem to be rooted in fact.

Maskell also claimed the push for more City centre accommodation is “an experiment in social cleansing”, relying entirely on anecdotal evidence to support her assertion.

She repeated her claims last week 

 Publicly available statistics confirm that,of the 1036 homes built in the first 6 months of the current financial year, 637 were aimed at students. Student needs reflect in both housing targets and outturns.  Most of the flats were built on Lawrence Street. They are hardly “luxurious” or “expensive” but they do not count as affordable housing (because it is tied accommodation)

Provision of specialist accommodation of this type reduces the pressure to convert family accommodation into student lets.

Between April 2017 and September 2017 planning permission was also granted for 892 new homes. These included large developments at The Barbican, Nestle, and Hungate. (Only 3 were for student accommodation)

The emerging Local Plan provides for 867 new homes to be built each year. This compares to an average of 686 completed over the last 5 years. At least 20% will be “affordable”.

Historic figures (see below) reveal that there has been a spurt in house building in the City over the last 3 years.  Before that, five years of recession took a toll on house building numbers.

The housing waiting list has stabilised at 1200 (excluding those seeking a transfer) with people waiting on average for 12 months for a new home. The number of homeless, presenting to the Council, is now around 100 a year (down from a 10-year peak of 258).

Lack of land clearly is not an issue impacting on the granting of planning permission for new developments in the City.

The Council might be criticised for not releasing funding to buy properties on the open market to increase the social rent pool. It had run a surplus of over £20 million on its housing account for over 6 years (although very recently it agreed to release some of the surplus to ease social housing demands).

In addition, the total amount of unspent payments in lieu of affordable housing that the council currently holds is £4.325m.

There are issues to be addressed. The apparent spike in “rough sleeping“ has previously been highlighted.

Over the last few months the Council has guaranteed a hostel bed for anyone found sleeping on the streets. It is an initiative that seems to have worked during the recent period of cold weather.

York desperately needs a Local Plan.

Funding the endless revisions has debilitated the Council’s budget with an estimate of £10 million already having been devoted to the process.

Arguing that the current proposals should be abandoned is both reckless and shortsighted.

Some revisions to the text might be expected, but the basic thrust of the document is right and, most importantly, deliverable.