Lincoln Court update

The Councils Executive discussed the planned extension of the Lincoln Court independent living building yesterday. They agreed to progress the scheme and included a requirement for an alternative all weather games area to be provided in the ward.

It will be up to the planning committee at its meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) to include a condition requiring that the new facility is provided before the existing MUGA is demolished.

Windsor House is already being vandalised

It emerged at the meeting that 14 of the remaining 19 tenants have now accepted offers of alternative accommodation. When the remaining 5 will be offered, and accept, a suitable alternative remains in doubt. The adjacent Windsor House building, which is empty, is already suffering vandalism and there is a concern that the whole site could become a magnet for anti social behaviour.

Large delivery lorries are ruining roads in Lowfields. Similar concerns about Ascot Way

The Council is negotiating with the school to allow builders plant to access the site from the school side. There have been major problems getting large items of plant into the Lowfields site where roads are of a similar width to Ascot Way.

It has yet to be confirmed whether an (pedestrian) access will be retained from the school site when the redevelopment has been completed. This is considered to be essential to provide overflow parking capacity given that only 16 spaces are being provided on the Ascot Way frontage.

Large plant on Lowfields site. Working hours planning condition being breached?

Sadly members of the executive failed to probe why the new apartments have been described, in successive Planning Committee reports, as “extra care” units.

No doubt residents will get more clarification tomorrow

York Central moves another step closer with £37.32m funding decision

York Central has moved a step closer as £37.32m of external funding was promised to deliver the new generation of homes and higher paid jobs York needs and to improve the railway station.

The funding was confirmed yesterday (Wednesday 13 March) from the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund and Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment through the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

The funding will contribute to a new western access road, bridge and spine road into York Central, a fully accessible western entry into the railway station and the station frontage scheme which will bring a transformation of transport interchange facilities, enhanced accessibility and new public realm at the front of York station.

The scheme will support the delivery of up to 2,500 new homes and over 6,000 new jobs.

£23.5m of this funding will contribute to the £155m infrastructure funding package for York Central with a further £11.7m towards the costs of transforming the front of the station.  Together the two schemes will open up the 72 hectare York Central site which is surrounded by railway lines, and create vibrant and distinctive residential neighbourhoods, cultural spaces, and a high-quality commercial quarter at the heart of York.

The plans for the front of the station will demolish Queen St Bridge, improve the public spaces and improve the transport interchange to create a greatly improved fitting gateway to the city.  This funding is conditional upon the award of Housing Infrastructure Funding later this month and on the award of Planning permission.

The West Yorkshire Transport Fund money follows the £35m budget agreed by City of York Council in December. This will then be repaid using retained business rates from the York Central Enterprise Zone. The council’s £77m bid for the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund is at an advanced stage, with a decision expected soon.

The outline planning application for the site will be considered by the council’s planning committee on Monday 25 March 2019.

Empty Chapelfields garage to be brought back into use after 12 month delay

Bramham Road empty garage

It looks like the long term empty garage in Bramham Road may finally be brought back into use.

It was reported as being empty and in need of repair over 12 months ago. Following a complaint about delays, repairs to the roof and stonework were completed.

The Council says that an order was placed with a local contractor to replace the door but the work was never completed.

It seems that no one followed this up until we reported the garage again a few months ago.

We’re now told that a new order for the door has been given to a contractor. It is expected to be repaired shortly and brought back into use in April.

There is a long waiting list of tenants in Chapelfields wanting to rent Council garages.

Nearby streets are sometimes choked with parked cars and there have also been ongoing delays in the provision of additional parking laybys on the estate.

63% of Council tenants say lack of car parking provision is a problem in their area

Annual Council tenants satisfaction survey results  have been published. Not surprisingly they show little change for the views record last year.

The results are based on the views of 595 tenants who returned the Councils survey form

83% of tenants area satisfied with the overall service provided by the (Council) landlord

Highest level of dissatisfaction relates to poor parking provision in estates. Despite funding having been made available, Council officials seem unable to deliver the additional parking pal-bys in locations that have been identified. It is a problem in parts of the Westfield Ward where 6 schemes, some dating back as far as 2016, have yet to be started. Only one, in Spurr Court, has been completed recently.

There are other areas where tenants say improvements are needed

  • 59% say dog fouling is a problem
  • 59% Are unhappy with the state of roads and footpaths
  • 55% say rubbish and litter is a problem in their area
  • 48% say drug use or dealing is a problem in their area.
  • 44% say disruptive teenagers are a problem in their area
  • 46% say drunk or rowdy behaviour is an issue

The Council was criticised by 1/3 tenants who said the landlord did not listen to their views. This was a marked increase in dissatisfaction since the previous survey was completed.

In 2018 the York Federation of Tenants Associations was wound up, with no independent voice now articulating residents concerns in many of the City’s estates.

York Council got housing demand figures badly wrong

International migration forecast shows substantial reduction

The Council has finally released a consultants report into future house building requirements in the City. It is based on the latest 2016 population forecast produced by the Office of National Statistics

It shows a spectacular reduction on previous forecasts.

The report will be discussed by a Council working group next week, although the new figures have already been forwarded to planning inspectors.

In 2011 a LibDem Council had agreed an annual growth rate of 575 homes.

This was increased to a, wildly unsustainable, 1100 homes by an incoming Labour administration.

An incoming coalition administration in 2015 finally came up with a figure of 867 dwellings a year.

All have proved to be wildly inaccurate.

Unfortunately several green field sites have been lost already because of the muddle. The actual demand could have been catered for comfortably on brownfield (previously developed) sites

The new figures indicate that an additional 470 homes a year will be required in the period up to 2037. A high growth economy could increase this to 590 homes a year.

.. and that is the figure that some commentators have been advocating for the last 8 years and more.

Unfortunately old habits die hard, and the consultants say that, to deflate house prices (and values), a supply of 790 homes a year is required.

Forecast York housing growth figures Feb 2019

York Council says it has brought 17 empty homes back into use

The York Council claims to have brought 17 empty homes back into use during the year ending March 2018.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request the council said that it done so using “informal actions”. It had not resorted to compulsory purchase orders, empty dwelling management orders or enforced sales.

It says that the cost of taking the action was around £19,000.

The Council has a web site which offers advice on empty homes. You can also report any homes which you believe to be empty (anonymously if you wish)

Loans are available from the Council for the owners of empty property who want to bring them up to a living standard

The Councils Empty Property Strategy is set out in their Private Sector Housing Strategy 2016-2021.

New chance to learn more about Council plans for Lowfields as meeting date announced

Following a false star last week, when an information drop in session was poorly attended because of inadequate publicity, a new date has been set.

A drop in will take place on Tuesday 5 March between 4:00pm and 7:00pm at the Gateway Centre on Front Street. Local residents are invited to attend.

The Lowfields Residents Action Group have also published the Councils responses to a series of questions that they posed about construction plans.

The response reveals that initially all construction traffic will enter via Dijon Avenue. This may also have implications for those residents living in Lowfields Drive and Gale Lane who may live on the access route.

The Action Group are appealing for help in distributing leaflets in the area warning residents about the impending building work.

York Council reply to residents concerns 15th February 2019

 

£4.7 million contract awarded for Lincoln Court and Windsor House redevelopment

Lincoln Court

Notwithstanding the fact that the York Council still has an planning application outstanding for the redevelopment of Lincoln Court, it has gone ahead and awarded a construction contract covering the building, and a plan to establish a centre for disabled children on the Windsor House site.

The £4.7 million construction contract has been awarded to Sewell’s, the company who were involved in the PFI deal on the adjacent Hob Moor school development 15 years ago.

The number of tenders received for the work has not been revealed by the Council.

The completion date for the contract is 31st January 2021.

More on Lowfield plans – public “drop in” tomorrow

The Council says that it will hold a public “drop in” at Acomb Explore Library between 4:30pm and 7:00pm tomorrow (Thursday 7th February) to react to criticisms of its plans to start work on the Lowfields school development later in the month.

The scheduled work involves felling trees and removing hard surfaces.

Some residents commenting on the “Save Lowfield Playing Field” Facebook page say that they have not received notification of the event. Others say that a limited hours, mid-week, event prevents shift workers from attending

The letters that the Council say that they have delivered are reproduced below.

The plan to schedule tree felling works during February is surprising as the planning condition covering this work has not yet been approved.

Residents have until the middle of the month to record their objections with the expectation that local Councillors will “call in” the proposal for consideration by a planning committee. Details of the planning conditions application can be found via this link.  

Objections should be sent by Email to planning.comments@york.gov.uk quoting ref AOD/19/00001

Residents have commented that there are a lot of questions to be answered about the site preparation work, which is scheduled to be completed by May.

These include

  • working hours,
  • noise,
  • access routes for heavy lorries and
  • contractor parking arrangements.

The Action Group says that it expects the findings of an Ombudsman’s enquiry into allegations, that the Council misled residents and Sport England over their plans, is due to be published this week.

The Action Group may also be giving evidence to the Local Plan public inquiry which is due to start shortly

Trees to be felled shown in red

Housing by type and tenure

Lowfields and commune housing

The Lowfields Playing Field Action Group have recorded an objection to plans to build 19 “communal living” homes on the Lowfields site. Although the Action Group states that it has no “in principle” objection to the development of this part of the site (they are mainly concerned about the loss of the nearby sports field and green open space) they have highlighted several issues.

One of these was a “behind closed doors” decision – only just published by the Council – to sell off 0.7 acres of land, to the “Yorspace” developers, for only £300,000. That would mean a plot cost of around £15,000 – far below the market value. A typical housing plot is that part of the City is currently fetching in excess of £50,000.

The decision was taken by a Council officer.

The papers to support he decision are very thin on detail. The Council can only legally sell at below market value if it can demonstrate that a lower priced sale “will facilitate the improvement of economic, environmental or social well-being of the area“.

Apparently the official was convinced that the shared ownership model being proposed would ensure that a continuing supply of low cost housing would result from the development.

But will it?

The papers don’t suggest that those who will occupy the homes, are required to be registered on the housing waiting list. There is no maximum income level mentioned for shareholders. There doesn’t seem to be any requirement for the investors to be York citizens or even UK residents.

As the homes turn over, it is unclear how investors in later years will be selected.

Housing subsidies are a controversial area. A more straight forward option would simply to have built more Council houses on the site (The Council’s housing debt ceiling has recently been lifted by the government).

But this is clearly an area where full transparency is needed. This would ensure that innovative house funding and ownership models are encouraged, while safeguarding the taxpayer’s interests. Sadly it appears that no York Councillor has had the wit or wisdom to press for all the facts to be made public.

The Action Group has also highlighted concerns about parking provision, security and nature conservation issues on the plans which can be viewed by clicking here

Lowfields Action Group planning objection Feb 2019