Numbers sleeping rough in York still too high

A council report reveals that the authority missed its target for reducing the numbers of rough sleepers in the City. It had hoped to reduce the number to no more than 12 but at the test date last November 18 were found on the streets. This was the same number as a year previously. (NB. Some rough sleepers refused offers of assistance)

There was better news for other classes of homeless, with the number accepted for rehousing being 97 in the year an improvement on the target of 100.

In addition, preventative work was undertaken in 752 cases.

The main reasons for people becoming homeless were:

  1. Parental exclusion / family licence terminations remain a major cause of homelessness
  2. The number of relationship breakdowns due to violence
  3. Homelessness because of the loss of Assured Shorthold Tenancies remains high.

The housing waiting list remains stable with, at 31/3/17, 1596 York people registered with North Yorkshire Home Choice.

306 Council houses became vacant last year in the City. 53 additional properties were built for social rent.

The report reveals that there are now 7 refugee Syrian families living in private rented accommodation in the City

The Council says that one of its housing priorities is to prioritise a “reduction in rough sleeping, street drinking and begging (in conjunction with Community Safety Hub) and explore need for day facilities and night shelter in light of rising numbers of rough sleepers and associated street drinking and begging”.

Help with Universal Credit for York residents offered by York Council

 

Ahead of Universal Credit rolling out for even more residents in York from 12 July, the council says it will support residents who need digital assistance and budgeting support with Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is a new benefit, handled by the Department for Work and Pensions, which helps people on a low income or not in work, meet their living costs. It combines six benefits, including housing benefit and working tax credit, into a single monthly payment.

Currently Universal Credit is only available to single jobseekers in York but from 12th July parents and couples, including people who can’t work because of their health, living in the city and making a new claim will also receive it.

Universal Credit is one of the biggest ever changes to the benefit system and this may cause people to be worried about what will happen to their benefits. People who need assisted digital support or personal budget support should contact the council’s benefits service on 551556 or to visit www.york.gov.uk.”

There are several changes to previous benefits with Universal Credit, including:

  • ·        payments are made in arrears once at the end of the month, rather than being paid every week.
  • ·        payments will go straight into a claimant’s bank account. This means people may need to set up their own direct debits for expenses like rent if it was paid directly to their landlord under the old Housing Benefit system.

Residents who want to claim Universal Credit who are unable to use the internet or don’t understand how to make the claim can contact the council on 01904 551556 to ask for help through Assisted Digital Support (ADS).

People who would like to claim Universal Credit but are having trouble opening a bank account or managing their money can contact the council on 01904 552044 to ask for help through Personal Budgeting and Support (PBS). PBS can help with budgeting and advice on finding a bank account as Universal Credit cannot be paid into a Post Office card account.

The council has also teamed up with South Yorkshire Credit Union Ltd to give tailored advice which could include consolidating any repayments into a single, more manageable account at a lower, fixed interest rate, rather than resort to unregulated lenders or loan sharks.

Private or council tenants or mortgage holders are welcome to take advantage of the scheme which aims to help people budget and manage any debts.

For more information about the rollout of Universal Credit in York visit www.york.gov.uk

Latest Local Plan forecasts 20% growth in size of York by 2032

Papers published for a meeting taking place on 13th July say that an additional 19,000 homes should be built in the City before 2032.

Of the target of 953 dwellings per year, around 80 per annum (10%) have been added in order to make housing more “affordable”.

The papers are coy about where the additional 35,000 residents will come from.

Previous drafts have identified immigration as the main source of new labour, although this seems to be in conflict with the present governments polices. Around 2000 inward migrants have arrived in the City in each of the last five years.

A map of the proposed land allocations can be viewed by clicking here

Proposed land allocations – click to access

Hopes that the identification of more building land at threatened MOD sites (Fulford Road and Strensall) would reduce the pressure to build on green fields sites, like the Lowfields playing fields, have been dashed. Officials are recommending that the additional 1392 homes that could be built there over the next 15 years will simply add to the target housing  completion rate (satisfying the increased annual building target of 953 homes per year).

Average housing building rates in York have been about 700 pa over the last 5 years, although last year over 1100 homes were completed. Most homes built in York over the last decade have been erected on what are known, to the planng world, as “windfall sites”; meaning they were not identified as housing development land in local plans.

House prices and building rates

There are currently 3758 planning permissions for homes which remain unimplemented.

The Local Plan remains vague about how growth of the order proposed can be accommodated without serious -and very costly – improvements in infrastructure (notably, transport and healthcare).

Westfield

The new proposals have little direct impact for the Westfield area. None of the land between the existing built u-p area and the northern by pass is slated for development.

However officials have changed the proposals for the development of the playing fields at Lowfields. They are incorporating the plans favoured by some Councillors which would see the number of dwellings built increased from 137 to 162.

There were 10 objections to development of the Lowfields playing field (including Sport England) while only 3 representations were made in support of the Councils plans.

Extract from Council report covering Lowfields devlopment

 

 

 

Local Plan – September start for more consultation as MOD land set to be reserved for 1392 homes

 Labour set to oppose building more homes in York

Labour’s Local Plan proposals 2013

York councillors are to be presented with an update on progress with technical work on the Local Plan when they meet next week.

A report will be considered by the Local Plan Working Group on Monday 10 July before it is taken to the Executive on Thursday 13 July.

Councillors will be asked to approve the production of a comprehensive draft plan over the summer, ready for public consultation in September.

This will lead towards the publication of a final plan early next year.

Since the last major update, work has been ongoing to assess the impact of the release of three Ministry of Defence (MOD) sites in York which are to be sold off.

Councillors will be advised the MOD land at Imphal and Queen Elizabeth Barracks could be suitable for future housing development, potentially providing 769 and 623 dwellings respectively. Labour have already said that they oppose providing additional homes on these sites preferring to build on Green Belt land (see left)

The third MOD site, Towthorpe Lines, is not deemed suitable for housing but could be considered for employment use instead.

The Local Plan Working Group and Executive will consider issues associated with how land might be provided in the future for both new housing and employment development as well as setting a long-term green belt boundary for York.

Housing numbers. click to enlarge

The council has already consulted on the local plan ‘preferred sites’.  This happened for a ten-week period in 2016.  Over 2,250 responses were received from individuals, housing developers and stakeholders.

The next step is to produce a full draft plan.  Councillors will be asked to approve this.

It is expected that further consultation take place in September.  Pre-publicity would start in August when details of the proposals would be sent to residents in a special, York-wide, edition of the ‘Our City’ council newspaper.

The results of the consultation will be shared with the working group and Executive in January before a final version of the Local Plan is prepared.  It is anticipated this would be subject to final formal consultation in February 2018 and could be submitted to government in spring 2018.

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Lowfields playing field development – self builders sought

Lowfields plans

People wanting to build their own home are invited to drop in to West Offices between 6pm and 8pm on Tuesday 11 July to find out about opportunities at what the Council styles as its “Lowfield Green” development.

The self build site is adjacent to the controversial playing field development which is being opposed by local residents. The self build site backs onto Tudor Road

The Council says that later in July, neighbours of the Lowfield site will be invited to attend a drop-in session at Gateway Community Centre, Front Street, Acomb (Tuesday 18th July between 4.30 pm and 7.00 pm) to see how the proposals have developed since the public engagement last year and in advance of the submission of a planning application later this summer.

There will also be a display of the Lowfield Green proposals at Acomb Explore from 18th July 2017 and the master plan drawing will also be available online.

The Lowfields Action Group is planning to oppose any move to build on the playing fields,. They believe that the Council has misjudged the protection which is afforded by national legislation for green spaces of this sort.

The Council says it wants to encourage self-build housing and in 2016, councillors agreed to include space for self-build plots on the southern part of the former Lowfield School site in Acomb.

This development will include new housing, housing for over 55’s and a residential care home.

This self build event will showcase self-build housing and the planned plots at Lowfield Green.

An application for outline planning permission for self-build homes on this land will be made later this year and the plots will become available in 2018.

Some 90 people who have expressed an interest in creating their own home have been invited to the event to discuss how the council can help, and others are also welcome to attend. Besides conversations with council officers, representatives from YorSpace, the community-led housing group, will be there as well to discuss individual plans, ideas and to listen to views on what interested residents would like to see on their development. YorSpace plans to construct 19 homes with communal space and shared gardens on land set aside for this purpose at Lowfield Green.

 

 

York Council finally responds to to flat fire fears

Council reassures tenants of its fire safety approach

Fire exit in York flat block

The York Council has finally said that it will respond to some of the concerns raised following our audit of fire safety last weekend.  It has still not confirmed that it has abandoned its plan to move housing management to an “arms length company – of the type that was complicit in the Grenfell Tower disaster.

It has issued the following statement.

 “Following the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower, City of York Council is writing to its tenants and leaseholders living in its blocks of council homes.

The letter explains that the council has no high rise blocks – these are classified as having six or more storeys – and that none of its homes have aluminium composite material (ACM) type cladding which was used at Grenfell Towers. Also, the letter confirms that the council has an ongoing, rolling programme of fire risk assessments in place for all the council’s blocks with communal areas, including sheltered housing, hostels and older person’s accommodation.

The council installs hard-wired smoke detectors in tenants’ homes as part of the rolling Tenants’ Choice modernisation programme, and its gas engineers test detectors when they carry out annual gas service visits.

All sheltered housing schemes, older persons housing and hostels have communal fire alarm systems, and all vulnerable people living in them have personal emergency evacuation plans.

The letter recognises that there is always room for improvement, and that the council is currently developing a new fire safety policy for its housing stock which will reflect the most up-to-date fire safety practice.

As part of this policy work, the council will be reviewing how its existing fire safety procedures are managed across its housing stock. Any areas for development which are found will be dealt with urgently through an improvement plan. This will be overseen by Mary Weastell, the council’s chief executive and will be shared in more detail with all tenants when complete”.
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So how safe are Council flats in York?

We’ve been out checking today

Clearly a check needs to be made on those blocks which have not recently been redecorated to ensure notices are up to date.

Fire procedure notice

We think that the housing department needs to proactively communicate with tenants to reassure them following this weeks tragic news from London.

Combustible storage notice

York has relatively few high rise blocks but, even at those with 2 or 3 storeys, checks need to be made on alarm systems, lighting, fire doors and electrical safety.

The results of the latest Fire Service safety audit needs to be publicly displayed in each block

We think that tenants should be offered smoke alarms and free electrical equipment safety checks.

We hope that the council will ensure that both primary and secondary safety requirements are highlighted in any planning decisions made on new or modernised flat developments ( including conversions such as the one agreed for the former Nestle factory as recently as Thursday).

Fire exit direction sign

Finally the Council needs to reconsider whether it should be consulting on transferring its stock into the management of an “arms length company”. This weeks events point to the insensitivity of such arrangements with both tenants and Councillors frustrated at a lack of engagement by officials.

Better to refine the tried and tested Council housing model which at least allows tenants to exercise some control through the ballot box.

The present system is far from perfect but appears to be better than the other available options.

More help for elderly/disabled promised by York Council

The York Council will be reviewing the amount of help that it is able to give needy home owners in York when it meets on 19th June.

Recommendations are being made on how increased funding,  totalling  £1.1 million, from the governments “Better Care Fund” will be allocated. This may mean some changes to the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) system.

Up to £30,000 can be loaned or granted to qualifying homeowners to make changes to allow disabled people to continue to live in their own homes. The grants have been means tested in the past but that will no longer be the case fro smaller grants in the future.

Typically the grants are spent on:

  • Facilitating access to and from the dwelling or building by the disabled occupant
  • Making the dwelling or building safe for the disabled occupant
  • Access to the principal family room by the disabled occupant
  • Access to or providing a bedroom for the disabled occupant
  • Access to or providing a room containing a bath or shower for the disabled occupant or facilitating the use by the occupant of such a facility
  • Access to or providing a room containing a WC for the disabled occupant or facilitating the use by the occupant of such a facility
  • Access to or providing a room containing a wash hand basin for the disabled occupant or facilitating the use by the occupant of such a facility
  • Facilitating the preparation and cooking of food by the disabled person
  • Improving or providing a heating system for the disabled person
  • Facilitating the use of power, light or heat by the disabled person by altering same or providing additional means of control
  • Facilitating access & movement around the dwelling to enable the disabled person to provide care for someone.
  • Access to gardens

The scope of qualifying works is now being extended to include hazard remedies (such as excess cold), undertaking electrical repair works to a home where a new level access shower or lift is provided and undertaking an asbestos survey and removal of any asbestos

The Council is also simplifying the application process and hopes to reduce the time interval between applications for assistance being made and adaptations being completed.

A more comprehensive guide to the help available can be found by clicking here

 

 

 

Huge 258 apartment conversion planned for empty Nestle factory

Nearly 10 years after the Almond and Cream production blocks at the Nestle/Rowntree site fell empty, plans to turn the building into residential accommodation look set to get the go ahead next week.

The planning committee is being recommended to approve the conversion of the building and as action the erection of a nearby “convenience store”. There will be 37 x 1 bedroom, 205 x 2 bedroom and 16 x 3 bedroom apartments.

5 affordable units will be provided (off site)

Imaginative plans would see the Grade 2 listed library building converted into communal use.

The conversion will make it one of the largest brownfield residential development in the city and should reduce the pressure to build on greenfield sites.

However only 173 car parking spaces are being provided meaning many of the flat dwellers will have to forgo private car ownership (or use a car club). With visitor parking also required we do doubt whether this arrangement will work.

Council officials are suggesting that the first occupiers are offered the following measures/initiatives to promote and incentivise sustainable travel whilst also reducing dependence on the private car;

  • The choice to first occupiers of either a free bus pass or cycle/cycle accessories to the maximum value of £200
  • A contribution of £200 per residential unit to be used towards the provision of a car club vehicle at the development and incentives including free membership and drive time credits per residential unit.

The Council still talks about the vehicular link from Haxby Rd to Wigginton Rd – of which this projects access road would be part – as a public transport link. Many will feel that such a new link could provide more general congestion and pollution relief for the area.

Nevertheless, it presents a bold move forward in addressing the demand for new housing in the City and one that we hope planners will grasp