Transport plan for Lowfields

As reported below, a transport plan for the new Lowfields development has now been published.

In many ways, it is unexceptional.

A commentary on the proposals can be found on the Lowfields residents web site. https://www.facebook.com/LowfieldsActionGroup/posts/1905016099639770

One of the major issues with the development is the length of time that builders will be on the site (and adjacent roads). Residents were assured that 3 years would be the maximum.

That now looks to be very optimistic.

Nothing more has been heard of the Communal housing scheme (Yorspace). It is not even clear whether they have completed the purchase of their plot.

The Council itself is only now seeking tenders for the sheltered elderly persons accommodation. So that element is effectively 18 months behind schedule.

And, of course, there is still no word on the promised community facilities. Residents were delays rightly sceptical about whether the Health Centre and police station would ever materilise. It seems increasingly unlikely that they ever will.

It is significant that the Councils latest capital budget update report makes no direct reference to Lowfields. It simply shows that, of the total £24 million cost of building the houses, £16.5 million will be spent before then end of March 2021.

We think this is highly unlikely.

Tender issued for extra care housing at Lowfield Green

City of York Council says it is seeking a specialist to build and operate a new development at Lowfield Green. The council is planning a new independent living scheme with extra care. People who live there will have on-site support and, when and where it is needed, carers will be available to visit the residents in their own homes.

It is over 10 years since a similar proposal to construct a older persons village on the site of the former Lowfields school buildings was first discussed.

Planned Lowfields Care Village 2010

Since then, the Council has been hopelessly indecisive about how such an ambition might be fulfilled.

It remains to be seen whether any social landlords will have the ability to fund older persons accommodation as the effects of the pandemic remain unclear.

There is an area reserved for housing with extra care on the site. This will be in addition to Lowfield Green’s 18 apartments for people aged over 55 and its 26 bungalows.

The tender is proposing a development with a minimum of 40 one- and two-bedroom apartments where residents can access on-site 24-hour care if needed.

The Council says that the delivery of the scheme must be by a Registered Social Landlord (RSL). and that “a number have already expressed an interest in the opportunity”. The care provider will be registered with the Carer Quality Commission (CQC) as ‘Support in Your Own Home’ and graded as ‘Good’ or above.

The tender document is now live, and developers and operators are invited to consider and apply to construct and operate an extra care housing development.

For more detail, please go to www.yortender.co.uk and search for tender reference: DN518540. The closing date for selection questionnaire (SQ) submissions is 22 February 2021 at 12 noon.

A Local Plan for York – Mission Impossible?

UPDATE – New representations have now been made by the York Council to the Planning Inspector. They can be viewed by clicking here

The latest exchange of correspondence, between planning inspectors appointed by the government and the City of York Council, on the proposed “Local Plan” simply serves to highlight how difficult it is to produce a robust proposal which can stand the test of time.

Controversial plan was to have been determined in February 2019.

The latest exchange concerns apparent lack of justification for the Green Belt boundaries. These heavily influence the size of the area allocated for new housing in the City.

It is not a new argument.

It is nearly 20 years since York embarked on an attempt to update its strategic plan. It came close to success in 2011 when a proposal was ready to be sent off to the planning inspectorate.

Of the five drafts that have seen the light of day, this was perhaps the one which achieved the broadest consensus. It envisaged building an additional 575 homes in the City each year for 30 years

In the main it was some developers and the political fringe who objected to it.

 A change of political control saw an inexperienced Labour administration adopt a new proposal which would have seen the City increase in size by 25%. The stance contributed to them being booted out of office 4 years later.

Another attempt was made but was again jeopardised by the unexpected (in this case the decision to close barracks in the City).

It would be 2019 before the revised plan was ready to be submitted.

It still included a higher growth rate for housing than was necessary to sustain the existing City. It anticipated large amounts of “inward migration” to fill the extra jobs and homes that were envisaged. But again, changing government policies, unstable population growth forecasts and then coronavirus combined to halt the final “examination in public” part of the process.

Now the inspector wants the Council to withdraw its proposals and start again. That would mean more delay, plus expenditure of another £x million for taxpayers with no guarantee that a plan would be approved at the end of the process.

Planning inspectors are paid a fee of around £1000 a day! Some may feel that they have a vested interest in prevarication

The Council has opted to try to provide more information to move things forward.

There are vested interests at work for whom delays are an advantage.  

Lack of a strategic blueprint means that developers can chance their arm by submitting planning applications on wholly unsuitable sites in the Green Belt. Schemes at Moor Lane and Boroughbridge Road are recent examples.

Existing York Green Belt boundaries.

Getting a Local Plan adopted is pretty much impossible given the current high level of central government interference.

The City needs to be able to get on and determine its own future. The ballot box provides a safety net against the adoption of extreme policies.

What will happen, before the detached hand of a North Yorkshire Mayor tries to seize the reins of power, remains to be seen.

Hopefully the Council and the planning inspector will now find a way to move forward more quickly.

Support for city’s rough sleepers

Given current weather conditions it is important that no one has to sleep “rough” in the City

The Council has issued the following statement;

Staff from the council and partners, including the Salvation Army, continue to work diligently to make sure nobody has to sleep rough in York.

Anyone at risk of sleeping rough continues to be offered accommodation during lockdown with covid safe measures in place. Tailored support is provided to help residents to stay safe as well as supporting their mental and physical health.

Besides emergency beds in council and partner accommodation, people are also being supported into stable more secure accommodation. As with all residents, we are sharing the important Government advice to stay home and protect lives to help reduce the infection rate in our city.

Anyone worried about losing their home should contact the council as soon as they’re starting to struggle with rent or as soon as homelessness is a possibility. Please call 01904 554500 or visit our website

Rough Sleeper services are operating in the usual way: for a bed, please go to 63, Lawrence Street or call 01904 416562.

Cllr Denise Craghill, Executive Member for Housing and Safer Communities, said:

We’ve been working hard to ensure everyone is in. Our official rough sleeper count is three. No one needs to sleep out we have the beds and tailored support to help people into safer, more secure lives.

“If you see someone sleeping outside, the chances are we already know about them and are working with them. So please encourage them to go to the Lawrence St early help team. Or, call Streetlink on 0300 5000 914 who will alert our local teams to go to them to offer a bed and support.”

More information on the support available from the council and partners across the city for people sleeping rough, please visit our website.COMMENT ON THIS PAGE

Plan to make York Council houses more energy efficient

A strategic and comprehensive plan to improve the energy efficiency of council homes in York is being proposed.

These proposals will improve the quality of residents’ lives, tackle fuel poverty and contribute to the city achieving carbon neutral status by 2030.

Ongoing works to install insulation and fuel efficiency works in York’s 7,500 council homes has meant two thirds of them have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of C or above – recognised by the Government as the minimum standard which all homes should aim to achieve in the future. The remaining homes require more complex works due to their non-standard construction in order to bring them up to EPC C levels. Retrofit improvements such as fitting internal or external insulation and ground source heat pumps will ensure the homes are warmer and more affordable to heat.

A report recommends that an approved budget of £1m is allocated to retrofitting the first phase of homes, with works starting in summer 2021. These works will bring around 60 poorer-performing homes up to an EPC C rating. Alongside this initial programme of works, a longer term approach to retrofit more homes over the medium and longer term will be developed. One third of all the city’s carbon emissions come from domestic buildings, therefore it is important that a strategy is developed to ensure retrofit works are delivered across the city.

To help deliver these energy saving and carbon reduction measures, the council will develop a strategy for upskilling local tradespeople to undertake retrofit works to meet the growing demand.

Building up a supply chain of retrofit contractors would dovetail with the council’s Economic Strategy and support new jobs.

Some good news in York homeless report

Image result for homeless images

Despite the COVID crisis, the feared upturn in “rough sleeping” in York has so far not materialised.

A report to a meeting next week says, “As part of the response to COVID-19, the team worked hard to ensure everyone had a place to sleep which was safe and minimised the risk of infection. This included utilising otherwise empty hotel accommodation which was supported by funding from central government. These relationships remain in place and can be utilised if needed as part of our winter response”.  

“Any person sleeping rough is one too many. However, we continue to make great progress in reducing the number of official rough sleepers. The number of rough sleepers at the last official count was 3, down from 7 the previous year”.

Ten emergency beds are available during the current winter period. This is down from last years total of 29 because of the need to maintain social distancing. The Council says it can bring back into use some of its empty property if necessary (Ordnance Lane, Holgate Road, Crombie House etc)

The main groups for whom the Council has provided letting priority are households with children and those with mental health issues. So far this year 39 households have fallen into those categories.

Most homerless presentations result from relations or friends no longer being willing to accommodate the individuals concerned. This has accounted for 302 presentations so far this year.

Other reasons for homelessness included the end of private tenancies (82), relationship breakdown 122), eviction from supported housing (22) and those leaving institutions (38).

The report presents a picture of officials working hard in a difficult area which has been further complicated by COVID.

The report doesn’t comment on the large number of empty council houses and which could contribute to a speedy reduction in the numbers living in temporary accommodation.  It also remains unclear why so many other Council properties, like former care homes, have been left empty for – in some cases – several years.

Still too many empty Council houses in York

Greater problems may be on the horizon. Higher unemployment and the end to protection from eviction for private sector tenants could see a significant increase in homelessness in the City.

In some estates an increase in Anti Social Behaviour could eventually lead to increased evictions with an unknown “knock on” effect.

So still a lot to do to get all aspects of the City’s  housing services back to an acceptable standard.

Coronavirus York updates; 15th November 2020

Deaths and test results

TWO more deaths at the York Hospital Trust announced today. One occurred on Friday and the other yesterday. That brings the cumulative second wave fatality total, at the York and Scarborough hospitals, to 42.

FIFTY TWO (52) addition positive test results announced today bringing the cumulative total for the City to 4505

The infection rate in the City is now more stable

At neighbourhood level it is very much a case of a “tale of two City’s”. Most areas are stable and remain below the national infection rate average.

Others including Heslington, Fulford Road, Wigginton, Holgate Eat and Huntington have begun to trend upwards. Based on previous experience such fluctuations are to be expected albeit these areas will require careful monitoring.

York Central

Residents will wake up this morning to discover that the York central development has passed another milestone. It now has the necessary planning permissions to permit a start to be made on site.

A Public Inquiry will still be held to determine whether Leeman Road near the Railway Museum can be stopped up.

Overall the development should provide a welcome boost for jobs and homes in the City.

The Council has, however, failed to recognise the importance of “first impressions” and the practicalities of accessing the site by various modes of transport.

The proposed one way system through the Leeman Road tunnel is ridiculous. It means more congestion and a cycle ride which will be both awkward and – in wet weather – unnecessarily unpleasant.

The access from Wilton Rise is hopeless for all but the fittest cyclists and is totally inaccessible for the disabled. The promised new cycle bridge from Chancery Rise should have been incorporated in the latest planning application but no Councillor seems to have had the guts to highlight the issue.

So off to a bad start then.

Lets hope the developers come up with some solutions to these issues before the new properties are occupied.

Housing management shambles in York

Standards seem to be slipping in the social housing sector in York with one JRHT tenant seeking crowd funding to repair damage caused by a leaking pipe.

The incident occurred on the Trusts flagship Derwenthorpe estate where the district heating system has proved to be problematic.

Crowd funding appeal following flooding damage

One local source says that the absence of isolating valves at some individual properties means that flooding problems have occurred which might have been avoided.

The incident perhaps points up a potential negative side for those in the forefront of adopting new technologies.

The York Council regards itself as an innovator and is spending huge sums on building “green” homes. While some features (insulation, solar power) are well established and beneficial, others have not been tested for long term durability in varying climatic conditions.

The rather wobbly logic behind the programme might in part be traced to a lack of professional leadership. The Council has not had anyone in charge of its housing operations since the beginning of the year.

A recent appointee to the post gave backword and it remains unclear where responsibility now lies for the day to day management of York’s 8000 strong council housing portfolio.

There are are growing problems in some estates.

In the Foxwood area, seven homes are currently empty. One bungalow was vacated by an older person when they went into a care home 3 years ago. The property has still not been relet even on a temporary basis.

Another bungalow has been undergoing repairs since it was vacated 9 months ago.

Bungalow empty for over 9 months

It also appears that the mistake made last year, of introducing a reactive cleansing service, has reappeared.

During the last lockdown the older “barrowman” approach was reintroduced . Cleaners were responsible for tidying a specific geographical area. There were notable improvements in cleanliness standards.

That system has now apparently been scrapped, with cleaners now only reacting to reports of issues.

Some estate manager posts are unfilled and the Council has failed to update its register of garages which are available to rent.

All in all, an area of concern.

House building moving ahead in Westfield

Work on two house building sites in the Westfield area is continuing despite the problems with COVID and, more recently, wet weather.

On Gale Lane the much delayed redevelopment of a site opposite the end of Cornlands Road is now underway. The site had been the subject of several different planning applications over the years.

61A Gale Lane

Elsewhere a further infill development is underway on Green Lane

Green Lane

The Green Lane site is close to the location of the bungalows which are due to be built on the Lowfields Site

Work on building bungalows on the Lowfields site has started.
The site reserved for “Yorspace” communal housing remains unoccupied.