Council snubbed by government in York Central funding deal

Illustrative York Central Masterplan approved in 2019

The council’s “continued role” in unlocking a new generation of jobs, homes and cultural facilities in the York Central site will be considered by the Executive next Thursday, 22 April.

Funding to complete infrastructure works at the York central site (located behind the railway station) is being made direct to the landowners – led by Homes England – by the government.

It means that the Council’s role will be peripheral despite many millions having already been invested in the project. That may be good news for taxpayers who have seen projects like the Community Stadium and Guildhall refurbishment delayed and go over budget in recent years.

Now contract supervision and liability will rest mainly with Homes England.

Transparency isn’t a strong point for any of the “partners” involved in the York Central project (or the current York Council for that matter). We doubt if engagement will improve under the new governance arrangements.

The Council does remain the planning authority although that role could be undermined as they pursue “Enterprise Zone” status for the project. Planning rules are lax in such areas.

Council report April 2021

The Council is still set to spend nearly £50 million on the project and is dependent on the additional business rate income from Enterprise Zone new businesses to repay its borrowing.

The report being considered next week skates over the risks of this approach,. Those risks appear to have increased since the pandemic with office based developments likely to be less attractive for a while at least.

There are a number of significant planning issues still to be resolved.

These include the (bizarre) suggestion for making the Leeman Road tunnel one way, the absence of an attractive pedestrian/cycle access from the Wilton Rise area and continuing doubts about severing the existing Leeman Road footpath link near the Railway Museum

Last summer Labour Councillors even tried to ditch the project.

The Council has issued the following statement,

“Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, the council has worked with York Central partners Network Rail, Homes England and National Railway Museum to maintain momentum and progress on the 42 hectare York Central site.

After partners finalised the £155 million funding, secured planning permission and started work on the infrastructure to unlock the site, which will deliver up to 2,500 homes and space for up to 6,500 jobs.

Executive will be asked to approve changes to the way the project will be delivered and managed.

This includes the main grant holder, Homes England, taking on the delivery of the bridges, footways, cycleways, roads and other infrastructure to open up the site.

The council will also receive £3.86 million from the government grant to cover the costs incurred advancing the infrastructure project”.

Shoppers returning as York City centre reopens

Restrictions on shops, hairdressers and outside catering eased today. Sunshine helped to attract a good number of visitors to the City centre.

Join the conversation about Acomb Front Street’s future

Businesses, residents and visitors are being asked what they love and what they’d like to change about Acomb’s Front Street.

The consultation is the much delayed opportunity to help with the regeneration of the Front Street area.

Fruit stall

The council committed to a £50,000 investment in Front Street, one of the city’s most important shopping areas, before the pandemic brought about even larger challenges to high streets across the UK.

Acomb’s Front Street plays a vital role in the community and the wider city, and is home to many established and well-loved local independent retailers and community spaces. It has a lower than national average proportion of empty units, with occupancy rates bucking the UK trend by increasing significantly in the last three years.

The council is now asking for views which will help to keep Front Street at the heart Acomb’s economy and community.

The Council says that last year “we postponed the survey because of Covid-19. Your views in the survey will be used to create a ‘brief’ of community ideas which we can check with local people before the council executive decides what improvements to make”.

500 residents have already had a new COVID-secure knock on their door from IdB, a market research company working with the council.  The council is working alongside IdB to ask for feedback and ideas from a diverse and representative cross section of Acomb residents. The surveys will be dropped with residents in a sterile bag, along with gloves, an antiviral wipe and a return bag. The market researcher will then return later that day to collect the questionnaire.

Residents can also get involved by:

Coronavirus York updates; 31st March 2021

Deaths

The ONS have updated their weekly monitor of the number of deaths among York residents from COVID-19.

During the week ending 19th March 2021 two residents lost their lives. Both were hospital patients.

There were no deaths in care homes.

No further deaths have been announced by the York Hospital Trust today.

It is now two weeks since the last hospital fatality in York

Test results

Five additional positive test results have been announced today. That brings the total up to 12,198

Citywide case numbers have fallen from 67 to 63 today. There may be a small rise tomorrow before numbers are expected to fall to a 2021 low on Saturday

The infection rate per 100k population figure has fallen to 29.91 today. There now appears to be a real possibility – for the first time in 2 weeks – that a downward trend in infection rates will resume over the Easter period.

For the first time in over a week, infection rates have fallen today at City, county, regional and national levels.

Neighbourhoods

16 York neighbourhoods now each have fewer than 3 cases

There has been a modest increase in infection numbers in the Holgate and Westfield neighbourhoods

Vaccinations

As at 28 March, 91,467 people in York had received their first dose of the vaccine, an estimated 52.6% of the adult population.

9,222 people have received both doses of the vaccine, accounting for an estimated 5.3% of the adult population.

For the first time yesterday at a national level, more people received their second dose than received their first dose of vaccine.

Tests

4,399 people in York had PCR tests during the week ending 26th March 2021

Of these, 1.6% were positive. That is an improvement on yesterdays figure of 1.8%

858 “lateral flow” tests were also carried out on 30th March 2021

Hospitals

There has been a further drop in the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 by the York Hospital Trust

What to do over Easter

This is what the Council is recommending for the Easter holidays. The weather is expected to become cooler and most lockdown RESTRICTIONS ARE STILL IN PLACE

Find more ideas for things to do at home/virtually on the Shine website – https://www.yor-ok.org.uk/young-people/shine-new.htm

Council updates businesses on the restart grant payments

Restart Grants will start being paid to York businesses from w/c 12th April after the government confirmed it would transfer money to local authorities after the Easter weekend.

The council continues to prioritise paying government grants into the bank accounts of qualifying businesses as quickly as possible.

April sees the next phase of grant payments with restart grants being paid to non-essential retail, hospitality, accommodation and leisure businesses that are liable for business rates. Businesses that have already qualified for payments from other grant programmes do not need to reapply, and will automatically be paid if they are eligible.

New businesses that started trading between 5 January and 1 April may qualify for restart grants. They can apply through the claim form on the council website, which will be available from Monday 12 April.

Eligible business who have not yet applied for Additional Restriction Grant (ARG) funding must do so before 31 March 2021. See details of available business grants and check if you’re eligible online. After this date businesses will not be able to apply for the ARG grant, but those who have already qualified will continue to receive payments from April onwards in line with roadmap periods.

All qualifying businesses liable for business rates will continue to benefit from business rates relief as previously announced in the March Budget.

Councillor Nigel Ayre, executive member for finance and performance said:

Throughout the pandemic we have prioritised keeping businesses as up to date on the process as we can and in getting payments to them as quickly as possible.

“We are now over a year on since the first lockdown and it has been an incredibly challenging year for us all. We continue to be incredibly grateful to the business community for their understanding and support and to our council staff who are working tirelessly to get each payment into the bank accounts of businesses as soon as possible. We expect these payments to be made from 12 April but as ever will keep businesses updated.”

Councillor Andrew Waller, executive member for the economy and strategic planning said:

Many businesses are seeking to re-open as safely as possible, and the council is committed to supporting local businesses through this process.

“The finance team is working hard to ensure that as soon as Government funding is received, payments are made to business’ accounts. We know that the quick payment of these grants is essential for eligible businesses. This is why I have recently written to the Secretary of State to urge for the current system to be streamlined to ensure businesses receive payments as quickly as possible.”

“We continue to update our website with the latest information and eligibility criteria for certain support online.

“Any businesses who have fallen through the cracks of government support please get in touch with us as soon as possible on email: economicgrowth@york.gov.uk.”

Shielding lifts after 1 April as infection rates fall

Clinically extremely vulnerable people in York are being reassured that help is still to hand as, from Thursday 1 April shielding will stop, as virus infection rates continue to fall.

Affected residents will be getting updated guidance from the Government asking them to take extra precautions to reduce their risk of infection from Covid-19. These set out practical steps to reduce the risk of catching the virus, including continuing to maintain strict social distancing and to keep overall social contacts at low levels, such as working from home where possible.

The move follows the first dose vaccination of more than 9 in 10 clinically extremely vulnerable people as well as a steady decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations for the last few weeks. People aged 16 or older who have been advised they are clinically extremely vulnerable and who haven’t had their first vaccination should book it via the NHS website. Please take up the second dose of the vaccine when it is offered to further increase your level of protection.

York’s community hubs and the network of food deliverers will continue to offer support. Anyone already registered for priority access to supermarket delivery slots will to be able to access them until 21 June 2021.

Cllr Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said:

Shielding helps safeguard those who are the most clinically vulnerable in our communities. We recognise how difficult this period has been for so many and the impact it has had on people’s wellbeing.

“Being able to lift shielding is testament to the efforts of everyone in the city in stopping the spread of the virus. It means people can start thinking about easing up on the more rigid guidelines and begin going out more. To keep York open and the people we love safe, please continue to observe hands, face, space.

“We are still here to help. Our community hubs can support anyone who needs it, whether to talk to someone or to collect essentials. Please call 01904 551550 or email covid19help@york.gov.uk if you need support.”

Sharon Stoltz, Director of Public Health at City of York Council, said:

Thank you to everyone who has shielded or has helped someone who is shielding: we know how challenging and worrying this period has been for individuals and families.

“Whilst this is another positive step in the road to normal we all still need to be careful. If you have been shielding, please continue to take extra precautions after 1 April to keep yourself as safe as possible.

“No vaccine is 100% effective. Even if you have had both doses, there is still no absolute guarantee that you will not become ill from Covid-19, so please remember hands, face, space.”

The Romans are leaving

See the source image

The Councils planning committee have rejected plans to establish a Roman visitor attraction on the lower floor of a block of flats on Rougier Street. The building would have replaced the (rather less than iconic) “Northern House” 60’s office block.

Opponents of the scheme cited the building’s size and the lack of affordable housing units to justify their decision.

The developers now have the options of appealing against the decision, submitting fresh plans or walking away from the City.

Public asked to comment on priorities for Make It York

Make it York web site

Businesses, residents and stakeholders are being asked to share their thoughts on the future priorities of Make It York.

City of York Council are asking businesses, stakeholders and residents to share their thoughts on how Make It York can best work for the city, whilst the future priorities for the organisation are being considered.

The council-owned organisation carries out destination management and marketing functions on behalf of the city, including tourism, inward investment, business support, culture, events and city centre management.

The council are asking people to share their views through their online survey, which can be accessed online from 19 February until 15 March.

With the future priorities of Make It York currently taking shape, councillors will be asked to approve  a finalised Service Level Agreement (SLA) once the feedback from the consultation and stakeholders has been assessed. The Council’s Executive approved the outline terms of an new contract (SLA) for the period of 2021-24 at a public meeting on 11th February 2021.

Cllr Andrew Waller, Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning, said:

We are very keen to hear from businesses and residents across York about how they think Make It York can best support the city, especially with a consideration of economic development functions, the city centre and areas outside of the city walls, the visitor economy and York’s cultural offering.

“We are at a critical  moment where the future direction and priorities for Make It York are to be set, and we want the businesses and people of York to play a key role in deciding the way forward.”

Millennium Green improvements in next phase of York Central

A map shows the marked areas where benches and decking will be installed as part of the next phase of the York Central development.
The next phase of York Central plans

Millennium Green will receive the first in a series of major improvements as part of the York Central infrastructure works starting on site next week.

Clearance works started last month across the 42 hectare brownfield site, which will provide up to 2500 new homes; up to 6500 jobs as well as vastly improved visitor access experience at the National Railway Museum.

City of York Council and contractors, John Sisk and Son, are delivering letters to neighbouring residents giving full details of the latest works on both Millennium Green and adjacent to Bishopfields Drive. The works include:

Millennium Green

  • Clearing vegetation and a small number of trees
  • Improving around 300m of footpath
  • A new timber viewing platform and renewal works on the pond
  • 3 new benches
  • Improvements to the southern culvert wall and footpath including replacements steps, and handrail
  • New fence along the eastern boundary
  • Temporary fencing and flooring to protect the Millennium Green oak and mosaic throughout the works

Land adjacent to Bishopfields Drive

  • Removing a small area of treeline essential to allow the infrastructure works, while protecting remaining trees from the works. 

The Millennium Green’s lease included a ‘take-back’ option for a small area of land in the north wet to allow the York Central regeneration. 

Following consultation with local residents in 2018, the Trust agreed a package which includes a license to use some land during construction, the landscaping of this land when the access road is finished, the provision of alternative land to replace the area taken back and a payment of £375,000 to the Trust to secure its future and fund an ongoing maintenance programme.

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

York Central remains one of the most important and attractive regeneration sites in the country and is an opportunity that many other towns and cities in the UK would envy. 

“At the same time as making progress to provide the jobs and houses the city needs, we want to protect and enhance our city’s green spaces.  Trees are only being removed where absolutely essential, and will be more than replaced by the 300 mature trees planted during the next phases of infrastructure works. York Central will also include the largest park in the city for 100 years and areas to encourage biodiversity,  while the council will plant 50,000 trees in York by 2023.

“The Council will continue to working closely with John Sisk and Sons to limit any disruption to neighbouring residents and businesses, and to keep them informed of any planned works.  As ever, we thank all local residents and businesses for their patience.”

All the work has been approved as part of the planning approval on the site.

York Central is being delivered in partnership by Network Rail, Homes England, National Railway Museum and City of York Council. Homes England and Network Rail have supported the development of the site through land acquisition and master planning, and they will now oversee the infrastructure projects.

John Sisk and Son have been appointed as lead contractor for these site clearance works.

This infrastructure work is part of a wider £155m funding pot secured by the York Central Partnership to deliver infrastructure to open up the site for development.

This includes:

£77.1m funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

£23.5m of a total of £37.2m from the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund and Leeds City Region Growth Deal, which will also fund the ambitious plans to transform the front of the railway station.

The West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund has been part-funded through the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal, a £1 billion package of Government funding to drive growth and job creation across the Leeds City Region.

The aim is to create around 20,000 new jobs and add £2.4 billion a year to the economy by the mid-2030s.
On top of a £6m Local Growth Fund contribution, from the York and North Yorkshire LEP, a further £35m has been secured to be repaid using retained business rates from the York Central Enterprise Zone.

York well set to bounce back from pandemic

The latest Centre for Cities report gives some hope for York as the City ponders what the post pandemic world might bring for it.

York has a well educated workforce with low pollution levels.

Exam results are the best of any City nationwide.

The City has a relatively low claimant count.

On the other hand a surprisingly low percent of businesses are connected to high speed data networks and many existing jobs are in the public sector.

Click to view data

You can access the full report by clicking here

Bleak mid winter picture for west York

A report on how York is fairing during the pandemic paints a mixed picture.

Unemployment numbers have soared to over 5000 with the highest percentage to be found in the Westfield ward where 540 (6.1%) are now out of work.

Front Street regeneration delays

This includes 120 young people aged between 16 and 24.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this has led to several attempts to establish new businesses in the area

There is a major disappointment for the Front Street area where the much-anticipated economic regeneration review has been delayed again. The recent lockdown is blamed.

 It seems that the proposals aimed at revitalising the area will not now be available until next summer.

It is another reverse for the economically poorest part of the City, which has seen many formal and informal leisure facilities close in recent years.  

Background figures tracking the trend in economic activity in the City can be founds by clicking here

Figures for the City’s “visitor economy” can be found here click

For tourist numbers click here

“Make it York” tourist organisation heading for £1 million loss.

Faces closure within weeks unless bail out agree by York Council

A report to a York Council meetings shows itsMake it York subsidiary could post a £1.2 million loss during the present financial year.

It means that the Directors of the, wholly Council owned, tourist business could be forced to wind up the organisation within the next few weeks.

The Council is being asked to step in and provide a substantial financial subsidy. The proposals include plans to;

  1. Waive the requirement for MIY to make a revenue return to the council in 20/21 in respect of trading activity across the city centre
  2. Defer the first two quarters rent due from MIY in 20/21 for use of premises on Museum Street and Silver Street offices
  3. A loan facility from the council of £300k to be accessed by MIY only if necessary
  4. provide a letter of guarantee to MIY with access to a maximum of £1m over the next 2 years should it be required.

MIY normally produces a net income to the Council of around £35,000. The company is responsible for tourist information services in the City, runs the Shambles market, organises special events like the Christmas Fair (cancelled this year) and promotes the City as a business destination.

Private sector membership of the organisation has collapsed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic with the hospitality industry being one of the hardest hit. Redundancies at MIY are expected.

The immediate hit on the Councils budget will be the loss of income from the Shambles market. This will be in the order of £474,000. That figure may grow substantially if the organisations recovery plan is not successful during the next few years.

MIY is the second tourist organisation to seek taxpayers help. The Council agreed to provide a further £55,000 subsidy for Welcome to Yorkshire at its last meeting.

MIY balance sheet (click)