The Romans are leaving

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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)

£55,378 York grant to “Welcome to Yorkshire”

Never any worries about Tour funding, tourism chief insists | Yorkshire Post

It looks like the York Council will pay the beleaguered “Welcome to Yorkshire” (WTY) tourism body over £55,000.

The controversy wracked regional body has lost a lot of subscriber income recently as a result of the impact of the pandemic.

Following a scandal about profligate spending, the organisation reformed last year and took on a Wakefield Labour politician as its chairman.

Ironically the Wakefield Council, along with Hull, is now refusing to pick up its share of the rescue package.

The reason for some scepticism is clear.

York businesses benefit from marketing campaigns aimed at getting more tourists to visit the region. The City is an obvious first port of call for foreign visitors in normal times.

The visitor economy will need help to get back on its feet over the next year or two. Visit York (part of Make it York) leads for the City on tourist promotion. Relations in the past with WTY have been strained with little evidence of coordination.

Improvements are planned and a Service Level Agreement has been published (click).

What the SLA lacks are measurable outcomes at street, shop, bar, attraction and bed occupancy level. This deficiency is shared in the rather woolly documentation which guides the Council’s, similarly uneasy, relationship with Make it York.

Make it York are expected to make a bid for additional funding at a Council executive meeting in December

WTY should cut back on its sponsorship activities. Tagging horse race meetings, cycle races, garden exhibitions, award dinners etc may be OK in good economic times, but not today.

It should focus on its core advertising programme and let local tourist bodies take the lead in attraction planning.

The most successful organisations are locally rooted and driven by committed, experienced leaders.

In York organisations like the BID have proved what can be done with relatively modest resources and good communications.

WTY could learn from them.

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.

Acomb Front Street store set to close?

It looks like the popular Peacocks store on Front Street will shortly be closing.

Peacocks is part of a group which includes The Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Jaeger. It was reported last week that the group was in financial difficulties.

So far, shops in the Front Street area have generally managed to survive quite well the pandemic restrictions, with one long term empty property, near Morrisons, set to reopen shortly.

There was, however, some criticism of the authorities when it was revealed recently that a consultant, appointed to report on the remodelling and future marketing of the area nearly 12 months ago, had not yet started work.

A suggestion that, for one or two days each week, the pedestrian restrictions should be eased to allow vehicular access for disabled shoppers, was also ignored.

Still fairly busy in York

Despite growing COVID restrictions and the return to school, parts of central York were still fairly busy today.

The Food Festival has started and the first scooter being ridden in the pedestrian area was spotted.