Better news for York – Selby cycle path users

Major resurfacing works on the Naburn to Riccall section of the cycle path are expected to take place later in the year.

The cycle path managers SUSTRANS have applied for a government grant which – if approved by Ministers in May – would see large sections of the path levelled.

The surface has been severely damaged by tree roots in recent years. SUSTRANs have already been removing some of the trees during the winter. The trees are self-seeded and became established too close to the path.

There is a hope that the resurfacing contract will include the provision of root protection guards.

 SUSTRANS also have funding to repair the path alongside the A64 subject to agreeing the details with Highways England.

SUSTRANS say that parts of the path may have to be closed while the resurfacing work takes place.

There is still no news about the promised safety improvements on the section of path from Tadcaster Road (London Bridge) to the A64 southern by-pass.

This section is the maintenance responsibility of the City of York Council.

The developers of the adjacent football club pavilion agreed some 3 years ago to invest in the path as part of their works.

With roads and footpaths to the pavilion now approaching completion, we expect the York Council to announce its proposals and timetable  for improvements to the adjacent cycle route.

Escrick Sidings

Not such good news at Escrick where the landowners have completed the levelling of the area.

The informal picnic area has been damaged in the process (albeit revealing a disappointing amount of accumulated litter!) .

SUSTRANs say that they have received no communication from the owners of the land (believed to be a local building firm). The site falls within the boundaries of the Selby District Council.

Community Stadium cost to taxpayers – £1.6 million a year.

A response to a Freedom of Information request has made the ongoing costs of running the Community Stadium clearer.

The cost of the project has escalated over the years. The scheme, in 2011, was intended to be self funding. The stadium construction would have been paid for by the developer of the neighbouring retail centre. A £16 million budget was set aside as part of a section 106 agreement.

However, it became clear in February 2021 that the Council would in addition have to borrow £16.5 million to fund the completion of the project.

The Council has made what is known as a “minimum revenue provision” (MRP) in its revenue budget of around 7% to cover interest and principal repayments on the borrowing.

This represents an annual liability of around £1.2 million.

To this must be added the running costs.

So the cost to Council taxpayers will be around £1.6 million in total this year. Most of the costs will be ongoing. By way of comparison, the contract for running all York’s libraries is £2.4 million a year.

The FOI response makes it clear that the budget does not make any provision for compensatory payments to GLL to make up for lost income during the lockdown. In other parts of the country COVID grants and loans to leisure contractors have been controversial. click

Of course, GLL do have liabilities. The Yearsley swimming pool, as a stand alone facility, has always been subsidised. The pool continues to provide a unique facility for fitness swimmers and must be sustained.

But elsewhere in the City the organisation has been criticised for losing contact with the needs of local communities. High admission charges at Energise – which lies in the middle of one of the poorest York neighbourhoods – remain an barrier for some potential users.

The Council seems to have left itself with insufficient opportunities to attract additional income from the stadium complex to help offset its investment and borrowing costs.

The project should be subject to an independent review.

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:

Acomb Moor footpath problems continue

Its over 4 months since Councillors told residents that a blocked Public Right of Way (PROW) would be reopened . The access to Acomb Moor from Foxwood Lane had been via a stile for over 20 years.

It gradually fell into disrepair and the Council declined to stabilise it.

An application to define the route as a PROW was submitted in late 2018 and supported by the Council some 12 months later.

Shortly afterwards the tenant farmer blocked the access with a large tree trunk. He went on to plant crops in the field (for the first time in over 25 years).

Local residents agreed to use a footpath route which skirted around the outside of the field and this has become a well established exercise route during the lockdown period.

Unfortunately an assurance from local Councillors – that the tree trunk would be moved to allow for single file pedestrian access – was not fulfilled. As a result an new access point has now been forced near the Askham Lane junction.

Of more concern, many walkers are now trying to climb a 5 bar metal gate. A potentially hazardous activity for the elderly and infirm.

There are other points on the route which have also fallen into a, potentially hazardous, state of disrepair.

There are easy and relatively cheap solutions to this problem. The Lockdown period has simply reinforced the importance of informal walking routes near the City.

The Council should act now to make these footpaths accessible and safe.

Way open for Acomb Library expansion

The development to the rear of the Acomb Library (Bowling Lane) is almost complete with most of the homes now occupied.

The Council owned site, currently being used as a builders yard, will shortly close opening the way for a start to be made on the long awaited upgrade to the Acomb Library.

The Council has a budget of £2 million allocated in each of the next two years (starting on 1/4/21) to provide “Centres of Learning and Opportunity for all” at Acomb & Clifton libraries.

Plans to provide a “one stop shop” for public services at Acomb Explore date back over a decade and the land to the rear of South View Terrace was purchased by the Council (from a local builder) with the intention of improving the whole area.

Sadly, that intention stalled, and the land became overgrown.  It was a major missed regeneration opportunity.

The “Lockdown” period has provided Council officials with adequate time to refined their proposals for the site and we expect to see public consultation starting shortly.

We do not want building activity in the area to continue for longer than is essential, so some drive and enthusiasm is now required.

The publication of a draft development timetable would be a good start.

York families benefit from Easter holiday activity programme

Families across the city will have access to a holiday activity programme this Easter.

Image result for children playing gifs

The programme is being funded through the government’s Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF), which provides healthy food and activities to targeted children.

The Easter sessions, which will be held at a number of schools in York, will be used as pilots, with plans to roll the scheme out to more children during the summer holidays.

Cllr Keith Orrell, City of York Council’s Executive member for Children, Young People and Education, said: “School holidays can be a difficult time for some families, particularly with increased food and childcare costs.

“The Easter break marks the first time York has received HAF funding and I hope that this will be the start of a much bigger programme of targeted, enriching activities and healthy food for children and young people, building on the fantastic work that is already taking place across the city.”

Children and young people who are eligible to take part in the programme will be contacted directly by their school.

The trees are coming

The scale of the York Council’s afforestation plans are becoming clearer.

A meeting taking place next week will hear that increasing York’s tree cover from the current 10.76% of the total area to 13% (national average) by 2050 would require 608 ha of new cover, or 21 ha per year.

York currently has 2,926 ha of tree canopy cover, representing 10.8%
of its total area. 60% of this canopy cover is made up of trees outside

The report says, “the rate of viable delivery imposes a significant constraint on new canopy cover. The York Community Woodland project (Knapton Forest) in West York aims to deliver 50-60 ha of new tree cover over the next two years.

A 13% target for 2050 would require a similar level of growth every two years“.

City of York Council is a member of the White Rose Forest (WRF)
partnership which aims to provide tree canopy across large parts of Yorkshire.

The WRF project assumes an ambition for a 13% target for tree canopy cover by 2050, equating to around 22-27 ha per annum. This target would result in “an annual carbon sequestration rate at 2050 of circa 9,000tCO2 per year; equivalent to around 1% of the regions total CO2 emissions between 2020-2050“.

As with the Knapton Forest project, there has been no public consultation on the plan. The costs are unknown although, based on the Knapton land values, they could mean a taxpayers bill for several hundred million pounds.

The report doesn’t assess the scope for increasing tree canopy cover on existing amenity areas or private gardens.

The effect on food production is also unclear. The areas selected for afforestation are mainly grade 2 agricultural land.

They cover large areas near Poppleton, Skelton and Elvington.

click for detail

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.

Football season comes to premature end for York City

Following a vote of clubs, the National League North and South fixtures for the current season have been declared “null and void”.

Some clubs had been left with an improbable backlog of 30+ fixtures to complete in just 3 months as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and weather postponements.

Clubs also claimed that the government promises, to backfill the income lost from playing behind closed doors, had not been fulfilled.

It means that York City’s fixture against Fylde, which was the first to take place at the new Community Stadium on Tuesday, will be the last until next season.

York City v Fylde

Friendly fixtures may resume on July by which time it is hoped that spectators will be permitted to attend.

The York Knights rugby matches are expected to start on 2nd April although their first fixture, against Toulouse, is likely to be staged behind closed doors at the Community Stadium.

The Romans are coming

It looks like the proposal to construct a Roman visitor attraction on Rougier Street is set to get planning permission next week.

The old Northern House 1960’s office block will be demolished and replaced with 211 apartments, new offices and the Roman history visitor attraction at ground floor level.

The proposed Roman attraction, which has a working title of Eboracum, would based on archaeological discoveries from a two-year dig on the site. It would be three times the size of the Jorvik attraction and is aiming to attract 500,000 visitors per year.

At its maximum height the new building will be of a similar height to the tallest point of the Aviva building and the Malmaison Hotel to either side.

There are a number of objections mainly relating to the size of the proposed building. There are also a large number (69) of letters of support.

Details of the application which will be determined on 24th February can be read by clicking here

The application is recommended for approval.

The development is expected to bring a major jobs boost the the City in the wake of the economic problems caused by the pandemic.

Haxby Hall

See the source image
Existing Haxby Hall building

The same meeting is expected to approve the replacement of the Haxby Hall care home with a new 65 bedroomed residential and dementia care facility.

The new care home would be managed by Yorkare Homes Ltd.

The application, which is recommended for approval, says that the existing ambulance station building will be retained.

The plans have been welcomed by social care professionals who comment,

” The proposal to develop a 65 bed care home on the Haxby Hall site is welcomed. The city has a shortage of care home accommodation and specifically for those living with dementia.

Based on national benchmarking York has a current shortage of almost 600 care bedrooms, this application will help to address this shortfall by not only providing an increased number of bedrooms but also by providing a modern, accessible facilities for residents.

I am particularly supportive of the fact that each bedroom in this proposal has an en-suite bathroom and corridors are wide enough to allow those with walking frames or wheelchair users to pass, which the existing care home does not provide.

The terraces on the upper floors will enable all residents to have access to outdoor space and nature. The way the building has been designed will allow natural light into bedrooms, corridors and communal spaces, which is a key feature in design for older person’s accommodation.

The specific provision for those living with dementia, with dementia friendly design elements and a focus on resident’s wellbeing is also strongly welcomed.

Details can be found by clicking here