Millthorpe School sports centre

According to the Council, “A new £1 million sports facility at Millthorpe School will benefit schools and community groups across the city when it is completed at the end of October”.

The project’s progress compares well with the proposal to provide an alternative for the game area on Kingsway West closed by the Council two year ago. Discussions on a replacement have only just started.

The Council says that the “floodlit 3G artificial grass pitch will be available all year round to pupils at Millthorpe and nearby Scarcroft Primary School, together with other York schools and community groups.

It has been developed through the City of York Council scheme to create additional school places at Scarcroft Primary School and helps to increase the amount of outdoor space available to the school.

Community groups will be able to use the pitch outside of the school day and during the school holidays. Hamilton Panthers, York City Kick About and Bishopthorpe White Rose are already lined up to take advantage of the new facility.

The facility is close to the existing sports hall and will be accessible for outside users via the school’s Philadelphia Terrace entrance.  The development includes on-site car parking spaces next to the pitch, with provision for disabled visitors, secure cycle parking and electric vehicle charging.

The pitch is suitable for junior 11-a-side football and features include energy-efficient floodlighting, along with portable goals and pitch markings to meet the requirements of a variety of different game formats and age ranges”.

The charges that will apply for use of he facilities haven’t been published. 

More on financial threat to Energise and other GLL leisure facilities in York

In May, a media report confirmed that the GLL group – who manage several leisure facilities in York including Energise on Cornlands Road and the Yearsley swimming pool – were in financial difficulty.

Energise on Cornlands Road

They asked the York Council for support.

The move may partly explain why more progress has not been made in bringing new facilities at the York Community stadium site into use.

The York City Council said it “will continue to work closely with GLL.” 

At the time, Ian Floyd, the council’s interim head of paid services, said: “Throughout the city’s response to coronavirus we understand that the businesses we work with have had to adapt due to temporary closures, working differently and dealing with the financial demands this places on them.

We are working with our partners across the city to ensure we support them to work safely, and we continue to follow government guidance regarding our ongoing service contracts.

“City of York Council supports GLL through our leisure services contract via monthly payments. This is usually paid in arrears. Following government guidance, the council have paid three months of the contract fee upfront, covering April to June 2020.

“We understand that GLL have furloughed the majority of staff at these venues and have confirmed they are continuing to pay 100% of their salaries until May. City of York Council will continue to work closely with GLL, to work through the contract implications of the Coronavirus response which closed all public leisure facilities in March.

There has been no recent update from the Council although some facilities did subsequently reopen on a limited basis.

Community Stadium further delays

The York Council has confirmed that the new LNER Community Stadium will not now be completed until 2021. The latest problems, for the jinx hit project, apparently relate to drainage. Remedial works will take several weeks to complete.

At one level this makes little difference, as spectators are not allowed into sports events at present. It might, however, prevent York City switching their (behind closed doors) matches to the new stadium pitch which, in turn, could delay their leaving Bootham Crescent.

The start of the Rugby League season is also creeping closer while tickets for the Rugby World Cup games – now less than a year away – are already on sale.

A further threat to the project is now emerging.

The complex operator GLL – who also run the Council’s Energise sports centre in Cornlands Road – have said that the COVID restrictions have impacted on their finances. The suggestion is that this will mean job losses and possibly the permanent closure of some facilities. GLL are a social enterprise company with operations across most of the country.

The sports centre and pool at Monk Cross – although completed several weeks ago – have yet to open.

With the cinema also now closed, units like the NHS centre and library locked up and “no takers” for the restaurant units, the whole business plan for the complex now looks increasingly shaky.

Good news for squirrels

19 trees were planted in Dickson Park this week by a team of volunteers from the Foxwood Residents Association and AVIVA. The trees were supplied by DEFRA. The project was so popular with neighbours and passers by that several offers of sponsorship were received.

We are now led to understand that the York Council’s new “forest” will be planted on land boarded by Wetherby Road, Knapton, the cycle path and Harewood Whin. The precise boundaries have not yet been revealed.

New “forest” in west York

There are some mixed feelings about the plan which, unless government funding can be obtained, could cost local taxpayers over £1 million.

The site is currently in agricultural use and self sufficiency in food production could become more important over the next few years. No economic or environment analysis of options has been published

The land is currently planted ready for a spring harvest

While there is a precedent for the Council managing local farms (they did so in the last century in an attempt to sustain a supply of land for new tenant farmers) the scale of the forest venture is new.

It has the advantage of potentially helping to reduce pollution levels.

One advantage of the location (if the speculation in the media is correct) is that it is close to the popular Rufforth – Knapton cycle track.

NB. The Council, while saying it has obtained 10 acres of land for tree planting “on the inner ring road”, has still not confirmed where this is located.

UPDATE. According to Cllr Nigel Ayre posting on twitter this is a map of the site. If correct, then part of it straddles Wetherby Road

Christmas cancelled

Well the Christmas Fair anyway

The 10 Ultimate Christmas Gifs We Can All Relate To | GRB

The Council has issued a statment saying that York residents “are being invited to celebrate and commemorate key moments in the Autumn calendar safely, in order to protect the health of the people and places we love”.

Following the announcement that York has been added to the ‘medium’ level on the Government’s three-tiered public health restriction system, and with Covid-19 infection rates in the city rising above the national average, York could still be moved into the tier 2 of the restriction system by the Government. Therefore, this year’s city-wide celebrations will see York celebrate differently to follow public health guidelines and protect each other.

To  give clarity about which events are safe to go ahead, new criteria has been developed to support the Public Health recommendations, with the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) making decisions on mitigation or restriction measures required for public events and activities to take place.

By working closely with partners to explore different options that would ensure the safety of residents, the Council, Public Health, businesses and the Safety Advisory Group are keen that as much of city life continues as possible, with safety measures in place.

Following the latest public health guidelines, events that draw significant numbers of people to a single location and at set times will unfortunately not be permitted to take place, in order to curb the spread of the virus and ultimately, protect local residents. However, events that are outdoors, spread across a larger area and encourage people to visit at different times, rather than for set performances, are more likely to be supported by the Safety Advisory Group.

What this means for city wide celebrations

  • Light and Dark – the Light and Dark experience and Indie York’s Magical Medieval Trails will go ahead as planned during October half term, as this experience has been designed to encourage family groups to move safely around the city.
  • Halloween – Trick or treating guidance will be available from the government and we will share it when published. For now, you should plan events within households or bubbles only.
  • Bonfire Night – SAG have confirmed the event planned for Elvington Air Field will go ahead, as it is a drive through event only. Residents are advised to keep to the rule of six and maintain a safe distance if outside.
  • Hanukkah – central government will be providing advice, for now you should plan events within the rule of six, or with households or bubbles only. Consider outdoor celebrations where you can.
  • Diwali – central government will be providing advice, for now you should plan events within the rule of six, or with households or bubbles only. Consider outdoor celebrations where you can.
  • Remembrance Day – to avoid people gathering for prolonged periods of time, the parades, including in the city centre, will not take place. Partners, including civic leaders, are working closely together to deliver an appropriate remembrance service, in partnership with York Minster. This will include an online service and reflection with everyone invited to take part. More information will follow soon.
  • Christmas Market / St Nicholas Fair – following other cities (such as Lincoln, Bath and Leeds) and new public health guidance, the Christmas Market will not go ahead. As we look after each other and continue to keep the people we love safe, this Christmas, all York residents will be invited to a special Christmas experience, with more information to follow. This will include new pop up spaces, York’s Christmas lights (which are currently being installed) and opportunities to support a range of local businesses, including small and independent traders.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, businesses across York have innovated and adapted to remain safe and welcoming for residents and visitors, but the threat of Coronavirus remains, so we all need to continue to work together to protect our health, our economy and our city. We will continue to work with partners to shine a light on our incredible independent retailers, hospitality businesses and attractions who have played their role in keeping our city safe.

Oliver Cromwell - King Charles Storms House Of Commons on Make a GIF
The last person to cancel Christmas was Oliver Cromwell

Frequently Asked Questions

Coronavirus York updates; 13th October 2020

Deaths and test results

95 (NINETY FIVE) additional positive test results were announced today, bringing the cumulative total up to 2190.

The largest, individual day, positive test count number was 103 which occurred last Wednesday.

The cases per 100,000 population figure peaked at 261.15 on Thursday.

The neighbourhood with the largest number of positive test results is still Heslington/University which currently has 78 cases. This is down from the peak of 88 which was reported yesterday. The university says that it was aware of 247 individuals within the university community who were currently self-isolating because they had had a positive Covid-19 test.

The area with the fewest cases is Dunnington/Elvington/Wheldrake (6)

Some pupils at the Haxby Road and Robert Wilkinson schools in the City are understood to be self-isolating. More than 150 children at the two schools are affected

No further hospital deaths in York. There have, however, been 81 deaths announced in other parts of the country.

Leisure grants

The government has announced that it will make the following grants to cultural organisations in the City

York Museums Trust £850,000
Yorkshire Air Museum and Allied Air Forces Memorial£312,531
York Citizen’s Theatre Trust (Theatre Royal)£236,522
Three Little Birds LLP (The Crescent)£108,668
Victoria Vaults£92,244
Fast Entertainment Ltd (Fulford Arms)£82,584
The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles£78,600
The York Early Music Foundation£50,000

Building site on Ascot Way being wound down

It seems that completion of work at both the new disabled centre and a remodelled Lincoln Court will shortly be competed. The builders equipment is being removed and the compound on the school land and the MUGA are almost clear.

New Lincoln Court entrance is imposing
Despite being largely clear of equipment, it seems unlikely that public use of the games area will be allowed.
This is the replacement site on Thanet Road slated to be the home of the new games area. However discussions about the project have dragged on for nearly 2 years.

The has been no recent update from the York Council on when they expect the communal housing, self build, health centre, older persons accommodation, public buildings and community facilities on their Lowfield development to be completed (or even in most cases started!)

Slow progress on replacement games area for Westfield

A Freedom of Information response has revealed that little progress has been made on providing a replacement multi user games area in Westfield despite a Council executive decision taken in February 2019.  

The expectation had been that the replacement, for the now closed facility on Kingsway West, would be in use by now. Discussions were to have been held with the Acorn Rugby Club who currently lease the alternative site which is in the Thanet Road sports area.

However, it seems that meaningful correspondence only started in July 2020 some 18 months after the Council’s Executive had made their promise. Some meetings then took place in August, but no progress report has been prepared for consideration by the Councils executive

Quite why the initiative had not been followed up sooner is unclear.

 It had been thought that the most likely site would be under the existing floodlights to the side of the clubhouse. This would have minimised costs and might have been useful addition to the rugby clubs training options.

It seems that that officials, however, favour a location next the car park, while a local Councillor is keen to incorporate a n outdoor gym in the plans.

No consultation has taken place with the Foxwood Residents Association on the plans. There was a lukewarm response to plans for an outdoor gym a few years ago although objections then centred on proposals to locate the facility on Chesney’s Field.

Exiting MUGA became a building compound

Residents are quite clear that some informal free access must be available to the new games area. The price of access to pitches at the Energise centre are prohibitive for many local young people so a system needs to be worked out which meets the needs of both local users and the rugby club. The rugby club has a good reputation for encouraging young sports people so there should be no conflict of interests.

It is understood that serval potential users have expressed a wish to rent the facility so this should provide a basic income to cover maintenance and replacement costs.

The new facility could cost around £200,000.

The Westfield ward is statistically the poorest area in the City and has the largest proportion of obese children. The project would go some way to addressing the inequalities which have been worsened in the area in recent years as a result of the development of open spaces and sports pitches.

Community Stadium costs

The York Council says that taxpayers may be liable for additional costs at the Community Stadium. Work to complete roads outside the stadium has yet to be finished.

A report to a Council meeting next week says,

The construction of the York Stadium Leisure Complex is practically complete but with some fairly significant works remaining to the estate highway. The core building fabric works are now complete, with only a small number of trades still working on site to progress the final stages of minor works, known in the industry as ‘snagging’”.

“For the York Stadium Leisure Complex to open to both the public, and all tenants, the Stadium must, amongst other things, gain all required safety and licence certification.

The systems test has now been held and work is now ongoing from that in order to finalise the safety certificate and safety documentation.

There are likely to be a number of financial issues and settlement of claims to resolve after the stadium is completed, that will take a number of months to resolve and these may result in some financial impact to the Council.

There are also a number of other COVID related matters to finalise however opening is still expected across the stadium and leisure site in autumn 2020”.

These comments help to explain the media comment last week which said that a York City match scheduled for next week (v Chorley on 6th October) could not take place at the stadium.

Leaving COVID restrictions aside, there is some speculation about whether Bootham Crescent can be brought back into use as it also needs to have a up to date safety certificate.

After a successful final friendly match yesterday (a 0-3 success at Notts County), City face a trip to Warrington on 3rd October.  Spectators are not allowed at matches in Warrington at present (click)

Such restrictions are also likely to apply in York at the scheduled beginning of the National League North (NLN) season, with some clubs planning to “stream” matches to supporters. Such a facility requires the agreement of the broadcast license holder and of the football authorities.

We understand that Clubs have not as yet received confirmation from the government that the lost income, from playing behind closed doors matches, would be refunded.  In the NLN, clubs with part time players are only liable for wages after the first game of the season has been played. So clarification is now urgently required (York City have a full time playing squad).

As for the potential additional liability on the Council, it remains unclear whether this relates solely to the floorspace which the Council agreed to underwrite, and which currently remains unlet.

If it is anything more than that, then taxpayers should be told how much the scale of the additional risk is now.

The Council has budgeted to invest £14.4 million in the project. A Section 106 (developer) contribution of £15.3 million has also been allocated.

York City FC will pay £2 million towards the £42 million total cost of the development when they sell Bootham Crescent.