Chapelfields rallying round Sanderson House Community Centre

There was a good turnout at the annual meeting of Chapelfields Residents group yesterday.

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Most discussion focussed on the future of the Community Centre.

Residents are mostly unhappy about the cut in York Council funding, but are determined to keep the centre going  at least until May 2015 when a new Council will be elected.

In the meantime, a charity is being formed to run the centre and a new committee has been appointed.

 

Woodlands playground reopened

Andrew Waller with users at the newly reopened Woodlands playground

Andrew Waller with users at the newly reopened Woodlands playground

The newly reopened Woodlands playground on Teal Drive was put to good use in todays sunshine.

On hand was Andrew Waller who organised a survey aimed at finding out if residents wanted the playground – which had been locked for around a year – to reopen.

Over 80% said yes and the local residents association asked the owners, Rowntree Housing, to make things happen.

After a few weeks, the playground was reopened much to the delight of local youngsters.

Thanks to all for their hard work

Foxwood Community Centre make over

Draft plans for garden revamp revealed

Draft plans for Foxwood Community Center playground revamp

Draft plans for Foxwood Community Center playground revamp

Residents had their first glimpse of how the new garden behind the Foxwood Community Centre might look after volunteers arrive for the “Big Community Challenge” in October.

In a recent survey many residents said that they thought that the play area could be better used (it is now only open when events are taking place) and recognised that – as the centre is now entirely dependant on volunteers for maintenance – any new design should take this into account.

42% said that they wanted to see a communal garden established on the site with 29% opposed and 29% undecided.

The design is likely to be refined over the next few weeks in response to residents comments.

 

Applications invited for Barbican Concessionary Days

Local clubs, groups and community organisations are being invited  to apply for a concessionary day’s hire of York Barbican.

Four concessionary days are on offer as part of the lease agreement between City of York Council and York Barbican’s operators, SMG, with the first available between January 2015 and December 2015 and two further days available during the following 12 months.
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York Schools get their teeth into York Food Festival

Over 600 children from primary schools across the city will be taking part in the York Food Festival later this month (19-29 September).

The youngsters will take part in hands-on workshops at the Guildhall and in St Sampson’s Square including herb planting with Stockbridge Technology Centre, a ‘Let’s Talk Farming’ NFU Roadshow (www.nfuonline.com/back-british-farming/lets-talk-farming-roadshow/) and Pasta Making with the Festival team.
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Sporting Memories links with York City Knights

York City Knights RLFC is the latest partner to join City of York Council and the Sporting Memories Network in an initiative to help increase awareness of dementia in the community.

York’s rugby league fans are being encouraged to support the project by sharing their memories at the York City Knights’ ‘End of an Era’ game on Sunday 7 September at 3pm, officially their final league game of the season and their last at Huntington Stadium.
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Traffic arrangements for Sky Ride York

On Sunday 14 September Sky Ride York will take to the city’s historic streets in partnership with City of York Council, British Cycling and Sky.

Due to the size and scale of the event there will be a number of temporary traffic and transport changes to ensure the safety of everyone taking part.

The last similar event caused some serious traffic problems in the City.

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The traffic free route, starting at Clifford’s Tower will see cyclists follow the riverside cycle path before they cross Millennium Bridge taking them past Rowntree Park where the annual Festival of Cycling will be taking place. Riders can then continue along Terry Avenue and Skeldergate before turning left and crossing over Lendal Bridge. They will then ride past the iconic York Minster and weave through the city centre before reaching the hub at Clifford’s Tower.
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Stadium will cost Council Taxpayers £1 million a year.

Huntington project administration costs hit £6 million

More details of the changes to the Huntington Community Stadium project have emerged. The papers reveal the administration and project team costs for the project have increased from £3.5 million to £6 million.Stadium Project

The Council will borrow a total of £8 million, meaning that local taxpayers will have to find £720,000 a year in debt charges. In addition the Council will contribute £323,000 towards the annual running costs.

The report talks about a developer paying £12 million for land on which to construct 6000 square metres of retail and commercial space.

This space would be used for

  • Retail units totalling 4245 sq m
  • Two restaurants totalling 110 sq m
  • A digital cinema with bar totalling 1652 sq m

There are numerous risks identified for the project.

The land was originally acquired by the Ryedale Council for leisure purposes. There may be at least a chance that the original owners will seek a share of any enhanced value resulting from commercial development.

Equally the inclusion of – yet more – out of City centre retail development will be controversial.

This is the issue most likely to delay the granting of planning permission and could result in the application being “called in” by central government. In turn, this would impact on the target start (April 2015) and completion (July 2016) dates.

The Council don’t rule out a Judicial Review – a process initiated by opponents of change and  which added, in the last decade, nearly 2 years to the timetable for  modernising the Barbican auditorium.

A 15 month construction commissioning timetable looks highly ambitious anyway.

Less obvious risks may arise. Not least the ubiquitous Great Crested Newts who mounted a strong resistance to being evicted from the neighbouring John Lewis site.

The report confirms that

GLL will be responsible for the overall management of the site and the direct management of the Community Hub, leisure facilities and associated assets. This will be controlled by an overarching lease and management contract for a 13 year period with a 5 year extension option.

As part of the procurement process, GLL have appointed York City Football Club (YCFC) as a sub-contractor to operate the stadium area. YCFC will work with CGC (York Racecourse hospitality company).

The proposal will involve changes to the existing parking and access arrangements. This will see the re-routing of Kathryn Avenue around the stadium, creating a pedestrian only and fan zone, strengthening links with the Vanguard retail scheme

The report also says that “All community hub tenants will enter into lease agreements with CYC for the use of the facilities. All leases have been set at appropriate commercial rates”.

The report includes a table showing how costs have increased over the last couple of years

Component Approved March 2012(£Ms) Approved Nov 2012(£Ms) Proposed Sept 2014(£Ms)
Community Stadium 14.2 14.8 16
Leisure Complex 0 0 12
External works 1.5 1.45 3
NSLC sub total 15.7 15.25 31
Other facilities / Project costs & contingencies 3.5 3.95 6
Total 19.2 19.2 37
Commercial Development Costs (externally funded) 10
Gross Total Cost 19.2 19.2 47

Increased cost of Community Stadium is bad news for taxpayers

Future of Waterworld and Yearsley pools under threat

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Labour are circulating a glossy brochure ahead of the publication of a report on the future of leisure provision in the City.  Private briefings to staff and media have raised serious issues about the future of swimming and other facilities in the City.

The project will now cost £37 million in total with Greenwich Leisure (who have operated Waterworld for the last 3 years) taking on responsibility for all major sporting and swimming facilities in the City.

Greenwich Leisure are a CIC although the level of local York engagement – if any – in their management decisions and structure has yet to be announced.

Community Stadium

The project will cost taxpayers £8 million more than originally budgeted. It had been expected that a 6000 seater stadium and replacement athletics track could be built for the £12 million contribution from the John Lewis development.  The Council would have contributed only the value of the Huntington Stadium site (conservatively assessed as £4.1 million). The Football Foundation would have put in the £2 million that it had loaned against the value of a redeveloped Bootham Crescent.

Later Labour said that they would spend the £4 million contingency included in the Councils budget for the project. This had been included as a potential loan which would be repaid from stadium income.

Now Labour are stating that they will borrow an additional £4 million bringing the taxpayers contribution up to £8 million in total, with the stadium capacity increased to 8000 (it costs roughly £1 million for every additional bank of 1000 seats).

It is highly unlikely that such an additional burden could be passed on to the Football and Rugby clubs with details of their rental agreements not having yet been revealed.

At a time when the campaign forsafe standing” – backed by the Liberal Democrats is gaining momentum – local fans will be bemused that the design does not appear to provide for rail seats (although this modification could still be made)

Council taxpayers will be responsible for the debt repayment charges on the amount borrowed which will be around £600,000 a year. It is far from clear where this money will come from although some additional “commercial elements” have been designed into the scheme.

Given the controversy about out of city centre shopping, this raises doubts about how long the planning process might take and with it the ability of any contractor to meet a July 2016 opening date.

 Waterworld

Waterworld and its associated gym will close in December.

A new pool and gym will be designed into the stadium. However it will be more conventional than Waterworld with only a small “fun” pool included.

Waterworld is only 20 years old and with that kind of life one wonders how durable such facilities now are? (The Barbican pool lasted for 40 years, Yearsley is over 100 years old)

Since the opening of the Sports Village on Hull Road, the Council has met national standards for the provision of swimming pools.  There is insufficient demand to pay for an additional swimming pool (which is why Labour quietly dropped their plans for a city centre pool).

Yearsley Pool

Under Labours plans, the opening of the new pool at Huntington will mean the end of the Council subsidy (around £250k pa) for the Yearsley pool. The unique 50 yard pool has fought off two previous attempts by Labour to close it although ironically in early 2011 – following a £1 million refit undertaken by the then LibDem controlled Council – Labour invented a bogus  “closure” rumour and campaigned against something that was not going to happen.  A new boiler was fitted at the pool meaning that the steam heat supply from the Nestle site could not attract disproportionately high charges.

Yearsley Pool

Yearsley Pool

Labour have now performed a 180 degree policy about turn.

The only chance for the pool would be for users to acquire the site and run it independently as a community asset. However it is highly unlikely that that increased admission charges could make up the financial deficit – more so as it would have to complete with three other modern pools in the City not to mention those at several independent sports clubs, hotels and schools.

Its only hope would be for Nestle to relent and allow a profitable gym to be added although this might involve them losing some car parking space.

Energise

The management of Energise – the sports facility on Cornlands Road – seems less threatened by the take over plans.

The centre is very popular and no doubt Greenwich Leisure will want to keep it that way.  However standardisation of charges and facilities, together with focusing some types of provision at just one site, may prove to be a challenge in the future.

No guarantees are being offered on admission charges although heavy competition from the private sector may help to keep them down.

What next?

The Stadium project is running over two years behind timetable. The publication of a report, for decision by the Councils Cabinet on 9th September, is belated but welcome.

Residents will be looking very carefully at the business plan for the new facility as the Council – which will remain the freeholder – does not want to risk having to step in to recover a failing project a few years down the line (as happened in Huddersfield a few years ago).

The changes to the retail component of the project do raise planning issues that may take some time to resolve, jeopardising the construction start date..

Whether a July 2016 opening date is realistic remains to be seen.

Woodlands play area almost ready for reopening

Woodlands playground refurbished

Woodlands playground refurbished

Hedges next to cycle path being trimmed back

Hedges next to cycle path being trimmed back

Workers were today putting the finishing touches to the refurbished Woodlands play area on Teal Drive/Bellhouse Way.

Hedges area being cut and all the safety surfaces have been renewed.

Children are likely to attend an “opening” later in the week.

Full marks to Rowntrees for talking to the local Residents Association about the future of the playground which had been locked closed for over 12 months.

Responding to a survey organised by Liberal Democrat Andrew Waller last month, 88% of residents said that they wanted the Woodlands play area to be open at least at weekends.

NB. Part of the overgrown hedge blocking the cycle path has also now been cut back.