Huge risk for York as Science City abandoned

Culture, festivals and leisure set to be hived off


The York Council is to take on the liabilities of the Science City organisation and is breaking its partnership with the University of York.

Science City claims to have brought £30million in investment to the City over the last 14 years.

Now the Council is replacing it with a wholly local authority owned company on which it will have only two Board members.

 Taxpayers will be expected to pay £710,000 plus set up costs to sustain the new company.

A less than convincing business plan suggests that most of its activities will be similar to those undertaken by the long defunct Inward Investment Board.

Other activities are intended to underpin the (generally successful) Visit York organisation which has been in existence for less than 3 years.

As well as the lack of transparency, taxpayers will worry about the City Centre/visitor bias of an organisation which also aspires  to take over “cultural and leisure”activities.

The company owners (York taxpayers) will have little say over the objectives of the new company, its Board appointments or method of working.

It is likely to hold its meetings in private, further reducing local residents influence.

The targets of the new company refer entirely to the City centre. Neither Front Street (badly in need of regeneration) nor any other suburb centre gets even a passing a mention.

Behind closed doors logo

With the Labour administration on its last legs, the best interests of the City would be best served by trying to get a cross party consensus before entering into an arrangement which may only have a life of a few months.

The Council report fails to reveal the terms under which the City would acquire the Universities share of the Science City company.

NB. Last year the Council Leader actually welcomed a bid by Science City to manage all business grant investment decisions for the City.

Hob Moor and Westfield Primary schools create banners for Tour de France

To help celebrate the Tour de France Grand Départ, over 100 banners are being designed and produced by primary schools in York in time to display at York Racecourse on Sunday 6 July.

Tour de France banner

The school project, organised by the council’s sport and active leisure team, has a theme of ‘Tour de France: What path will you take?’ and will see 110 white canvas banners decorated by school children.

The banners will be returned to the school that made them after the event as a memento of the day. The schools taking part are Badger Hill Primary School, Carr Infant School, Dringhouses Primary School, Elvington CE Primary School, Fishergate Primary School, Headlands Primary School, Heworth Primary School, Hob Moor Community Primary School, Huntington Primary School, Knavesmire Primary School, New Earswick Primary School, Osbaldwick Primary School, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Roman Catholic Primary, Ralph Butterfield Primary School, Robert Wilkinson Primary School, Rufforth Primary School, St Aelred’s Roman Catholic Primary School, St Lawrence’s Church of England Primary School, Tang Hall Primary School, Westfield Primary Community School, Wigginton Primary School and Woodthorpe Primary School.

The Sport Activation Zone at York Racecourse Spectator Hub is open to everyone who has a ticket. They will be able to find out more about cycling, sport and health opportunities in the city. Visitors will be able to try different sports, pick up healthy living information and enter free, fun activity challenges.

Couple complete the Tour de France at Energise

A husband and wife team has won a 6 month Tour de France challenge which was set by Energise for its members in January.

Jack and Jill Whitham were first to successfully complete the 2,271 mile challenge to cycle, run and swim or climb the Tour de France distance prior to the Grand Départ Stage 2 leaving York on Sunday 6 July.

Jill Whitham said: “We thought it would be impossible at first but found that the challenge really gave us the push to increase cardio workouts and achieve our goal weights. It also encouraged us to try more on the bikes and the rower. We will be going out to watch the Tour de France as it is on our doorstep this year.”

Paul Bickle, Manager of Energise said: “All the staff would like to give them our congratulations and we’re glad that the challenge helped them both to achieve their goals. As a prize they have chosen the Go Ape Tree Top adventure at Dalby Forest. The individual winner category is still up for grabs and we are encouraging all our members to have a go.”

Grand Departy heading for huge loss?

With Groupon now advertising Grand Departy tickets for £20 each (a 32% discount) there are growing concerns that the “10,000” capacity event could be a major flop.

Concert organiser Cllr Crisp facing difficult questions

Concert organiser Cllr Crisp facing difficult questions

Councillors are understood to be asking just how big a bill taxpayers may have to pick up?

The event – to be held at the Huntington Stadium on 4th July – always looked to be an afterthought.

It is sadly too typical of a council that has over-extended itself once too often.

They need to come clean about how many tickets have actually been sold?

Used condoms prompt West Bank Park anger

Not amused!

Not amused!

The York Council has been criticised for failing to secure West Bank Park at night.

Along with some other parks across the City, the Council discontinued its routine of locking the park a few months ago.

Bowling greens

Bowling greens

Some residents say that there has been a decline in standards in the park as a result with one volunteer claiming to have cleaned up “used condoms” and beer cans from the park area.

Generally West Bank Park has been well respected by residents and visitors alike.

It has an active group of “friends” and last week a meeting heard plans which could lead to local residents taking responsibility for managing the park.

Signs vandalised

Signs vandalised

Ironically ,locking and unlocking the park’s four access gates may be something that could be done by volunteers.

As with the Councils plans to offload community centres and libraries – the reality may come home in a few years time when volunteers may tire of the added responsibilities.

Some of the furniture in the park is looking a little “tired” now and in need of cleaning and repainting.

The bowling greens – which are protected only by one metre high railings – are immaculate.

One resident commented,

“Within the park, I’ve also noticed an increase in litter and vandalism.

Summer Fayre planned

Summer Fayre planned

 The children’s play area has been daubed with graffiti, the railings around the bowling green have been kicked in, there is graffiti on trees and one of the notice boards has been damaged with paint.

I’ve also seen rough-sleepers emerging from the park, drink in hand, on some mornings”.

We understand that Holgate Ward Labour Councillors have not responded to the complaints



Fairness Conference costs questioned as Huntington concert struggles


Sources with the York Council are saying that the costs – to Council taxpayers – of the recent Fairness Conference could be as much as £10,000. Apparently a similar level of funding has come from a local charity.

If confirmed, the figure will be similar to the amount being cut from the budgets of two York Council community centres both of which serve low income neighbourhoods.

The Foxwood Community Centre in particular is now struggling to find volunteers to continue to run the facility in the wake of the Council cuts.

One major user is moving to other accommodation claiming that the lack of commitment by the Council, to the future of community facilities ,was a factor in their decision.

 An attempt is to be made to form a new management committee in September by which time it is hoped a new core tenant will have been found.

NB. As reported earlier in the week, the Councils Grand Départy Concert on 4 July has run into financial difficulties.

Likely to cost a six figure sum to stage, only a few hundred tickets have been sold so far.

A new act has, however, been added to the lineup for the concert

Desperate Council halves Huntington Stadium concert ticket prices

Council concert organiser displays sense of humour

Council concert organiser displays sense of humour

As we revealed yesterday, the Tour de France concert, scheduled for the 4th July, is being snubbed by York residents.

Now the Council has halved the cost of a family ticket – down from £100 to £50.

The offer also includes a ticket to the Grand Depart event at the Racecourse and will run until Monday 16th June.

What residents who have already paid the full price for tickets will think of this discount remains to be seen.

The concert features a group called “Loveable Rogues

Tickets are on sale now from and, and will be available from Visit York on Museum Street in York city centre by Friday (13th June) of this week

The Council has declined to say how many tickets for the event have been sold to date.

Meanwhile it looks like Bradley Wiggins – expected to be one of the main attractions for those attending the  Tour de France start – may not now be competing this year

Huntington Stadium – concert doubts


Huntington Stadium

Huntington Stadium

The York Council has yet to confirm whether the Huntington Stadium can be used as a venue for a “10,000 capacity” concert on 4th July.

Ticket sales for the event – headlined by Russell Watson – are reported to be “sluggish”

Objections to the license application for the site had to be with the council by last Thursday, but no response has yet been published.

Increasing the capacity of the Stadium from just over 4000 to 10,000 will present major transport and logistical problems.

The Council has however announced that the Stadium will become a “spectator hub” for an event on 6th July.

It replaces the planned “hub” on Monk Stray which was dogged by procedural problems, and eventually had to be abandoned amidst a torrent of objections from residents.

It is unclear what the residents of Huntington will make of the likely impacts these major events will have over what would, in any event, be a busy shopping weekend in the Monks Cross area.

We said a few months ago that the Council – despite allocating a jaw dropping £1.6 million to fund the Tour de France Grand Depart event in the City – had underestimated the skills and manpower necessary to maximise the success of such an event.

 Those doubts still remain

Lowfields school playing fields – football gala today but future in doubt

Football gala at Lowfields playing fields today

Football gala at Lowfields playing fields today

The former Lowfields school playing fields were the location for a football gala today organised by the Woodthorpe Wanderers FC.

Teams had travelled from all over the region and included one from Middlesbrough.

The same playing fields are under threat after the York Council’s Housing department made a bid to include them in the redevelopment plans for the site.

Previously the intention had been to develop only the “footprint” of the former school buildings.

The attempt to develop the whole of the site is being resisted by officials working on the Councils new “Local Plan”.

The older persons village –which was scheduled to be completed on the site last year – has not even got planning permission yet so it will be 2016 before any buildings are occupied.

That will be at least 3 years behind the original schedule.



Join sporting and comic celebrities and Swimfit at Energise


David Williams and Kerianne Payne

David Williams and Kerianne Payne

Energise is encouraging York residents to get back in the water this summer for British Gas SwimBritain 2014.

Supported by a host of big-name swimmers including fellow London 2012 medallists Ellie Simmonds, Michael Jamieson, Rebecca Adlington, Keri Anne Payne and comedian David Walliams, SwimBritain is a series of fun team relays that are taking place this September which hopes to inspire 500,000 people across Britain to swim more regularly – and get fit!

Swimmers can take the challenge in 2 ways.

SwimBritain1000 is a four-person relay where each team member swims 250m four times around a specially-designed course in a dedicated 50m pool.

SwimBritain500 is a shorter distance where team members use the same course, swimming half the distance (125m four times) and the nearest participating venue to York is Ponds Ford in Sheffield.

Rebecca Adlington, who retired from competitive swimming at the age of 23 last year as Britain’s most successful swimmer, said: “I may have retired from professional swimming but I will always love being in the water and a challenge like British Gas SwimBritain is brilliant as it’s really inclusive – not just for professional swimmers. Swimming offers everyone a full range of health and fitness benefits so the more people we can encourage to swim regularly, the better. It’s a full body workout without any stress on the joints. A gentle half hour swim can burn up to 200 calories, so I’d love to see as many people as possible joining in and giving SwimBritain a go.”

Swimfit at Energise costs £3.85 for adults with a York Card and £4.80 without. There is no need to book in advance.

Registrations are now open. For further information on venues, how to sign up your team and get training plans and tips, visit