That was the year that was – 2019

….Jan to March in west York in pictures

2019 commenced with controversy in the air. The children’s games area (known as a MUGA) on Kingsway West faced closure as part of a plan to enlarge Lincoln Court. Objectors – which included Sport England – were calmed by Council assurances that a replacement would be provided elsewhere in the ward. 12 months later and there is still no sign of a facility for children.

Kingsway MUGA – Now a building compound

Volunteers were active in the area during the whole for the year. Monthly “whats’on” posters were produced and displayed on local noticeboards and social media.

What’s on Poster produced by the Foxwood Residents Association last February

Less good news in Lowfields, where the Council pressed on with the development on the football pitch. Once again alternative local facilities did not materialise. A plan from “Yorspace” to provide “communal ownership” style homes was also criticised by some local residents.

Work at Lowfields

The plans for an extension to Lincoln Court, and the construction of a centre for disabled children on an adjacent site on Ascot Way, ran into more problems. The cost of the plans was found to be much higher than originally estimated. Design changes were made only weeks after the original had been given planning permission.

Some good news in February with the brief return of a skip service to Chapelfields. Unfortunately the service now appears only rarely with an increase in fly tipping one of the consequences

There was concern that some unstable trees like this one on Wetherby Road posed a safety hazard.

Trees were a popular topic of conversation during most of the year. There was broad agreement that more were needed to combat climate change. However, maintenance arrangements for existing trees – particularly those adjacent to footpaths – were hopelessly inadequate with many needing “crown lifting” to prevent accidents.

Cart parking signs

Elsewhere in the City car parking signage attracted comment. As long ago as 2003, real time information signs on approach roads to the City centre provided “real time” advanced information about parking space availability at different car parks around the City. The information was also available on the web. This mysteriously disappeared in 2012 since when congestion levels have increased as motorists drive round trying to find a space. In February, the Council appointed contractors with a remit to reintroduce the space availability service.

Acomb Library

The Council announced that the existing Libraries management company would constinue in their role. The Council announced a £2 million boost for Acomb Library which would be expanded and fully modernised over the following 3 years. Unfortunately building works on the adjacent bowling club site would later compromise redevelopment options.

Harewood Whin

The landfill waste disposal site at Harewood Whin closed. York’s non recyclable rubbish is now incinerated at Allerton Park.

As work commenced at Lowfields on the road layout, one piece of good news was that the area was also being cleared of an invasive Knotweed infestation

The Council decided to proceed with its hugely expensive plan to provide a business club at the Guildhall. Several residents hoped that the upcoming Council elections might provide an opportunity for more reflection about the project.

Work had also started on a project to build 5 bungalows on a Council garage site on Newbury Avenue. With parking space already at a premium in the area, the main concern was the impact that vehicles, displaced from the garages, might have on parking availability.

Newbury Avenue
Lendal Post Office

The Post Office announced that it was closing its Lendal branch. A replacement would be provided in part of the nearby Smith’s store on Coney Street.

Later in the year it was revealed that the old Lendal PO building was likely to become a steakhouse.

Spark

There seemed to be never ending controversy over the “Spark” container village development in Piccadilly. The Council has granted the owners a 3 year lease on land formerly occupied by a tram depot. Spark failed to implement some of the planning conditions and a share of the developments profits – promised to the Council – did not materialise.

The Council was belatedly starting to get to grips with providing some sub-urban parking lay-bys. However, several of the projects were over 3 years behind schedule. Most came in a rush in March.

Spurr Court parking lay-by
Bachelor Hill
Askham Lane

Fly tipping, dumping and litter were increasing problems in West York

The Coop launched an imaginative scheme where shoppers could nominate a local voluntary body to receive a grant based on what that had spent in a local store. The Foxwood Residents Association raised around £2000 from the scheme

The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust also became more active in the Foxwood area. They tidied up the Teal Drive playground and would later in the year start a “drop in” open session at the local community centre. Sadly the slide disappeared from the playground and has not yet been restored.

Teal Drive Play area

The winter brought the usual problems with vehicle damage to grass verges. Part of the problem was the glacial progress being made in “eco grid” (matrix) surfacing of the verges to protect them .

Thoresby Road

The Council announced that it had produced a final, final draft Local Plan. The plan would define the size of the City for the next 25 years. Recent national population growth forecasts had been substantially refined downwards despite which some landowners and developers are currently trying to persuade an Inspector that the City should grow by more than 20%!

Following a relatively mild winter, Spring arrived in March and with it the daffodils that residents had been planting over the years.

Foxwood Park

and also other issues!

PROW application

The Council was cautioned by the Ombudsman for taking several years to determine Public Right of Way (PROW) applications in the City. In west York an application for a PROW had been lodged with the council for the link across Acomb Moor which connects Foxwood Lane and Osprey Close. The York Council say it will determine the application in February 2020.

In Woodthorpe/Acomb Park a very controversial planning application was made which would have seen the area between Moor Lane and the Askham Bogs nature reserve developed. Although rejected by the local Planning Committee, the application was subject to an appeal the results of which are expected in the new year.

Flooding was never far from the news.

As well as Environment Agency works aimed at preventing flooding from rivers and water courses, the Council looked at the separate issue of surface water flooding. This relates the adequacy of drainage pipes in the urban area.

The efforts of the residents association had resulted in paths being strimmed in several areas. The areas concerned looked much improved.

Path strimming works

The flashing speed warning sign on Wetherby Road had been removed. The sign had cautioned drivers entering the City at more than the 30 mph limit.

Councillors blamed each other for the disappearance of the sign

Unlet Garage in Chapelfields

Empty Council garages were a source of irritation to some residents. They mean a loss of income (there are waiting lists for all garages) but also increase “on street” parking problems. One garage in Chapefields had been empty of over a year apparently waiting for a new door.

Castle/Piccadilly site

The Council published further options for the redevelopment of the Castle Piccadilly site. They would later seek planning permission for a replacement car park for Castle. It would be a multi storey building in St Georges Field.

A major revamp of the area around the railway station entrance was announced. The Queen Street bridge would be demolished.

York Railway Station revamp

More electric buses would be coming to York. Coincidentally an encouraging report (for bus operators) on public satisfaction with local services was published.

Electric buses

What’s on in York: “Right Trusty and Well Beloved” Launch of Richard III anthology

York Explore

Saturday December 14th

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm 

Free

Book tickets »

Launch event for anthology of short stories and poems inspired by York’s own King Richard III, with a Foreword by Philippa Langley, sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK).

Sixteen international authors have collaborated on a second anthology of short stories and poetry inspired by Richard III, the king who called York ‘home’. Right Trusty and Well Beloved…, with a Foreword by Philippa Langley, who found the king’s grave in 2012 after 500 years, is being sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK), which aids people with the same spinal condition as King Richard. The book will be officially launched by six of the authors, including one from the USA, promising talks, Q&As, and readings and signings of their work. Everyone is welcome to this free event.

What’s on in York: Santa’s Special Gift

York Explore

Saturday December 14th

@ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm 

Free

Book tickets »

One snowy Christmas eve, there’s a knock at Kitty’s window. Wow, it’s Santa! And he’s here to whisk her away on a truly spectacular adventure! Join in as award-winning TV correspondent and local author Catherine Jacob reads her super fun picture book and gets us to turn into characters in her story. Suitable for age 4-8 and their families. Free, booking required for children over 12 months of age.

Fools For Love: A Launch of Two New Books

York Explore

Thursday December 5th

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm 

Free

Book tickets »

A return of former journalists John Wheatcroft and Alan Smith in conversation with Alan Gillott about their latest novels exploring sex, death, and romantic love: no fools like old fools.

Alan Smith and John Wheatcroft bring their experience as journalists and prison teachers to their new novels, Virginia, and Rocket Boy. Virginia is an actor whose lover Dan dies slowly and awfully, leaving her wishing him both alive and dead; until she meets Hank, who is also trapped between lives. In Rocket Boy, Simon Waiters’ life is defined by a childhood meeting with Yuri Gagarin; revisiting his past, and lost loves, sounds dangerous but could just be the break he needs. Alan and John discuss their books with Stairwell publisher Alan Gillott.

What’s on in York: Penny Thorpe – “The Quality Street Girls”

Clifton Explore

Tuesday December 3rd

6:30 pm – 7:30 pm 

£5

Book tickets »

Join us for a peek inside The Quality Street factory with author Penny Thorpe whose novel The Quality Street Girls is just out in paperback.
What is Christmas without Quality Street? And who better to let us into the secret of Quality Street than Penny Thorpe?
Penny was the company archivist for Nestlé for over 10 years. She has amassed a wealth of stories about the manufacture of chocolate in York and the people involved in the industry. She is writing a series of novels, under the pen name Penny Thorpe, based on her knowledge and experience, the first of which is The Quality Street Girls.

What’s on in York: “Finding the Words” with Mark Connors, Gill Lambert & Kathleen Strafford

York Explore

Thursday November 28

6:45 pm – 7:45 pm 

£5

Book tickets »

Image of poets Mark Connors, Gill Lambert and Kathleen Strafford

Mark Connors is an award winning poet and novelist from Leeds, UK. He’s had over 160 poems published in magazines, anthologies and webzines.Mark’s debut poetry pamphlet, ‘Life is a Long Song’ was published by OWF Press in 2015.  His first full length collection, ‘Nothing is Meant to be Broken’ was published by Stairwell Books in 2017. His second poetry collection, ‘Optics’, was published in 2019 by Yaffle. A joint collection, Reel Bradford, written with fellow writers behind poetry publishers, Yaffle, in partnership with Bradford City of Film, was also published in 2019. Mark is a managing editor at Yaffle. He is also a Bibliotherapist and Writing Workshop Facilitator for both poetry and fiction, and he co-runs the poetry open mic nights Word Club (Leeds) and Shaken in Sheeptown (Skipton), with his partner, Gill Lambert.

Gill Lambert is a poet and teacher from Yorkshire.  She has been published widely in print and online. With her partner Mark Connors she runs the poetry nights Shaken in Sheep Town and Word Club. Her pamphlet ‘Uninvited Guests’ was published in 2017 by Indigo Dreams and her debut collection ‘Tadaima’ was published by Yaffle this year.

Kathleen Strafford is a widely published poet, in journals, webzines and anthologies.  Her first poetry collection ‘Her Own Language’ was published by Dempsey & Windle in 2018. Kathleen’s new collection ‘Wilderness of Skin’ is published by Yaffle Press.  She is the chief editor of Runcible Spoon webzine publishing. Kathleen runs Runcible Spoon open mic at Miners Arms pub in Morley, Leeds. She is co-creator of ‘The Adventures of Dr Bear and Isabelle’ children’s book series.

What’s on in York: Julian Barnes, in conversation

York Explore

Tuesday November 26th

6:30 pm – 7:30 pm 

£6

Book tickets »

Julian Barnes’s The Man in the Red Coat delves deep into the artistic life of turn-of the century Paris and London, bringing to life Dr Samuel Jean di Pozzi, dandyish model for John Singer Sargent, and ground-breaking gynaecologist. It’s a superbly-realised hybrid of art criticism and biography; the author comes to York Explore to discuss this new book.

In partnership with Waterstones York

Book online only

£20 to include a copy of the The Man in the Red Coat

£6 admission only

What’s on in York: Simon Parkin – “A Game of Birds and Wolves”

York Explore

Wednesday November 20th

6:30 pm – 7:30 pm 

£5

Book tickets »

Join us to hear the explosive untold story of war at sea and how a secret game of battleships invented by eight exceptional young women and a retired Naval Captain won World War Two.

This event is presented in partnership with Fox Lane Books.

A Game of Birds and Wolves is the astonishing untold tale of an innovative game of battleships, Operation Raspberry, a tactic formulated via the game, and the unlikely heroines whose eureka moment cracked the battle of the Atlantic which, in the words of one of the most senior Admirals of the war, “contributed in no small measure to the final defeat of Germany.” For the first time, investigative journalist Simon Parkin brings these hidden figures into the light in this thrilling tale of war at sea, and of victory against all odds.

1941. Unknown to the British public, a vicious battle is being fought in the Atlantic – and the Allies are losing. Hitler’s U-Boats are mere weeks away from breaking Britain’s vital supply lines and starving the nation of food, fuel and weapons. Defeat would be unimaginably catastrophic, opening the door to a Nazi invasion and surrender. The stakes have never been higher as Britain faces its ‘Darkest Hour’.
In an unassuming building in Liverpool, Churchill is hiding a secret weapon. The Western Approaches Tactical Unit (WATU) has been tasked with devising a completely new strategy that will win the Battle of the Atlantic and turn the tide of the entire war. Churchill knows he’s asking the impossible of this largely inexperienced team, made up of a retired naval captain and eight fresh-faced Wrens – women as young as seventeen – who have never even seen a battle, let alone fought one. But circumstances are desperate, and Churchill has no other options. WATU is his last line of defence.