York Council promises action on verges and weed growth

A confidential internal memo has been circulated to Councillors reacting to criticism of verge maintenance standards.

It also claims that the weed treatment programme is being brought forward.

Weed control programme brought forward

A senior official says that verges are cut on 10 occasions each year between March and September. He goes on to say “as the rate of grass growth has slowed down, we are now starting to see improvements in the standard of cut, which will continue to improve as we undertake further cuts”.

Verges in the Foxwood Lane area have been subject to criticism, with one experienced local professional gardener saying that the edges are now so overgrown that they will need to be cut with a rotary cutter or strimmed if they are to recover their appearance.

On weeds, the Council says that they are treated in May/June, July/August & Sept/Oct. with a non-residual weed killer.

Weeds on back lanes will be cut promises Council

“This results in the ‘killing’ of all weeds that are growing at the time of treatment but any that germinate after the spray has passed will continue to grow until the next treatment later in the summer”.

“We are all aware of the issues regarding the amount of weeds visible in certain parts of the city, as previously stated this is due to the weather earlier in the year, we have worked with our contractor on a number of ways to improve the situation, as detailed below:

Our contractor has deployed additional resources at their cost.

We brought the commencement of the second treatment forward.

Our staff were deployed last week to start to strim and remove the very large weeds from the back lanes, as these would look unsightly even when dead”

The Council also says that the first cut of the Bar Walls – during in June – has not taken place because specialist equipment (supplied from Germany) has not yet arrived in the City

There has been no official comment from Executive Councillors about the poor standards evident in some parts of the City.

However one Independent Councillor – Mark Warters from Osbaldwick – Is understood to have told officials that a more professional approach to weed control is needed in the city. He says that the service should be brought back “in house”. Like many other residents, he believes that the weed killer used earlier in the year may have been washed off by rain before it had taken effect.

Hedges have been trimmed back form public footpaths

There is one piece of good news to report though, with several householders having cut back hedges from public footpaths over the weekend. This has reduced the number of obstructions on several streets.

Weather prompting rapid growth in gardens

Good and bad consequences

Several hedges are now obstructing public footpaths. Worse some thorn hedges have produced branches at eye height. These represent a hazard for pedestrians. Hopefully all homeowners will check that their boundary hedges are trimmed. We’ve reported the hedge at the side of the “ravine” on Otterwood Lane which is obstructing the footpath (Council responsibility to cut)

Council are getting to grip with maintenance work on open spaces




Building works problems increasing

Residents are hoping that some solutions, to the problems caused by widespread building works in the Westfield area, will emerge from last nights public meeting.

There are acute congestion, parking and noise problems at and near sevral sites.

Contractors have been digging up Hob Moor as they proceed wit the Newbury Avnue development. To do so they have cut two gaps in the perimeter hedge (although its is still the bird nesting season)
Parking problems are increasing on Ascot Way. The Lincoln House forecourt parking has gone and the Council have not provided even a temporary facility near the gable end of the building (where there is adequate space). The area is currently fenced off. The parking crisis in the estate has been exacerbated by the demolition of the |Newbury Avenue garages.

Litter still blighting suburb

Despite several requests for a root cause analysis of, and action to address, littering hot-spots problems continue to grow. There are particular issues on routes used by some students on their way to and from school (although this may be a coincidence).

Hot-spots include snickets and bus stops.

We believe that the Council should increase its surveillance of such locations and issue penalty charge notices to offenders.

Litter at Cornlands Road bus top near school entrance. We need a new litter bin here.

The Thoresby Road snicket, near the shops, has a particular problem with litter
The snickets linking The Reeves to Thoresby Road need cleaning and resurfacing
The Tithe Close snicket is subject to littering. The main problem at present though is a thorn bush which is obstructing the footpath. It is potential hazard after dark

Some progress on local problems in the Westfield area

We reported that 2 BIFFA bins had been left in the little Green Lane garage area. These have now been removed. Nearby garages have been secured by the Council. A boundary hedge has also been trimmed. Cllr Simon Daubeney is raising the issue of anti-social behaviour in the area with the police.
York’s worst highway surface? We’ve again reported School Street as being in need of resurfacing. UFO contractors are currently in the street reinstating the concrete footpaths
We’ve reported problems with litter and weeds on back Front Street
Residents are being advised to check that local watercourses and drainage ditches are kept free of obstructions. Many become overgrown at this time of year. It may become a potential flooding issued if we get a period of heavy rain.

Westfield Councillors to debate what to do about building works at public meeting tomorrow


Bowling club building site not on the agenda?

The Westfield Councillors are right to insist on more information being provided on building works in the area, when they meet tomorrow (Wednesday)

However, they will be meeting only a few metres away from the spoil heaps and site compound which has been constructed on the Council owned land to the rear of the Library.

Large spoil heap on Council land at the Acomb Library

Some explanation for the decision to allow the contractors to use this Council owned site will be expected. It is an issue that is not likely to go away.

Some residents still hope that Council will offer some sort of compensation for the problems that have been caused by the use of the compound

Elsewhere, the Lowfields development saga continues.

There has still not been any explanation about how the York Council came to mislead residents about the inclusion of a “police station” and health centre/GP surgery in the original consultation plans.

Both these promises turned out to be bogus. It is unclear what will happen to what, otherwise, will be unused plots on the east of the site.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Carriageway-cracking-on-Kingsway-West-1300hrs-5th-May-2019-.jpg
The Kingsway West carriageway is already breaking up

On Ascot Way, access arrangements, for the heavy plant needed to complete the demolition of Windsor House, remain unclear. It seems that access for the plant will be via Kingsway West and Ascot Way It is clear that the roads are too narrow in the area to avoid major damage to adjacent verges and paths. A “one way” system has been suggested but not confirmed.

There are real concerns that the bus route will be obstructed by the likely congestion

The original hope had been that more parking lay-bys would have been provided by now.

…..and the problem of the promised replacement for the all weather games area seems to be no closer to resolution. The existing MUGA has already been converted into a building compound.

Games area is now a building compound. No alternative provision for children has been provided

There is no word about the proposed alternative site on the Thanet Road Sports Area although officials were asked to follow this up 3 months ago.

Residents will no doubt be hoping that some answers emerge from the meeting

Spoil heaps dominate neighbouring properties on Lowfields Drive

York annual weed growing contest off to a good start

We’ve asked residents to nominate the highest growing weeds on public highways in the City.

These are roads, footpaths , bridges etc which should by now have been treated for weed growth by the York Council.

If left untreated the weeds will gradually break up the surface of the highway causing additional expense when remedial work is undertaken.

The weed control programme is normally sub contracted by the Council. Residents may have seen (or not this year) quad bikers in some streets spraying weed killer

Weeds in the Leeman Road area. Currently about 1 metre high but growing strongly

Weeds higher than 1 metre at the A59 junction near Poppleton. Gives a poor first impression of the City for visitors accessing the nearby Park and Ride site.
A long time problem location with weeds now nearly 2 metres high on the parapets of the Ouse Bridge. Happens every year but no weed killer is applied by the Council.
This year the weeds have been supplemented by a strong growth in tin cans (licet stagni)
In the right place, wild flowers can make a positive contribution to the local environment. These are outside the Foxwood Community Centre. They help to sustain bee populations as well as supporting bio diversity more generally..

Another planning forum for Westfield – we think not

The York Council has started consultation on whether to recognise an “Acomb and Westfield Neighbourhood Forum”

A small group of residents, mainly living in the Front Street area, want to establish a “neighbourhood plan”. It would supplement the Councils own Local Plan which will be subject to a public hearing over the summer months.

Proposed neighbourhood plan area (Acomb and Westfield)

Unfortunately, the area they hope to cover includes the whole of the Acomb and Westfield wards (approximately 10,000 homes). It would stretch from Foxwood to Boroughbridge Road, encompassing a disparate group of neighbourhoods with little obvious community of interest.

If agreed, it would be by far the largest such plan in the York area. In the main those plans that have been approved cover smaller villages. All have a shared commonality of interests.

Westfield is not short of groups which seek to influence Council policy.

There are several Residents Associations, a “planning panel” (which scrutinises planning applications), a “ward team” and a “ward committee” together with several “action groups” which tend to focus on stimulating, or preventing, specific developments.

Adding an additional tier of representation, although only a consultative body, would involve additional costs and could lead to confusion about roles and responsibilities.

When it comes down to it, Foxwood has little in common with Chapelfields or the Gladstone Street area.

It has even less shared interest with Ouse Acres and vice versa. Arguably Foxwood has more in common with the Woodthorpe area.

In our view, this proposal represents an unwelcome diversion and could take resources away from the key task of raising public service standards in the area. Residents Associations are bested suited – and of the right scale – to identify changes that need to be made in local neighbourhoods.

They deserve more Council support.

In most built up sub-urban areas, there is little scope for redevelopment anyway with the focus being to retain existing open spaces. There is an opportunity for more public open space on land lying between the existing development and the A1237 bypass. The proposed Neighbourhood Plan boundaries exclude this land from consideration.

Ward Councillors are already aware of the need to move the extra public open space issue forward.

Front Street in older times. This part of Westfield may require better protection from developers in the light of the current problems at the Bowling Club building site.

There may be a case for a neighbourhood plan covering the Acomb village conservation area and its immediate environs.

The “forum” organisers would be wise to focus on a smaller area like this – where there may be a need for more clarity on its future – rather than try to “boil the, proverbial, ocean”.

In the meantime residents should email the Council to oppose this unnecessary proposal.

neighbourhoodplanning@york.gov.uk

Hidden in open view?

We’ll get an idea of the calibre of the newly elected York Councillors this week when they begin to consider how to scrutinise the management performance of the local authority.

A series of updates are being presented.

A typical report is being tabled on housing and community safety issues on 24th June.   

Litter blights some neighbourhoods

What is immediately clear is that no performance indicators have been tabulated (or referenced out). Councillors aren’t being told how long it takes to do things, what any backlogs are, what quality checks are in place or what the levels of public satisfaction are.

Some of the information is available on York Open Data but you have to search for it. Many of the figures are not up to date.

Some major issues are not mentioned at all.  

Empty garages reduce local authority rent income

The housing section fails to even mention empty Council garages, tenants don’t feel they can influence decisions (most tenants organisations have folded) and there are delays on the Housing Estate Improvement programmes.

Similarly on community safety (mainly policing matters) anti-social behaviour in sub-urban areas hardly gets a mention. Trends in drug and alcohol abuse are not quantified. Vandalism, criminal damage, graffiti, all of which disfigure residential areas, are ignored. The trend in the number of prosecutions for this type of offence and similar environmental crimes (litter, dog fouling) is not revealed.

Graffiti scars some streets.

The challenge for new Councillors will be not so much to question the information that has been provided by officials, but more to probe the areas where reports are silent.