Empty Council garages still a problem in west York?

The Foxwood Residents Association recently used the Freedom of Information legislation to find out how many empty Council owned garages were available in the neighbourhood.

It turns out that the number was relatively small.

The Council says that it has a waiting list at most blocks.

However, the Council doesn’t routinely keep an up to date list of vacancies posted on its social media channels.

We think that is a mistake.

An empty garage brings in no revenue for the Authority while the chances of a void garage being vandalised are high.

We think that it may be time to outsource the management of this asset.

A contractor could be targeted to ensure that all garages are kept in use and that they are maintained to a high standard.

It might also help to reduce parking congestion on some roads in the City!

Time for a post festive clean up in Westfield

We’ve been out and about checking and reporting on public service standards in the Westfield area over the last few days. Perhaps not surprisingly litter and dumping are the major issues.

Dumped artificial Christmas trees in Thoresby Road garage area

Full litter bin Dickson Park

Full litter bin Cornlands Road

Tithe Close snicket badly littered

Dumping next to Foxwood Lane bus stop reported by Andrew Waller

Graffiti at Ridgeway bus stop reported by Andrew Waller

Litter at Foxwood Lane bus stop (shops) later cleared up by local residents

Aspden cleared but everyone now counting the cost

Cllr Aspden (left) with Cllr Carr who was the Council Leader when the allegations were made. Cllr Carr summarily sacked Keith Aspden from his Executive role.

A York Council “standards board” committee has found that allegations against Cllr Keith Aspden have not been proven. The case centred around a claim that job application papers had been circulated prior to a discussion with third parties in a York pub in 2016.

The committee took over 10 hours to sift through evidence before throwing out the claims.

The committee did however, rightly, say that job applications should not be discussed with third parties and ordered that additional training be given to those involved in job interviews.

The decision ends a 2-year investigation which was instigated by a “whistle-blower” who had himself been sacked by the Council. The claims were first raised some 2 years after the alleged events had taken place.

The investigation is believed to have cost the Authority around £100,000.

The cost to Cllr Aspden, in legal fees and loss of earnings, is thought to be around £20,000.

Attention is now likely to turn to the possibility of compensation.

Two other related cases, involving different Councillors, now need to be resolved quickly.

The Council faces some difficult budget choices in a few weeks time. This case has been an unwelcome and costly distraction

Windsor Garth parking lay-by location options revealed

Local Councillor Andrew Waller is consulting local residents about the new proposals to install additional parking lay-bys on Windsor Garth.

Cllr Andrew Waller

The options are the latest in a series of plans which are aimed at reducing congestion on the narrow roads in the Kingsway/Hob Moor estate.

Several other options have been discounted either for practical reasons or because they did not represent value for money.

Residents had their  say in response to a survey conducted a year ago. Subsequently a plan to provide a lay-by outside the flats on Newbury Avenue ran into delays caused by difficulties in relocating telecoms cabinets. That plan is now expected to be implemented in the spring.

The need for better parking has become even more urgent with the Council having decided to redevelop the Windsor House/Lincoln Court area on Ascot Way. The published plans for the new buildings do not include sufficient “on site” parking space according to many residents.

The Westfield Ward delegated budget includes funding to provide up to 11 additional spaces during the current financial year. Potential locations near Kempton Close and Beverley Court have now been identified. (see plan below)

Residents have a choice of implementing option 2 or 3 this year.

Option 6 will be done as well unless there are strong objections from local residents. .

It is likely that the spaces will use matrix surfacing. This allows grass to grow though the matrix providing a “natural” appearance while also allowing “soak away” drainage.

Any work must be completed before the end of March.

Parking lay-by options in Windsor Garth area January 2019

 

 

Building plans near Moor Lane nature reserve

Askham Bog

Developers submit plans which could threaten the future of Askham Bog.

Developers are seeking “outline planning permission (with all matters reserved except for means of access) for up to 516 residential units (Class C3) with local centre (Use Classes A1-A4, B1a, C3, D1) public open space with pavilion and associated infrastructure and full application for demolition of existing buildings and structures and creation of ecological protection and enhancement zone”.

The location is on Moor Lane “OS Fields 5475 7267 And 8384 Moor Lane Acomb York” Click this   Reference for full details 18/02687/OUTM

The application went “live” on the Councils “planning on line” web site only yesterday. Objections have to be lodged by 9th January with a statutory expiry date of 30th January.

Some believe that the application has been timed to coincide with the busy festive season when resident’s attention is distracted.

The proposal is highly controversial.

Sir David Attenborough said during a visit to the site in 2016,

“If someone was proposing to put a building site next to York Minster there would be an outcry. This is a treasure that is irreplaceable.

“The citizens of York are lucky to have it on their doorstep and it is their responsibility to look after it.”

A Yorkshire Wildlife Trust spokesperson said the bog was a remarkable survivor of the ancient fenlands of Yorkshire, a ‘wonderful mosaic of fen, woodland and meadow,’ occupying the site of an ancient lake left behind by a retreating glacier 15,000 years ago.

The present Council specifically took the step of excluding the Moor Lane area from the development plans when it published its Local Plan. In 2 months time an independent inquiry will take place into the Plan.

It seems that the developers want to “bounce” a decision on the proposal before the formal Local Plan can be adopted.

They may be hoping that Labour will regain control of the York Council at the local elections which are taking place in May 2019. When Labour were last in power, they slated Moor Lane and other areas of Green Belt for development.

These decisions were revoked in 2015 by the new coalition administration.

Unfortunately the present Council is also guilty of pre-judging the Local Plan having succeeded recently in “bouncing” a plan to develop playing fields at Lowfields through the planning system. They did so before residents had the opportunity to voice their views at the public inquiry.

Opposition to the proposals is being coordinated by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Click this link to go to their website www.ywt.org.uk

Moor Lane development plans December 2018

Local Plan hearings set to take place in the New Year

City of York Council has received confirmation from the two inspectors, who have been appointed to examine York’s Local Plan, that a series of public hearings could take place as early as February.

Six weeks notice will be given prior to the start of the hearings at www.york.gov.uk/localplanexamination

The council met its deadline of submitting the plan in May, following agreement to endorse the draft plan at a special Full Council meeting on 17 May.

It also means York has met the timescales previously agreed with the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Local Plan provides clear rules which determine what gets built, and where, in York over the next 15 years and beyond.

Regular updates will be provided on the Local Plan Submission webpage: www.york.gov.uk/localplanexamination

Councillor Keith Aspden, Executive Member for Economic Development, said: “I am pleased that the Planning Inspectors have agreed to our suggestion to hold early public hearings on York’s Local Plan, in order to discuss York’s housing need.”

“With the recent publication of ONS data, we are confident that our balanced approach to creating the Local Plan means that we remain on track to securing a plan that will deliver more housing in the city, whilst protecting York’s special character.”  (more…)

Newbury Avenue

Garages to be demolished

The Council have appointed Transcore Ltd to build the 5 new bungalows scheduled to be constructed on the site of the Newbury Avenue garages.

The value of the contract is £731,505.90.  It is understood that separate contracts are being awarded for other work such as the demolition of the existing garages.

The works are currently held up following an administrative mistake which meant that movement of telecoms equipment, which needed to be moved before alternative parking provision could be made, wasn’t ordered soon enough.

The Council contract for the bungalows gives a target completion date of 3rd September 2019.

We understand that when demolition contractors removed the garage doors at Newbury Avenue they found a stolen car in one unit.

Separately, the Council have been served with a Freedom of Information request which seeks to explore why some Council garages have been left unused despite there being a waiting list of potential renters.

York Councillors asked to approve funding for York outer ring road dualling

Councillors will be asked to approve match funding for the dualling of the York outer ring road from the A19 Shipton Road through to Little Hopgrove (Malton Road), when they meet at Executive on Thursday 20 December.

The plans don’t include improvements to the Ouse river crossing, one of the main pressure points on the existing network. Nor are there plans to introduce split level intersections  raising concerns that the existing junctions, even with larger roundabouts, will continue to be pinch pints on the network.

A Council report asks the Executive to recommend  that £2.8m match funding, approximately 10 percent of the estimated £28m cost of the dualling element of the overall upgrade scheme, is provided in the Council’s Capital Programme.

The opportunity for funding of the scheme using the new Major Road Network Fund was announced by the Secretary for State earlier this year.

This follows on from the outer ring road roundabout upgrade scheme which will see seven roundabouts upgraded ready for dualling as part of a West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund scheme.

Work is nearly complete at Wetherby Road roundabout after starting earlier this year. Monks Cross is the next in line with ground clearance works set to take place early in 2019. It is proposed to join the dualling and roundabout schemes together as early as possible to reduce overall costs and disruption.

Subject to the decision on the match funding proposal at this Executive meeting a formal Outline Business Case (OBC) would be submitted to the DfT this month.  This is the first stage of the DfT’s approval process. Dependent on a positive assessment of the OBC and Ministerial approval it is anticipated that Programme Entry status would be granted for the scheme by March 2019.

Increasing the capacity of the ring road leading to the redistribution of trips will complement the city’s transport policies and help to enable more sustainable travel options to be delivered in the urban area of the city.

The York Outer Ring Road improvements programme is being funded through the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund, and the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

For more information about the York outer ring road roundabout upgrades visit www.york.gov.uk/yorr

Executive takes place on Thursday 20 December from 5.30pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch live online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

To find out more about the report, or to attend, visit: https://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=733&MId=10475&Ver=4

Dismay as elderly residents told they must quit their homes for 12 months

Council apology for Lincoln Court tenants

Lincoln Court

The council has apologised to Lincoln Court tenants ahead of a £1.4m scheme to improve and extend the independent living scheme.

While the modernisation of the independent living scheme on Ascot Way had been generally welcomed, tenants had been assured that the necessary modernisation work – which includes the provision of new double glazed windows – could be completed while they remained in their flats.

Now the Council has reversed the assurances that were given during the consultation meetings earlier in the year.

Other aspects of the work are also proving to be controversial.

The amount of car parking being provided is inadequate.

No rear access is being provided to the new development which would have offered access to overflow parking at the school as well as a route for emergency and delivery vehicles.

Planning Councillors acted against the wishes of Sport England in agreeing to demolish the all weather games area (MUGA) without providing a replacement. This omission likely to be the subject of a formal complaint

The Council statement reads, “Following detailed design work and site surveys to modernise and enlarge Lincoln Court, the project’s contractor and health and safety specialist has advised it would not be safe for any of the work to be completed while the building remains occupied.

As the landlord, the council has taken the difficult decision that all Lincoln Court tenants must be moved to suitable, alternative accommodation for the duration of the work. All tenants have received an apology from the council for this unexpected disruption.

Tenants, the executive member for housing and a ward councillor attended a meeting with staff this afternoon. This will be followed by one-to-one conversations with each tenant about their needs and preferences for alternative accommodation.

Michael Melvin, interim corporate director of health, housing and adult social care at City of York Council, said:

“We apologise to all our tenants for this unexpected and disappointing level of disruption. Moving everyone to safe and suitable alternative accommodation by the end of May 2019 is now our priority.

“While 10 new homes will be added to the scheme, and the building improved for the long-term benefit of older people in the city, we regret the degree of upheaval the present tenants will face.

“In addition to today’s meeting we have written to all tenants within the scheme and are going beyond our legal obligations to support them through this time. We have offered tenants the option of moving on a permanent basis, or to return to Lincoln Court when the refurbishment is completed.

“We will also provide practical and financial support, and will arrange and pay for every tenant’s move. This will include moving their belongings and bringing their new home up to the decorative and furnished standard of their flat at Lincoln Court.

“We are committed to making the process as well-supported as possible. Additional staff will work to find tenants alternative accommodation that best matches their needs and preferences regarding location and setting.”

With the requirement to relocate tenants established, the council is taking the opportunity to review the current design of Lincoln Court to ensure the best possible layout and accommodation to create an independent living scheme fit for the future”.

Report on public service reports in York

click to view

A report has been published which analyses the  reports made by members of the public using the “Fix My Street” app.  The University of Sterling research report relates issue volumes to “areas of deprivation”.

The York Council decided some 5 years ago to develop its own “app” for public service issue reporting (“Report it”). However the system has never worked properly lacking the flexibility and features available in commercial systems. Only litter and street lighting reports produce an instance reference number and “job completed” notifications.

Despite promises of an early upgrade to meet modern standards none has been forthcoming.

Clearly many residents still opt for “Fix My Street” and other systems to report issues. This means that someone at the Council has to manually re-key the reports into its ageing IT system.

This is the kind of inefficiency that the Council needs to tackle if it is to invest more in actually dealing with issues *on the street”

The Stirling research – not surprisingly – reveals that road and footpath reports are by far the greatest concern of York residents.