Council mowing grass as community clean up day arrives

Today is litter pick day in Foxwood.

We hope that residents will check and trim their boundary hedges at the same time. Several public footpaths are now obstructed by recent growth.

Some hedges are obstructing footpaths

Meanwhile the Council has, somewhat belatedly, got round to mowing local public open spaces. This has left a bit of a mess in some parks because of the large amount of grass clippings

UPDATE

Residents have collected 10 large bags of rubbish during todays Foxwood litter pick. Part of the Great British Spring Clean

Good weather brings problems for cyclists and playing fields

The current period of fair weather has prompted high growth rates on grassed areas.

The surge in growth seems to have caught the Council out with mowing schedules inadequate to ensure that areas used for ball games are kept tidy.

There have already been some criticisms of the grass in parks in west York not being cut. Some have – rightly – not being mowed to ensure that meadowland is created to help pollinators. But the neglect of sports pitches remains unexplained by the Council.

Another Council department is encouraging active sports and leisure activities particularly among younger people. They will find this more difficult if grass is not cut.

It isn’t just sports pitches where a lack of maintenance is evident.

Once again cycle paths are becoming overgrown. It is usually the same ones each year with Tadcaster Road being the stand out example.

Some visibility splays at road junctions also haven’t been trimmed this year.

The Council should update residents on its planned maintenance schedules

Call for Chapelfields clean up

Seems that weed growth is getting out of hand again this summer in the Chapelfields estate. We’ve asked for better street cleaning in the estate.

Meanwhile mystery still surrounds the future of the Sanderson House community centre on Bramham Road. The running of the centre was taken over by the Council last year but there is little evidence that activities with a wide appeal will restart there anytime soon.

If any estate would benefit from an active residents association then it is surely Chapelfields. We hope the authorities will provide the necessary support to make this a reality again.

Council’s consultation confusion

It seems that the York Council is pursuing a policy of overkill with many and various public consultations currently underway.

There is already some scepticism among residents about whether it is even worth responding to the Council’s questions. A recent survey found that the majority of respondents didn’t want to see any major change to traffic signal arrangements at the St Leonard Place/Bootham junction. The views were largely ignored when a decision on changes was shelved until the autumn.

Meanwhile, the ill timed (but well intentioned) Groves experimental traffic scheme is still in operation and attracting comments. It was implemented at the height of the pandemic when streets were virtually free of traffic. It is likely to be 6 months before a “new normal” is established and the true impact of the road closures becomes apparent. In the meantime ambulances and other emergency vehicles are forced use an unnecessarily longer route.

The Council is now trying to promote it’s ” My City Centre” survey.

With the York City centre beginning to get back to normal a cautious approach to change is needed.

It says the questions are aimed at shaping “a people-focused, business-friendly city centre where people love to spend time, live and work“. You can complete the survey visit My City Centre York.

There is more than a sneaking suspicion that the questions simply replicate the Castle Gateway approach which started in 2018. There a seemingly endless stream of questions were apparently aimed at wearing down non conformist opposition.

The best test of the voracity of any survey is whether it offers the status quo as an option!

The Council has had little option but to start consultation again on its Local Plan.

Planning inspectors have asked for the six-week consultation period before examining the plan at public hearing sessions later this year.

The consultation will ask for comments on additional evidence and modifications submitted since the ‘Phase 1 hearings in 2019’, including the recent submission of the Green Belt Topic Paper Addendum (2021).

To have your say, visit Local Plan Consultation. The consultation will end at midnight on Wednesday 7 July 2021.

Consultation on “York’s Community Woodland” finished yesterday. It ran for over 6 weeks without managing to answer key questions about how much each of the options would cost and where the funding would come from. https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/YorkWoodland

Another consultation which closed on 11th May relates to changes to recycling arrangements. The proposed 3 weekly collection system attracted one of the highest response rates ever seen. Whether the Council decides to go ahead with the changes, despite the concerns raised, may be the defining moment for the present Council. A decision is due on 24th June.

Other current consultation ca be found by clicking this link

No consultation on Acomb Library upgrade plans

We reported a few weeks ago that Council owned land to the rear of Acomb Library – and which had been hijacked for use as a building compound – was now available once again  for its original purpose.

The and had been purchased by the Council over 10 years ago to establish a “one stop shop” for public services as part of a plan to expand the library site. The need for a local Council base became more urgent when the Acomb Housing Office was subsequently closed in 2013.

Nothing much happened on the site until the new Liberal Democrat led Council announced a plan to invest £4 million in the library sites at Acomb and Clifton. That was two years ago. Things once again have fallen silent in the interim.

It appears though, from a progress report being considered by the Council next week, that plans for the site have already been drawn up.

York Council Acomb Library expansion update report April 2021

No public consultation has taken place and the Front Street survey – which ended a few days ago – failed to offer any options for the library site.

The original aspiration was for housing estate managers, the police, the NHS and neighbourhood workers to have a base at the new building. It remains to be seen whether this concept will be pursued.

In the interim the Council has constructed a new small housing office as part of the Lincoln Court redevelopment.

The land to the rear of Chancery Court (not Council owned) would have been landscaped as part of the project.

It was hoped that many more residents would make use of the Front Street facility as a result of the new investment. It would become a natural “hub” for the local community.

Apparently, the early plans for the site have been costed at £3 million. They are currently being scaled back to something “more affordable”.

The recently opened new library at Burnholme cost £4.6 million.

The Council needs to engage with potential users of facilities like these before plans are firmed up.

Road repairs programme for York finally published – mixed news.

The programme of repairs to York’s highways network, that will take place during 2021/22, has finally been published. The programme is usually agreed in February. Work has already started on some of the listed schemes.

There is some mixed news in the report which was approved at a “behind closed doorsmeeting apparently held on 23rd April.

The highways maintenance programme (which includes not just carriageway and footpath repairs but also drainage, street lighting, City Walls, flood alleviation etc,)  is one of the services which most interest residents, the programme has been delegated for officer determination for some years. Thus, the reports are not subject to scrutiny and alternative ways of allocated the budget are not publicly debated.

One key sentence in the report sums up the dilemma faced by the Council.

“Notwithstanding previous levels of investment the current funding levels are not sufficient to keep all our assets in their current condition”.

In effect, the Council has decided to focus resurfacing works on busy roads. Most side roads are being left to crumble.

Some work scheduled for 20/21, including the whole of the micro patching programme in Woodthorpe, has been delayed into the current financial year.

There is some good news.

Several long term problem locations in west York, including parts of Foxwood Lane, Askham Lane near the  A1237 intersection,  The Green, Bradley Lane near Rufforth, the low numbered end of Gale Lane and Thanet Road are scheduled to be resurfaced this year.

But there is no allocation for repairs on School Street and the surrounding area behind the Front Street shops, nor at many other sub-urban locations.

No footpaths in the Westfield area will be resurfaced.

There is no mention in the programme of the repairs needed to off-road cycle track infrastructure nor is there any listing of how the £1 million delegated “ward budgets” will be spent.

 £877,000 of the latter budget, due to be invested last year, is being carried over into the current year. At the very least residents should be given the opportunity to influence how that section of the budget is spent.

All in all its seems that the decline in maintenance standards is set to continue for another year.

Acomb Moor footpath problems continue

Its over 4 months since Councillors told residents that a blocked Public Right of Way (PROW) would be reopened . The access to Acomb Moor from Foxwood Lane had been via a stile for over 20 years.

It gradually fell into disrepair and the Council declined to stabilise it.

An application to define the route as a PROW was submitted in late 2018 and supported by the Council some 12 months later.

Shortly afterwards the tenant farmer blocked the access with a large tree trunk. He went on to plant crops in the field (for the first time in over 25 years).

Local residents agreed to use a footpath route which skirted around the outside of the field and this has become a well established exercise route during the lockdown period.

Unfortunately an assurance from local Councillors – that the tree trunk would be moved to allow for single file pedestrian access – was not fulfilled. As a result an new access point has now been forced near the Askham Lane junction.

Of more concern, many walkers are now trying to climb a 5 bar metal gate. A potentially hazardous activity for the elderly and infirm.

There are other points on the route which have also fallen into a, potentially hazardous, state of disrepair.

There are easy and relatively cheap solutions to this problem. The Lockdown period has simply reinforced the importance of informal walking routes near the City.

The Council should act now to make these footpaths accessible and safe.

York Council to cut 20% from highway maintenance

A response to a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the Council intends to spend 20% less on repairing roads and footpaths in the City during 2021/22 compared to the current year.

The decision will come as a disappointment to many drivers and pedestrians and will be a particular blow for cyclists, many of whom have criticised the rapidly declining quality of local highway surfaces.

Highway maintenance is one of the expenditure areas in the Council where essentially you get what you pay for. So less money inevitably means that fewer paths and carriageways will be resurfaced.

The Council will announce shortly what proportion of the budget it will spend on reactive pothole filling rather than, longer lasting, patching and resurfacing schemes.

Sources at the Council have criticised inconsistent central government funding allocations – such as the annual so called “pot hole” fund – which make long term investment planning difficult. A late announcement of funding for the resurfacing of Tadcaster Road came only weeks after the work had been completed using local taxpayers money (and is now being done again).

However, there will also be concern that some money has been taken from the maintenance budget to fund other projects. Several new schemes, such as rural cycle routes, are sucking funds from the budgets needed to repair existing cycle paths..

The Council has never recovered from the major reductions made to highways funding some 8 years ago.

Successive administrations have failed to find ways of returning investment levels to those seen earlier in the century.

It is estimated that the backlog in maintenance work nationally would require investment of around £11 billion to rectify.

Litter shame on A64

The pile of litter continue to grow next to a layby near Tadcaster. Problems on the A64 were reported several weeks ago but without any lasting improvement.

Deliberate fly tipping has now added to the woes.

Its a real shame that people don’t take their litter home with them and that enforcement action is rarely effective.

It is a shame as this is the first sight that some visitors will get as they approach York.

Elsewhere we have re-reported two fly tipping and leaf detritus issues in the little Green Lane area.

Graffiti on utility boxes in Windsor Garth has been reported.

Reports are coming in that 8 trees, planted by volunteers in Dickson Park during the summer, have been vandalised. The incident is being investigated by the local residents association.