Council Plan

The York Council are set to adopt a new “Council Plan” on Thursday. Although a significant document, it is likely to attract little comment. This is partly because much of its content is anodyne and partly because it is linked to impenetrable bureaucratic processes and documentation Only 353 residents responded to the initial consultation on the document.

Council Plans are rarely a “good read”

This plan though does have one major setback. It fails to react to the decline in street level public service standards that have been seen in recent months.

The KPIs suggested are essentially those that have been carried over from previous plans. They have the merit of a good historic database making trends easier to judge and they are generally easy to collect, but they offer little for those seeking “smart” targets.

Nor has the Council addressed the issue of service level agreements. This exercise presented an opportunity to update and reissue what used to be known as “Customer Contracts” but it seems that taxpayers will remain largely in ignorance of what their payments are buying.

There are a range of day to day services which residents depend on. They therefore legitimately might expect to have access to stats which, for example, tell them

  • How many potholes are reported and how quickly they are fixed?
  • How much litter there is on our streets?
  • How many streets are 98% clear of weed growth?
  • How many reports there have been of obstructions to public paths and how quickly those obstructions are removed?
  • How many bins are not emptied as scheduled each week?
  • How reliable local bus services are?
  • How many streetlights are working?
  • Satisfaction with Council estates (communal areas)?
  • Time taken to resolve issue reports by different channels (on line, email, telephone, personal visit)?

All would give residents a clearer picture of Council performance than some of those suggested.

Local Plan inquiry dates set. Askham Bog appeal imminent

A planning appeal into the York Council’s refusal to allow a development near Askham Bog will start on 12th November.

Askham Bog in autumn

The potential developers (Barwood Land) refused to wait for the results of the public hearing into the York Local Plan (which protects the area near Moor Lane in Dringhouses from development). Instead they have pressed ahead with their planning application.

The Local Plan Inspectors are now preparing for the first stage of hearings, which will address legal compliance including the Duty to Co-operate, Housing Need and Green Belt. Provisional dates have been agreed with the Inspectors for these initial hearings to be held on selected days over a two week period, commencing on Monday 9 December 2019 at York Racecourse.

 The Inspectors will shortly be issuing the Council with their Matters, Issues and Questions (MIQs) which will be published on the examination library (link above) along with the Council’s response to these questions. The Inspectors will also produce a hearing timetable giving more detail on the hearing sessions including the schedule for each day.

 Representors (all those who commented on the Plan during the Regulation 19 Publication consultation and the Proposed Modifications Consultation) will be given the required formal notice (6 weeks) when the dates and venue have been finalised.

We will also update the examination library with these dates and will issue a press release with details of the dates and venue and where to find more information.

Groves traffic ban plan – not entirely convincing

It seems that through traffic will be banned from The Groves area following a meeting next week.
High traffic levels in The Groves

A report recommends road closures on Lowther Street and Penleys Grove Street in the wake of complaints about safety and emission issues.

The report fails to provide any accident information either for the streets affected or the “alternative” routes (Lord Mayors Walk, Dodsworth Avenue etc.) which will see increases in traffic volumes.

 Nor are any “before” or target “after” air pollution figures provided

Without these it will be impossible to judge whether any change could be judged a success.

The area is already covered by a 20-mph speed limit (one of the oldest in York).

What can be said is that the “short cutting” traffic is intrusive, noisy and can cause vibrations particularly in streets with traffic calming road humps.  Residents living on the affected streets would certainly enjoy an improved quality of life.

The quid pro quo of course is that the road closures would also increase journey length and durations for many car trips from and to The Groves.

The traffic impact figures – assessed using the Councils sophisticated computer model – are expressed in very cautious terms. It is almost as if officials had discovered that the peak hour impact on congestion was potentially calamitous.

There is no origin and destination data provided. We don’t know how the changes will affect, for example, ambulance journey times to the nearby hospital. It is information that must be provided before an informed decision could be made.

It is also surprising – given the apparent concerns about pollution levels -that no consideration has been given to declaring the area a low emission zone. The new coalition Council has been very slow to reverse the Tory led campaign to have ResPark low emission vehicle discount charges abolished. The decision took effect at the beginning of the year.

The declaration of an ultra-low emission zone (basically allowing access only to electric vehicles) will of course have to wait until the Council solves the “on street” charging issue.

The plans involve the whole of The Groves area becoming a single ResPark zone. The zone will include the Monk Bar car park and the St Johns Campus.

NB. The same meeting will hear about plans to redesign the Monk Bar/Lord Mayors Walk junction. New traffic lights will be provided at the same time.

New strategy aims to help people with learning disabilities live the fullest lives possible

Helping people with learning disabilities live the best possible life is at the heart of a strategy will be launched on Monday 21 October by partners in the city.

York’s learning disability strategy will be presented by the Learning Disability Partnership at Priory Street. The strategy aims to support people with learning disabilities to live fulfilling lives, and to raise awareness of the help and support available to them, as well as what more needs to be done.

For the past 18 months, people across York have been talking and working together to prepare the all-age learning disabilities strategy. It prioritises how to live well in York from birth to later life. These priorities are being as independent, healthy and included in their communities as much as possible.

The four main priorities of the strategy are: education, life-long learning and employment; participating in and contributing to the community; living as independently and being as healthy as possible. Action plans around these are being drawn up with the partnership.

Central to this work are people with learning disabilities themselves, together with their families and carers, volunteers and professionals from across education and employment, health and social care, travel and culture. An easy read version of the strategy has been published.

Deadline for secondary school applications nears

Parents of children currently in Year 6 are reminded that applications for secondary schools places for September 2020 should be made before midnight on Thursday 31 October.

For pupils in Year 6 – the last year of primary school – parents and carers can apply for a maximum of five schools and City of York Council recommends that at least one preference should be the catchment school

Applications can be made online at www.york.gov.uk/schooladmissions.

All details and answers to frequently asked questions can be found at www.york.gov.uk/guideforparents. This guide contains information on school admissions and appeals processes as well as information on admissions statistics, oversubscription criteria and other information for parents and carers.

For more detailed information, please email: education@york.gov.uk or call 01904 551 554.

“Last year, 91.5% per cent of pupils in the secondary school admission round secured their first preference. Our staff have worked hard to ensure that our schools have enough places for all applicants and we will let students know about their allocated school on National Offer Day on 2 March next year”.

A59 weeds finally gone..leaf clearance starts,

Its taken over 4 months, but weed growth has finally been cleared from the drainage channels on the A59 near Poppleton. The work, undertaken yesterday by Council staff, has improved the appearance of this key entry into the City

Weeds on the A59 reported in early July
A59 gutters clear of weeds (17th October 2019)
The only area left to treat is the slip road onto Longfield Lane.

It remains unclear how far the Councils weed control contractors have got with their “3rd application” of weed killer.

Attention will now switch to the autumn leaf removal programme. This is due to start on Monday. It will last for about 8 weeks.

Councillors have been briefed in the following terms,

“The leaf clearance will be undertaken using both mechanical and manual means.

We will have two trailer drawn leaf vacuums, our teams will use these to remove leaves from pavements and grass verges.

Our two large mechanical sweepers will be targeted at streets with trees, using the local knowledge of our staff, members and reports made by residents.

These leaves cannot be recycled because they are cleared from nearby or on the roads and are treated as contaminated waste.

As always we cannot see and clear every street at one time, so we would be grateful for the following

  1. If you aware of leaves that are causing a ‘danger’ i.e. on a major footpath, near a school, elderly persons home etc.  and are wet and slippery, please report these to member enquiries, if not a ‘danger’ please monitor and we will get there!
  • Once the main leaf fall is over, if there are leaves, which appear to have been missed, please pass these through member enquires.

You may be interested to know that the Communities and Equalities team, who work with volunteers across the city have recently ‘enrolled’ about a dozen volunteer leaf clearers.

They are also working with volunteers from Goodgym to clear leaves from large grassed areas in the parks and these are recycled in leaf bays within the parks”.

Libraries in York – another report

The Council will be discussing another report on the future of library buildings in York next week.  There is little new in the document.
Acomb Library

We have seen a decade of agonising about the service which has been run for several years by an independent – not for profit – social interest organisation. They recently won the right to run the library service for a further 15 years.

Whether staff moral has held up in the face of Council indecisiveness in recent years may be open to question.

Compared to other areas, York has a relative successful library service. It has not slipped into the “basket case” situation seen recently with several other public services in the City.

Usage levels have been stable, no libraries have been closed, new libraries have been established at Burnholme, New Earswick and the soon to be opened (probably) Community Stadium. The Reading Café in Rowntree park is successful and an overhaul of the Central Library and Archives has been completed.

The library service has recognised that it needs to be more than a book lending service. Some have styled themselves as learning or “explore” centres. Some have opened cafes. Several have established “Friends of” groups.

Derelict expansion site behind Acomb Explore Library 2017

But progress in west York has been slow.

In 2008 the Council identified the need to expand the Acomb Library. It had had a modest extension to the front, but other parts of the building were aging. The Council decided to acquire land to the rear to facilitate expansion. The idea was that a “one stop shop” should be established with staff moving in from the then nearby “Acomb Office”. Officials were told to buy the bowling club land but failed to push a deal though. The bowling club was latter to be sold to a private housing developer. The Council land is now part of a building compound.

The expansion plans were jettisoned by a new administration when it took office in 2011.

Since then the staff from the Acomb (housing) Office have been centralised into West Offices. There has been no significant investment in the library building. The acquired land became an overgrown eyesore.

About two years ago an opportunity arose to rationalise the site by  incorporating the library, bowling club and extension land into one redevelopment plan.

The Council failed to act. As a result, expansion options have been compromised.

The latest report confirms a £4 million budget for improvements to the libraries in Acomb and Clifton. This was first announced 4 months ago. The report says that the use of this investment is aimed at “reducing running costs”.

The report talks of identifying “co-location partners”

It will be mid 2021 at the earliest before residents will see any building work taking place at the Acomb Explore site.

Acomb Explore events noticeboard 14th October. Needs updating

So for the next 4 years west York will no doubt be expected to muddle through

The report confirms that “the 15-year Library Contract sets out the requirement for Explore (the operators) to co-locate all the Gateway libraries by 31 March 2027”.

This could have significant implications for smaller libraries such as that at Dringhouses.

Waste collection review in York

Un-emptied bins in Foxwood 2012
Against the background of chronic unreliability on refuse collections in the City, it was hoped that a long outstanding review would offer some hope of improvement.

The review report has now been published (click).

The report starts by saying “Decisions about waste collection methodology impact upon the specification of replacement waste vehicles, the replacement of which is imperative to the sustainability of the service”

In truth, new vehicles should have been purchased months ago. They weren’t and as a result breakdown are a major cause of the decline in reliability standards. The report offers little hope of early, decisive action.

The report concludes that separate food waste collection is not necessary. This is because food waste forms part of the anaerobic digestion process at the Allerton processing site. It is part of a process which results in power being generated from waste.

Similar arguments are advanced against the mixed collection of recyclables.

The report talks about a further review of recycling bring banks “to stop collecting the same materials as door step collection, but focus on materials not collected at the door step” The authors seems to be oblivious to the fact that many residents are forced to use the bring banks because of lack of capacity in the doorstep service.

“The current recycling arrangements are that Yorwaste process the recylclates at the Harewood Whin Material Recycling Facility and sell the products to market. The current gross cost of recycling is £725k however this is offset by the recyclate sales that total c£600k”.

The report fails to identify the “lead in time” for the purchase of new vehicles. There are no milestones.  It lacks any analysis of the number of missed bin collections or their causes. It fails to say when sustained improvement could be expected.

Altogether it amounts a bit of public posturing with no apology to the taxpayers who are being inconvenienced each day by vehicle breakdowns and trucks reaching their capacity limits.

Today’s failure report reveals that green waste wasn’t collected from part of the Heworth area because of inadequate “vehicle capacity”

Daily reports on missed bin collections can be found via this link click

Street cleansing problems highlighted at meeting

Litter problems on areas like the Foxwood shops were discussed at a residents meeting yesterday. The residents were told that the street cleansing service was having difficulty in recruiting staff. Local Councillor Simon Daubeney reported that a new litter bin would be provided opposite the shops at the end of Hatfield Walk.
We’ve asked for new springs to be provided on the gates to the football pitch area on Foxwood Park. The old ones are broken allowing the gates to swing open. In turn this allows unsupervised access for dogs. Dog fouling on nearby footpaths is a continuing issue.
It’s reached the time of year when tree detritus and ripe fruit can fall in significant quantities onto some foot and cycle paths. This is potentially hazardous. We’ve reported problems on the Bellhouse Way path between Acomb Wood Drive and the Foxwood Park.
The path is also obstructed by overhanging tree branches

Carbon emission sources in York revealed

It appears that a meeting held 2 days ago was given a table showing estimated carbon emission levels for various activities in York.

The table has only today been published to residents by the York Council.

As it turns out the latest figures available are from 2016. The world has changed a lot in the last 3 years.

The table reveals that the biggest source of CO2 emissions in the City is domestic heating. This will hearten those who have supported the adoption of “Passivhaus” high insulation standards in homes.

There is an opportunity for the Council to make a real difference here as improved home insulation also disproportionately benefits poorer residents by reducing energy bills. We look forward to seeing a project plan with identified milestones.

A Press article today highlighted diesel trains as an emissions threat. In reality, they account for less than 1% of all local emissions.

CO2 emissions, per capita, substantially reduced in York during the 11 years that were monitored.