Brush up your Urban Cycle Skills

York residents of all ages and levels of ability are being invited to brush up their cycling skills by booking a subsidised training session from as little as £5 for 90 minutes.

Urban Cycle Skills is a programme of bespoke cycling tuition suitable for everyone from experienced cyclists to those who haven’t ridden a bike for more than 30 years.

Tailored to the level of ability and requirements of the individuals taking part in each session, the cycling tuition is provided by instructors trained to a nationally-recognised standard.

Urban Cycle Skills sessions typically cost £32.00 for 60 minutes or £48.00 for 90 minutes, but City of York Council is offering them at the subsidised rate of just £5 for a 90-minute, one-to-one session for a single adult. Family sessions are available from £5 for an adult and up to two children (aged eight years and above), or £10 for two adults and two children (aged eight years and above).

For more information or to book a place, visit www.itravelyork.info/cycling/cycle-training.

Scarborough Bridge work set to start next week but maybe a missed opportunity

Work is set to start on-site at Scarborough Bridge on Monday 29 October to create a new shared use pedestrian and cycle bridge.

The new bridge will provide a better traffic free route for residents and visitors travelling between the railway station and city centre.

Unfortunately it will do little to assist cyclists wishing to access the new York central development. They will continue to face a ride through the unremittingly oppressive Marble Arch tunnel.

The new bridge will have ramps at either side making it accessible for a range of users, including cyclists, wheelchair users and people pushing prams. It will also be nearly three times as wide to ensure there is sufficient space for everyone.

Preperation works will start on-site at the end of October with the construction of the ramps and steps likely to be finished in the new year. The existing footbridge will be closed from late January when it will be removed and the new bridge will be put in place.

The new bridge will be in place and open to the public in March, weather dependant.

 

Freedom of Information: some excellent responses but others evasive

Let’s start with an example of good practice.

The York Council was asked, via the “What do they know” web site, for information on the numbers of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) issued for Fly tipping, Fly posting and graffiti.  Similar information for other offences was already posted by the Authority on its open data website.

A response was provided within a few days with the Council agreeing to add information for fly tipping and flyposting to the Open Data website. This means that information will be updated regularly. The question about flyposting was prompted by an epidemic of “Fair” posters which appeared on the west of the City.

We look forward to the open data website being updated shortly

The York Council says that it does not hold statistics on the number of prosecutions for graffiti which have been undertaken. It points to the police as a potential source of information claiming that the force could extract graffiti cases from the more general “criminal damage” heading.

We have had less luck with North Yorkshire Police.

We have been attempting for over a year now to get speed and casualty information from them in an attempt to understand how it drives the deployment of their speed camera vans.

We wanted to see trend information for sites regularly monitored by the vans. We expected that management information would demonstrate that the mean/average speeds recorded showed a downward trend, that the number of vehicles exceeding the prevailing limit would be falling and that accident levels on the monitored roads would also be showing a downward trend.

The most recent report from the police indicates that they don’t hold any of this information nor have they tried to correlate the stats provided by NYFR when they deploy their speed monitoring equipment on road around the county.

We find it astonishing that objective results figures of this sort are not being regularly monitored by those managing the, very expensive, camera van programme.

Nor can the York Council bask in any glory. In February, we asked which businesses had not paid their NNDR (Rates) bills in each of the last 3 years.

The request was turned down on the, entirely specious, grounds that it might influence the result of a by election which was taking place last February. Eventually the Information Commissioner ruled that the information had to be released and it duly was on 26th September.

It revealed that the Council were chasing £576,803.04 in arrears that had accumulated over the last 3 years.

The response did not reveal the names of the businesses involved.

We asked for that information on 1st October but, as yet, we have had no reply.

York Council HQ scandal

Abandoned York Guildhall dirty and overrun with weeds.

The York Guildhall, a Listed building, is rapidly falling into disrepair. The Council – although still the owners of the building – quit the site in 2013, when they moved to new accommodation at West Offices.

Since then the Guildhall has mostly been unoccupied and was finally abandoned in 2017.

The Council had hoped to turn the building into a “business centre” but outside investment proved to be Impossible to attract. A prospective builder was dropped from the development amidst problems with escalating costs. The last estimates were that the project would cost around £15 – £17 million with all the risk falling on taxpayers.

Council leaders, when meeting in May, promised that a revised business case would be published. They confirmed that the Council would run any business centre complex themselves.

Whether there is a need for a business club is open to question. Traditionally traders in York have themselves formed organisations (guilds) to provide what today would be known as networking opportunities. Hence, we have privately funded meeting  halls belonging to the Merchant Taylors and Merchant Adventures while Bedern provides a home for other guilds.

There are more obviously suitable properties available to satisfy business needs.

Stonebow House has announced a business hub while one of the augments put forward for the “Spark” development was that they would satisfy the needs of small businesses.

Even if there is still unmet demand, then there is more obviously flexible accommodation available on Coney Street.

Despite calls for the Council, to explore other less risky options, they said they would press ahead and try to find another builder. Many thought that the Council should have tested the market to see whether private investment could be attracted.

The Council is running out of time. A report in May said that essential repair works to the old building would cost at least £5 million.

With further deterioration now obvious from even a casual inspection, that figure will soon start to climb again.

There is no sign of a new business plan being produced before the end of February. There is no item covering the Guildhall in the Councils 4 month forward plan.

This reinforces views that the project will be “kicked into the long grass” until after the local elections which are scheduled for May.

The coalition Leaders must be beginning to worry that the Guildhall project will turn into their version of the Lendal Bridge folly.

Trees and bushes growing on parapets

Guildhall windows caked with dirt

Stonework stained

Riverbank opposite Guildhall overgrown with weeds

Rust stains on Lendal Bridge

Attempts to attract new businesses to Coney Street but what an image!

£23,620 being written off in York for 4 Council tenant arrears

The York Councils Executive member with responsible for housing is being asked to write off the bad debts of 4 former Council tenants.

The amount involved is nearly £6000 each.

With average Council house rents around £300 a month, it means that these former tenants didn’t pay any rent for around 18 months.

They are unlikely to have been housing benefit cases as the rent payable in those cases is usually minimal.

The tenants apparently absconded between 2 and 5 years ago.

The identities of the tenants involved are not being disclosed. In the past “naming names” has sometimes allowed the Council to trace those who have absconded. It is not clear why the Council has changed its policy and granted anonymity in these cases.

The Council says that if it does trace the individuals concerned they will still be required to pay what they owe.

Looks like “eyesore” payphone kiosks will stay

Two payphone kiosks, criticised for their appearance by local residents, will not be removed say BT.

The kiosks, one on Beagle Ridge Drive/Foxwood Lane the other on Kingsway West, have been damaged are often covered in graffiti, weeds and fly posters.

BT says that despite the growth in mobile phone use, the payphones are still occasionally used.

They acknowledge though that the payphone on Foxwood Lane isn’t working. It will be repaired.

BT promise that the payphones will also be thoroughly cleaned inside and out.

Kingsway West

Foxwood Lane

Crime in North Yorkshire up by 9%

The increase is revealed in a Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) “Crime in England and Wales, year ending June 2018” bulletin

It shows there were a total of 40,782 crimes in North Yorkshire during the 12-month period, giving a crime rate of 49.7 per 1,000 of the population.

This 9% local increase is below the national average crime increase of 10%.

Broken down into the main crime categories, the ONS figures for North Yorkshire show:

  • Burglary decreased by 1% (3,658 crimes in total, of which 2,235 are recorded as domestic burglaries and 1,423 non-domestic burglaries)
  • Drug offences increased by 6% (1,592 crimes in total)
  • Violence and against the person increased by 20% (11,811 crimes in total), which is broken down into Violence with Injury (5,112 crimes in total, a 10% increase); Violence without Injury category (4,821 crimes in total, a 22% increase); Harassment and Stalking (1,849 crimes in total, a 47% increase)
  • Possession of weapons offences up by 22% (247 crimes in total)
  • Robbery increased by 14% (183 crimes in total)
  • Theft offences increased by 4% (16,822 crimes in total)
  • Theft from the person down by 1% (444 crimes in total)
  • Bicycle theft reduced by 12% (1,095 crimes in total)
  • Shoplifting increased by 11% (4,686 crimes in total)
  • All other theft offences up by 2% (4,466 crimes in total)
  • Criminal damage and arson up by 3% (5,934 crimes in total)
  • Vehicle Offences were up 15% with 2,473 crimes in total
  • Sexual offences increased by 13% (1,649 crimes in total). As previously highlighted, this rise is regarded as a reflection of the confidence victims have in North Yorkshire Police, particularly those making historical complaints in the wake of high profile historical sexual abuse cases, plus support from dedicated facilities for victims of sexual assault
  • Public order offences up by 18% (1,774 crimes in total)
  • Miscellaneous crimes against society, which includes the possession and publication of extreme sexual images, fell by 2% with 743 crimes in total

Chief Constable Lisa Winward said: “Today’s figures show North Yorkshire remains the lowest crime area in England and Wales. There has been an increase in recorded offences, but this is also slightly lower than the national average.

Low Poppleton Lane spy camera rethink

Day time only operation now proposed. Concessions for moped riders.

A report on the Low Poppleton Lane spy camera controversy has been published. We pointed out two months ago that the number of motorists caught by the Number Plate Recognition cameras seemed to be disproportionately high.

Over 2500 drivers (now increased to over 3300)  had been caught misusing the “bus gate” in just 5 months. The Council is currently pocketing around £30,000 a month in fine income.

Motorists contacted us to say that the signage was unclear (from the Boroughbridge Road direction). It was a problem for drivers of high cab mobile homes (there is a caravan site nearby). Others claimed that Sat Nav systems didn’t recognise the restriction.

We asked that the report reviewed these issues and that a survey of offenders be undertaken to try to understand why so many were ignoring the restriction.

The report fails to address these fundamental questions.

The Councils own consultation exercise found that most respondents were opposed to the bus lane, many saying that it was unnecessary since the sugar factory had closed, while others pointed to additional mileage, and risks encountered, by using the northern by pass.

A meeting next week is being recommended to introduce revised hours of operation. The restriction will apply only between 7:00am and 7:00pm.

In addition, powered two-wheel riders will be allowed to use the road as may taxi drivers. The latter two changes would bring the restriction into line with other bus lanes in the City.

Any revision would be introduced on a trial basis, raising again the question of whether Sat Nav systems would be updated to reflect the restriction.

Officials say that revised road markings have been introduced by there remains a suspicion that the Council has not yet got this right.

Spark- FOI reveals email exchanges on planning, cladding and loans

The York Council has shed some light on what they told the Spark developers in the spring of this year.

Copies of Email exchanges have now been published on the “What do they know” web site. Click for details

As early as last April, York council officials knew that the developer was intending not to provide cladding on the external face of the containers. This would have breached planning conditions.

Spark was advised that they had to apply for a variation to the planning permission.

This they subsequently did but the application was refused.

Spark have since said that they will appeal against the refusal.

It also appears that the Council was aware that Spark were borrowing significant sums of money to fund the £500,000 set up costs for the development. It is unclear from the exchange whether the Council’s position as the land owner and preferential creditor was, and remains, fully indemnified. 

At a meeting held in April, Spark were seeking an extension to the “June 2020 end date” for their lease. They were told that this was not possible, although one official hinted “if the venture is well supported and doing well then they (sic) maybe opportunities”.

Another Spark tenant (“Once across the Garden”) announced this week that they are moving from Spark.

NB. Spark started trading in May 2017 having, by then, been on site for over 6 months.

 

 

Council set to back track on Wigginton Road traffic scheme

The York Council is set to abandon its plan to remove the mini roundabout on Wigginton Road at its junction with Fountain Street.

Most respondents to a consultation exercise said that the mini roundabout was essential for drivers wanting to turn right at the junction.

There has been some scepticism about the plan which is aimed to reduce bus journey times past the hospital by 90 seconds in the AM peak.

The Council will, however, press ahead with a reconfiguration of the Wigginton Road/Haxby Road junction.

The changes are expected to cost around £200,000

A copy of the report can be read by clicking here

New Wigginton Road/Haxby Road junction plan

Mini roundabout