Busier in York today

A lot more visitors to York City centre today. Most of the car parks used by shoppers were full.

Never been a more important time for the Council to get its car park space availability advance signs working again. Same for variable message signs.
Nunnery Lane car park full
Half a dozen unoccupied disabled spaces at Nunnery Lane
Reason why some people don’t cycle into York? Bike -or most of it – may have gone by the time you return
Castle car park – York’s most popular with shoppers – full today. This is the car park that some Councillors wish to close.
Peel Street car park full. This is the privately owned car park which is offering free parking in conjunction with some City centre traders. Seems to be very successful
College Street attractions proving to be popular. Possible scope for something similar in the Duncombe Place/Deans Park area?
More people in Parliament Street but the space is still underused.
Improving footfall on Fossgate with a coupe of restaurants serving from outside tables.
Goodramgate foot street also well used today
People even queuing to get into Spark! Council may be hoping for a rent payment?
Monk Bar general spaces 95% occupied. Unfortunately, once again, only four of the 40 spaces reserved for blue badge holders were in use. Needs an early policy review.
Most embarrassing gaff by the Council is the – largely unused – cycling lane in the Marygate car park. The rest of the car park was full today. The car park is popular with shoppers and uses the “pay on exit” system. The parking spaces could be reinstated and cyclists could choose to use the service road if they wish.
The Esplanade short stay car park was at 80% of its capacity today.
Lots of space at the railway station car park. Suspect that LNER may have missed an opportunity here.?

New homes at Lowfields on sale from Monday

The Council will start the sale of homes at Lowfields on Monday.

They say that the first phase is of “30 high quality, low energy, spacious homes” which will be ready for their new residents to move in “early in 2021”. 

Of this phase, 18 are available for outright sale at market rates and six of the homes are for sale through a shared ownership scheme.

Seven homes will be allocated for social rent.

More details on the Save Lowfields Playing Field Facebook page. (click)

First homes released for sale at Lowfield Green: The Burdock 2-bed semi

Council urges Government to ‘Back York’ and enable the city to lead recovery in the region

money GIF

With the Council continuing to face significant financial challenges, City of York Council has stepped up its regional and national lobbying efforts.

The lobbying will urge the Government to seize the opportunities that are unique to York and make the city an ‘exemplar’ of driving recovery.

Since the pandemic was declared, the Council has seen demand for services increase, whilst at the same time, income has considerably fallen.  Early indications suggest that the Council is facing a £23 million* shortfall in its budget.  Over recent months, in addition to Government support, the Council has prioritised resources to support the most vulnerable in the city, as well as invested over £2 million to create local emergency funds to support the city’s businesses and residents facing financial hardship.

There are opportunities unique to York that if taken will help kick-start the economic recovery of the region. Recently it was agreed that the Council, with its partners, would develop a 10-year City Plan to enable York and the region to build back better by drawing on the city’s strengths; from utilising the biotech industry in the city, to seizing the once in a lifetime regeneration opportunity in York Central.  It is clear that, with further funding, York can go far in driving the recovery of our city and region.

That is why to truly build back better, City of York Council is urging the Government to make York an exemplar of how to lead ‘recovery’ in the North of England and the funding needed to unlock York’s potential and build on the work already taking place in the city.  With additional funding, City of York Council could:

  • Make £25 million available to further support local businesses in adapting to the crisis;
  • Enhance York’s world-renowned culture, creativity and heritage by making extra funding available to support local museums, libraries, arts and more;
  • Scale up the support on offer to residents facing financial hardship, particularly through the use of the York Financial Assistance Scheme;
  • Provide much needed funding for small charities and voluntary sector organisations who do not have the resources to fundraise themselves;
  • Speed up the delivery of critical regeneration projects and citywide infrastructure schemes, from York Central, to the dualling of York Outer Ring Road.

The campaign will support and link up with the work of other organisations and Councils who are lobbying for further funding for local authorities, including the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, IPPR North, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and more. As part of the campaign, City of York Council will also be producing a submission to the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, outlining the financial challenges for the Council, and highlighting the opportunities to invest in the city in partnership with the Government.

*The Council has not updated its budget forecast. Most of the speculative income loss relates to lower Council Tax and Business Rate income, although car parking income is down (and likely to remain so as long as parts of popular car parks remain bollarded off). The Council still intends to borrow increasing amounts of money and has made no announcements regarding any savings strategy.

If you want to influence these decisions then you are too late!

The York Council has revealed a whole raft of decisions taken on Wednesday at “behind closed doors” meetings. Although the Council could have chosen to publish the agendas and supporting papers (such as they are) before the meeting took place, it chose not to.

Even those sympathetic to the current administration are now losing confidence in the leadership and its aversion to transparency.

This is likely to weigh against the status quo when the future of the unitary authority is considered during the next few months.

Wednesday’s seance apparently considered;

 COVID 19 – Business and Planning Act 2020 – Officer Delegation

The Business and Planning Act 2020 came into force w/c 20th July and has
immediate operational impacts associated to the Covid 19 emergency requiring officers to take actions on behalf of the Council in order to comply with new legal obligations. This therefore requires officers to have appropriate delegations to implement this new legislation.

NB. This legislation provides for

  1. A new “Pavement Licence” regime, to be administered by local authorities, designed to make it easier for premises in England serving food and drink such as bars, restaurants and pubs to seat and serve customers outdoors through temporary changes to planning procedures and alcohol licensing.
  2. Alcohol licensing changes that will allow operators with existing alcohol on-sales licences to also serve alcohol for consumption off the premises and to make deliveries. 

So with the Alcohol Restriction Zone/PSPOs  policy still up in the air, we seem likely to have nameless officials nodding though even more alcohol consumption on the streets of central York.

 COVID 19 – Economic Recovery – Blue Badge parking;

Additional blue badge parking spaces on Duncombe Place, Dundas Street, St Saviourgate and Carmelite Street

 COVID 19 – Economic Recovery – Revised Café pavement Licence fee;

The fee for an annual café licence has been set at £100/application, with the option to apply for a shorter, 3 month licence, for a £25 fee “to enable shorter term trials by business who have previously not operated licences and who need to accommodate Covid distancing measures to re open”

Cliffords Tower land ownership

COVID 19 – Granting English Heritage a licence for Land at Clifford’s tower to accommodate Covid 19 mitigation measures

License for English Heritage to expand the area that it occupies at Cliffords Tower for  9 months (see left).

 COVID 19 – Economic Recovery – Castlegate traffic management

To approve a Temporary TRO to change existing access restrictions on Castlegate, implementing the following:
a. No vehicular access between 10:30 and 20:00 seven days a week (no exemptions for cyclists or Blue Badge holders, extended hours in line with extended footstreet hours) – between number 12 and number 28 Castlegate;
b. Loading ban between 10:30 and 20:00 for the whole length of Castlegate; and
c. Enable two way traffic between number 28 Castlegate and the junction with Tower Street 24h/day.

 COVID 19 – Not to Extend the Closure of the Southbound Lane of Bishopthorpe Road Between Darnborough Street and Scarcroft Rd from 4 August 2020

This was the decision publicised on Wednesday. Turns out that the meeting did not receive any statistical analysis or impact assessment. The background is restricted to 13 lines of hand wringing.

Having reviewed the current impacts of the TTRO on Bishopthorpe Road, it is evident as the economy reopens there is increased traffic in the area, in particular there is a negative impact on queue lengths on the inner ring road and the level of traffic on adjacent residential streets e.g. St Benedict’s Road. There will also be additional traffic diversions operating in the area when the Micklegate Bar is closed on 10th August due to gasworks which have already commenced on 24 July. Having considered the latest public health advice and traffic impacts, I confirm the decision to not extend TTRO. This location will be kept under review in light of prevailing Covid 19 advice and further considerations of sustainable traffic interventions at this location will be considered as part of the Local Transport plan development. The feedback collected on the scheme will be reviewed and presented in a future decision session.

As one road reopens and another closes

Footstreets extended to support Castlegate “businesses and social distancing”

With Bishopthorpe Road due to reopen on Monday, the York Council has issued a statement saying “We are creating additional outdoor space on Castlegate, after businesses grouped together to put forward proposals to transform the road into footstreets and use the space for pavement cafes & stalls”.

The one way street is not used by through traffic so the main impact will be on disabled parking and servicing.  No criteria on how the success of the project will be judged have been published.

Castlegate will be extended into the city centre pedestrian zone to help support local businesses by providing residents more space to social distance and making access to city centre restaurants, pubs, cafes, shops and businesses easier, as part of the emergency response to COVID-19.

The actions are designed to support the council’s Economic Recovery – Transport and Place Strategy, to build resident, visitor and stakeholder confidence that York is a safe, healthy and attractive place for everyone.

York has one of the largest pedestrian zones in Europe, with many areas within York’s city centre already designated as pedestrian footstreets.

In line with the Government guidance on public spaces and relaxing the restrictions for the hospitality sector this month, the council is extending the footstreet hours, which are expected to be in place from 8 August. This means no vehicles are allowed to access, or park on, these streets, including deliveries between 10.30am 8pm, seven days a week.  During the footstreet times, barriers will be in place in Castlegate to control access, but emergency vehicles will be permitted access at all times.

These are temporary measures as part of the emergency response to the pandemic and will remain under review as national guidance evolves and local needs change.

The council wants to encourage people who have been working from home all day to head in to the city centre to eat, relax and socialise in a family-friendly early evening environment.  Alongside this, the council is encouraging the safe return of residents and visitors by incentivising short stay parking in some of the city’s car parks.

This includes offering 1 hour free parking in August to support local businesses and residents and encouraging people to shop local. More on this can be found here: www.york.gov.uk/news/article/235/free-parking-supports-economy

In addition to this, Blue Badge holders can, as has always been the case, park for free in any council car park and can take advantage of using disabled bay spaces in council car parks too. For more information on council car parks visit www.york.gov.uk/parking

York best in sustainability survey

York comes out top in a survey of environmentally friendly town and Cities. The poll was conducted by “music magpie”.

The results can be found by clicking here

York had the joint-highest number of people who shop in zero-plastic supermarkets, with 31 per cent, alongside Birmingham..

A massive 69% claim either recycle or renovate their surplus tech equipment.

Extra points were given for less time spent in showers. This doubtful accolade went to Norwich (where, no doubt, social distancing is easier to enforce).

Points were scored for other factors such as tendency to buy refurbished items, recycling rates and methods of travel 

Second place belonged to Cardiff. Close behind was Oxford, which came third, followed by Plymouth in fourth, and Brighton and Newcastle in joint fifth.

Lowest scoring area was Wolverhamption

The environment and informal leisure

The government has launched a welcome initiative this week aimed at encouraging more active lifestyles. There has been a lot of support for cycling as a way of keeping fit and losing weight. That is very welcome and we hope that it soon translates into a Council initiative aimed at improving maintenance standards on off road cycle paths, many of which are in poor condition in York.

Less attention has been paid to leisure walking – an option open to virtually everyone.

There has been renewed interest in the use of local Public Rights of Way (PROW) as residents sought to follow daily – social distance – exercising guidelines. The route across Acomb Moor to Acomb Wood became more popular. A local bulletin board has seen several people criticise the farmer who blocked off all entrances to the moor before ploughing it.

Access to Acomb Moor blocked

While the owner is entitled to cultivate his land, he should not have blocked the Foxwood Lane access at least while the current PROW application is being actively considered. We have asked the public rights of way officer to intervene.

More needs to be done to enhance and improve access to the natural environment at least on the west of the City.

The Councils own annual survey of opinion revealed that  44% of panellists thought that the Council was not doing well at improving green spaces.

59% thought that the Council wasn’t doing well at reducing air pollution.

The Council planted 515 trees last year. It had previously claimed that it would plant “50,000 trees by 2023”. It had also promised to expand the City’s strays and introduce more wildflower meadows in an attempt to encourage pollinators.

We understand that a report will be considered by the Council in August which will  set out proposals to acquire land which will enable the creation of a “large new area of woodland in close proximity to the city to provide green amenity space for residents and plant trees that will contribute to the council’s commitment to become net carbon neutral by 2030”.

There has to be balance. The country does need to be more self sufficient in food production, so the retention of good quality agricultural land is also important.

However, the creation of a country park on land near Askham Lane would be a welcome step forward. It has been a vision for several years. It would allow hedgerows to be re-established and PROWs to be maintained in good condition.

It would also provide some compensation for the sports and leisure land lost through recent developments in the area.

 It only now remains to be seen whether Councillors have the drive and determination to deliver on their promises.Tree Walking GIF - Tree Walking Tired - Discover & Share GIFs

Coronavirus York updates; 28th July 2020

Deaths and test results

There have been no additional hospital deaths or positive test results reported in York today

There have been no further deaths in care homes with the total remaining at 77

According to the latest ONS figures, up to 25th July, there had been 168 deaths registered in the City giving the cause of death as COVID-!9.

Where to find an “eat out” discount restaurant

Not too many restaurants in the Westfield area have registered yet for the government backed “eat out to help out” discounts. The list does include the Indian Ocean on The Green and the Carlton Tavern.

Click here to see a list of participating restaurants near you

Use the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme at these establishments:

  • to get 50% off your food and non-alcoholic drinks up to a total value of £10 per person if you eat or drink in
  • every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 3 August and 31 August
  • as many times as you like

You don’t need a voucher to use the scheme and you can use it at the same time as other offers and discounts. There is no minimum spend.

Alcoholic drinks and service charges are excluded from the offer.

Check which chain restaurants have registered for the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme.

York Council offices – limited reopening using appointment system

The York Council has been under increasing pressure in recent days to provide a road map back to more normal public service access arrangements in the City.

West Offices

Today they have said,

“From 27th July we are starting to reopen our customer centre by appointment only.

Following government guidance we will continue to ask residents  to use our website or contact our team by email or phone in the first instance. We do appreciate that it may not be possible to resolve all queries in this way, so our customer service team will book residents an appointment where needed.

Residents should not attend their appointment if they;

  • Have any symptoms of Covid-19 such as a fever, new repetitive cough, or change to sense of smell or taste
  • Share a household with anyone who is currently displaying Covid-19 or is self-isolating due to suspected Covid-19
  • Have been advised by the NHS track and trace to self-isolate as a precaution to prevent the spread of Covid-19

How will it work?

From 27 July we are reopening our Customer Centre by appointment only. We are asking people to call our customer centre to book an appointment. We will try, where possible, to resolve their query over the phone.   However if this can’t be done, we will arrange an appointment.

Following government guidance, we will have a reduced number of staff in West Offices, with the majority continuing to work from home to support residents over the phone or by email.

Why by appointment only?

The safety and wellbeing of our residents and staff is our utmost priority. Government guidance remains that where possible people should work from home, throughout the pandemic thousands of queries have been resolved without the need for face to face appointments as people used the website or contacted our customer service team by phone.  We understand there may be some queries or specific individuals that will require in person support and are opening on a limited basis from 27 July, by appointment only.

What safety measures are in place?

We have introduced a number of measures to help keep our staff and customers safe including:

  • Touchless hand sanitiser station for all customers to use on arrival
  • Perspex screens for personal protection
  • Time between appointments
  • Limiting the number of staff and customers in the building at any one time by operating by appointment only

What services can people access by visiting?

Appointments can be made when a query can’t be managed over the phone or online for the below services:

  • Housing benefits
  • Council tax
  • Concessionary travel
  • Planning
  • Blue badges
  • Waste, highways and environment

For information on council services visit www.york.gov.uk, call 01904 551550 or email ycc@york.gov.uk

We hope that the Council will actively promote how access to all help and advice services can now be gained.

Council publishes performance data

Only 29% of York residents feel that they can influence decisions in their local area. 91% however feel is important that they should be able to influence their local area.

The paradox is revealed in the latest set of performance indicators published by the Council. They outturn figures for the last there financial years.  

Another perhaps significant finding is that only 31% of the members of a residents “talkabout” panel “speak positively about the Council”; 28% speak “negatively”.

However, 52% agreed that the Council treated them “fairly and with respect”.  

  • The number of instances of violence in the City centre rose from 1010 to 1057.
  • The number of cases of graffiti reported to the Council doubled to 385. This may have been prompted by the Councils decision to establish a new (and useful) graffiti removal team.
  • The number of street cleaning issues reported increased from 1943, in 2018/19, to 2578 in 2019/20.  The number of street cleaning issues remedied with within target times was 75%
  • Three fixed penalty notices were issued for littering during last year. This was down from six issued in 2018/19. There were also three PCNs issued for dog fouling offences.
  • The number of issues raised about weeds and overgrown hedges increased from 1919 to 2191.

The figures predate most of the lockdown period.