Cost of Ascot Way disabled centre soars by 37%

Council blames the “complexity” of the selected design for the increase.

A Council report published today reveals that the cost of the Centre of Excellence for Disabled Children will increase from the originally budgeted figure of £4.3 million (January 2018) to an estimated £5.9 million.

Demolition works have started at Windsor House

This comes after the Council, In April 2018, had agreed to increase the proportion of the costs which would be funded by borrowing

£1.1 million of the increased costs will come from a Health service grant with the rest being transferred from the education budget.

It appears that some features  of the building are being “value engineered” out of the design.

The centre is being built on the site of the Windsor House elderly persons home. The neighbouring Lincoln Court independent living building is also being modernised and extended at the same time.

While both projects have been welcomed, concerns have been expressed about traffic congestion and parking issues in the area.

The impact of the developments on open space and sports facilities in the neighbourhood have also been criticised.

Details of the new budget allocations are being kept secret by the Council. It is unclear what promised features in the building may now be omitted.

The meeting to consider the budget increase is taking place on 18th June.

Really disappointing that potholes take so long to repair

Some potholes in York, reported weeks ago, have still not been filled. This is the time of year when the Council normally catches up on the pothole backlog which can develop during periods of icy weather.

The York Council doesn’t provide “real time” updates on the number of highway defect reports it receives and the progress made in addressing them, but there is a suspicion that some are written off without any action being taken.

Fortunately the LibDems, who lead the new administration at West Offices, promised in their election manifesto “to reconstruct all roads in York”.

Even allowing for hyperbole, that is a very expensive looking promise. Perhaps Council officials had better get on with drawing up a work programme?

Herman Walk potholes on access road
Corlett Court potholes (marked but not repaired)
Morrell Court has n uneven road

York’s green spaces; going, going…

It is sad to see so many green spaces in the City being gradually eroded.

The reality of planning decisions, taken by the Council over the last few years, are rapidly becoming clearer. The trend is particularly evident in west York where former school playing field have proved to be vulnerable.

It started with the development of the playing field at the former Our Lady’s school site on Windsor Garth. The “Hob Stone” estate took up the whole of the site with no open space retained.

Next was the controversial decision to build on the Lowfields playing field. The decision was made worse when over £400,000, intended to fund alternative sports pitches, was earmarked for a site near Bishopthorpe, which is some 3 miles from Lowfields.

Concrete now dominates the Lowfields school playing field

The Hob Moor playing field has been torn up and is now part of a building site
The Acomb Bowling club and adjacent Council owned land on Front Street is now also a building site

There are alternative brownfield (previously developed) sites in the City. Strangely the local MP over the weekend announced her opposition to building 2500 homes on the land to the rear of the station while planners have omitted the Strensall army camp from Local Development Plans.

There seems to be little reason why a development at the latter could not be restricted to the “built footprint” of the former army buildings. This would still leave large amounts of new public open space. That option is under consideration as part of the latest consultation on the Local Plan

But for west York the outlook remains bleak. The Council is still dilly dallying on proposals to replace the Multi User Games Area on Kingsway West. The existing one is no longer usable as it is no part of a buildng compound.

…and the newly elected Council, despite lofty talk of having a new “stray” in the City, has noticeably failed to put any flesh on the bones of the idea. Prompt action is needed to secure more public open space on the periphery of the City.

Currently there is little sign of any urgency, or even engagement, by the occupants of West Offices.

A meeting with limited purpose?

The York Council Joint Standards Committee – which is charged with ensuring there is probity in public life – meets for the first time in the new Council session on 17th June.

The, decidedly thin, agenda can be viewed by clicking here. It involves only the appointment of a chair, a vice chair and agreeing future meeting dates.

As well as regulating the activities of City of York Councillors, the 10 strong committee also considers complaints about Parish Councillor conduct. The parishes appoint 3 members to the committee. Two of the three nominations are former City of York Councillors. Both were rejected by the electorate at the recent May 3rd poll. (Stuart Rawlings and Sian Wiseman)

Only one of the Council appointed members has (recent) previous experience of York Council work. Ironically that is former Leader David Carr. Cllr Carr was himself the subject of a complaint over his handling of, what turned out to be, bogus allegations against Cllrs Aspden and Ayre in 2017.

It has taken 2 years and expenditure of over £100,000 to resolve those claims.

Steps were taken to start an independent inquiry into the process used by York Council officials to resolve the Aspden/Ayre case. There has been no recent update on the progress of this investigation. The Councillors themselves suffered a significant financial penalty as they lost earnings and had to pay for their own legal representation (costs thought to be in excess of £10,000).

The expectation had been that the outstanding case would have been resolved by now with the conclusion being reported to this standards committee meeting on 17th June.

The minutes from the committees last meeting, held on 13th February, included the following comment

” Since the committee’s last meeting in November 2018, two long running cases had been concluded and two cases remained ongoing. Details were set out in the table at paragraph 2 of the report. Members noted that one of the ongoing cases was likely to be concluded in February and stressed the importance of concluding the other case, which dated from 2017, before the start of the pre-election purdah period on 26 March 2019“.

The case started in September 2017 but investigated allegations going back as far as 2014.

It now seems that there will be no final closure on the Nigel Ayre case for a few more weeks at least.

The actual investigation into the case is understood to have concluded last year.

Report casts light on life in Acomb since Roman times

An archaeology report, produced as part of the investigations into the bowling club development project on Front Street, has provided a further insight into the history of the village.

The report says that, “in February 2005 On-Site Archaeology carried out an archaeological evaluation on the disused allotments located immediately to the west of the current site. Within one of the evaluation trenches two small pits containing late 1st to mid 3rd century Roman pottery were recorded, cutting into the natural sand. A residual sherd of late 1st to early 2nd century pottery was recovered from a subsoil deposit in one of the other trenches”

The allotments land has now been bulldozed to form a building compound. No mitigation measures have been taken to preserve or record any archaeological remains on that site (which is owned by the York Council).

The report goes on to say, “There is no evidence of occupation during the Anglo-Saxon period although the name ‘Acomb’ is Anglo-Saxon in origin meaning “at the oaks”.

“The mediaeval period is when the village of Acomb took on a known form with the focus of the village being the area between The Green and Front Street. Acomb is listed in the Domesday survey of 1086 as a manor with 14 rent-payers. The Church of St. Stephen is an 1830 construction replacing an earlier 12th century church with possible pre-Conquest origins. Archaeological work has taken place behind 12-26 The Green, which produced evidence for mediaeval domestic activity and possible ploughsoil relating to medieval crofts or garden plots An evaluation carried out by OSA in March 2007 to the rear of 95 Front Street revealed late medieval boundary ditches containing pottery dated to the 15th and 16th centuries”.

The findings of the investigation can be read by clicking here .

A report on contamination on the site can be read by clicking here

Have your say on proposed modifications to York’s Local Plan through 6-week consultation

From Monday 10 June, York residents, businesses and other interested groups will get the chance to comment on additional evidence and proposed modifications to the city’s 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 the following additional evidence and modifications, including:

  • removing housing site allocations at Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Strensall and Land at Howard Road, Strensall),
  • formally revising the Objectively Assessed Housing Need (OAN) from 867 to 790 dwellings in York each year for the duration of the plan. 
  • amendments to the greenbelt boundary have also been proposed, in order to take into account recent changes such as planning decisions in York and the removal of the Strensall Barracks site.

To have your say, visit www.york.gov.uk/localplan. The consultation will end at midnight on Monday 22 July 2019.

Hard copies of all of the consultation documents will also be available in West Offices, Station Rise and York Explore Library. The main consultation documents will be available in all libraries and Explore Centres in York.

The removal of site allocations – totalling 550 dwellings – follows a recent visitor survey commissioned by City of York Council, supported by Natural England, which highlighted that there would be significant effects on the integrity of the Strensall Common, a protected site, if the proposed housing sites adjacent to the Common remain in the Local Plan. 

The reduction in the housing need figure reflects updated national projections for population and housing growth which forecast lower growth than was previously projected. The additional Green Belt Topic Paper Addendum provides further detail on why and where the proposed green belt boundary has been drawn.

The Planning Inspector has asked for the consultation as they consider these issues to be fundamental to what they are examining the soundness and legal compliance of the plan. This will give all interested parties the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes prior to the hearing sessions.

The Inspectors have directed that the consultation is open to the general public for a period of six weeks and has also advised direct consultation with the Ministry Of Defence, which owns the barracks, and Natural England.

The consultation will only look at these specific modifications and not other aspects of the plan such as the other proposed site allocations. All aspects of the plan will be examined by the Inspector during the subsequent hearing sessions. 

All the representations received during the consultation will be processed and sent to the planning inspectors, who have committed to holding the public hearing sessions as soon as possible after that.

You can read all correspondence with the Planning Inspectors at www.york.gov.uk/localplanexamination

York’s Local Plan

The Local Plan is a framework to guide and promote development, and to protect the quality of York’s unique historic, natural and built environment. The document sets strategic priorities for the whole city and forms the basis for planning decisions; it must be reviewed at regular intervals to be kept up to date.

York’s Local Plan was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in May 2018.  For more details on the process and progress to secure a Local Plan for York, visit https://www.york.gov.uk/localplan

Council hurriedly publishes who does what list

The Council has now published several updates to its constitution.

The changes haven’t been through any democratic process so fail the transparency test.

Amongst the documents now on the Council web site “library”” are sections covering


Executive Member responsibilities (click)

Council Committees and Other Bodies

 Scrutiny Review Procedure Rules

Overview and Scrutiny

Some of the Executive member responsibilities will raise eyebrows.

Splitting responsibility for “parks and open spaces” from “sport and leisure” does’t look like joined up thinking. Both are areas where the last Council had major policy failures, so some sort of refresh is needed.

Extract from new York Executive responsibilities as at June 2019