York economy performing well but….

St Nicholas market popular this year

The start of “Business Week” in the City coincides with the publication of a progress report by “Make it York” (MIY). This is the QUANGO charged with developing the York economy and particularly the visitor sector and markets.

Reading the report, one might think that all was rosy in the garden.

There has been a steady stream of tourists visiting the City this year. They have partly been attracted by a series of festivals while other initiatives like the food court on the market have attracted favourable publicity.

The complementary York BID scheme has produced tangible improvements to the streetscape coupled with imaginative lighting schemes.

However, part of the success in attracting foreign visitors is down to the low value of the pound.

The MIY report is singularly short of figures.

One look around the City centre, at this the busiest shopping period of the year, reveals that key shop units are still empty several years after they become vacant. The pile of empty shipping containers on Parliament Street doesn’t help while the surface of the City’s most popular car park (Castle) is in an appalling condition. Advanced car parking space availability signs – and their “on line” counterparts – haven’t worked for over 4 years.

This all adds to a depressed feel in the “high street”.

The report – to be considered by a Council scrutiny committee on 28th November – considers progress against a limited number of targets. Some issues, like the shortage of labour and key skills, aren’t mentioned.

Nor is any attempt made to assess the impact that BREXIT will have on the City economy over the next five years or more.

We hope that Councillors, faced with a bland report, will ask questions which root out any complacency.

Free parking at Piccadilly between 3:00pm & 9:00pm on Thurs/Frid

Late night park and Ride on Thursdays
  Residents and visitors to the city will get an early Christmas present this year with an extended Park & Ride service and free parking in Piccadilly multi-storey car park.

First York has extended Park & Ride services to run every Thursday evening from Thursday 16 November until Saturday 23 December. These services proved popular last year allowing people to enjoy the York Christmas Festival for longer, which starts on Thursday.

York Business Improvement District (BID) has worked with the council to offer people free parking at Piccadilly multi-storey car park from 3-9pm every Thursday and Friday. Free parking is available every Thursday and Friday from 16 November until 22 December.

Space availability signs

Usage of the Piccadilly car park has reduced since the advanced car parking space availability signs, which used to be available on arterial routes into the City, stopped working 4 years ago. 

Similarly the “York Live” on line parking information – which should be updated in “real time”  – continues to project an inaccurate picture of space availability in the City centre (click here to test)

Real time parking information in York click to access

Park & Ride services will run every 15 minutes from all Park & Ride sites every Thursday. The Designer Outlet service will run later from Monday to Saturday.

Full timetable information is available online, but most services will now operate until 9.30pm on Thursday evenings, or Monday to Saturday from the Designer Outlet.

The Park & Ride services will run every 15 minutes, with the last services leaving the city centre at the following times:

Askham Bar (white line – route 3) – Rougier Street at 9.33pm

Designer Outlet (red line – route 7) – York Railway Station at 9.46pm

Monks Cross (silver line – route 9) – Rougier Street at 9.30pm

Poppleton Bar (turquoise line – route 59) – Station Road 9.33pm

Rawcliffe Bar (green line – route 2) – Museum Street at 9.30pm

Grimston Bar (yellow line – route 8) – Piccadilly at 9.30pm

For more information about travelling in and around York visit www.itravelyork.info
(more…)

Progress on parking problems in west York

Last Thursdays decision meeting considered a large number of proposed changes to parking restrictions in the City. The results have now been published by the Council click here 

A large number of representations were made by Councillors and residents who attended the meeting. These included Westfield Councillors Sheena Jackson and Andrew Waller

Foxwood Lane junction

Changes to parking restrictions on Foxwood Lane (Bellhouse Way high numbered end) junction, Cranfield Place (outside community centre) & Morrell Court (junction) were considered by Cllr Ian Gillies. He declined to make major changes to the existing arrangements. However, he did agree to;

  • move the street name sign at the junction of Bellhouse Way and Foxwood Lane
  • provide white bar road markings to protect the access to four driveways at the entrance to Cranfield Place

The Foxwood Residents Association will discuss the issues at its meeting on Wednesday.

It is likely that they will ask that Councillors pursue;

  • In the case of the Foxwood Lane junction, the provision of an off-street lay-by at this location which will have the effect of pulling parked vehicles back from the sight line &
  • In the case of Cranfield Place, it is suggested that portable parking cones be provided for use (by event organisers) at the Foxwood Community Centre on the carriageway outside the front door. It is suggested that these might be supplemented by a “please use car park to rear” sign which could be attached to the boundary wall.

Askham Lane

The meeting also declined to introduce parking restrictions at the junction of Askham Lane and Vesper Drive.

However, the Council’s Assistant Director  is to write to the police in relation to taking action  against obstructions caused by vehicles on grass verges (and regarding devolution of powers – which would allow Council enforcement staff to take action on issues like these).

 

Disappointing response to road safety concerns in west York

The Council will consider many requests for road safety improvements at a meeting taking place on 14th September.

In the Westfield area, 7 requests for changes to parking restrictions have been made by residents.

Only 2 are recommended for approval. They involve providing double yellow lines to protect the entrance to Lown Hill while double yellow lines on part of Beaconsfield Street will be removed.

Locations where officials are suggesting that no action be taken are;

Foxwood Lane/Bellhouse Way junction

  • Foxwood Lane/Bellhouse way junction (on street car parking causing sight line problems)
  • Cranfield Place (where parking is obstructing access to driveways)
  • Askham Lane/Vesper Drive (parking on verge causing sight line problems and verge damage – all properties in the area have off street parking space)
  • Morrell Court/Walker Drive (parking causing safety problems)

We think that the Council, needs to find a way of addressing some of these issues.

On Cranfield Place, there is Adequate off-street parking available to the rear of the Community centre

At the Foxwood Lane/Bellhouse Way junction there is room on the verge to provide a parking layby. This would take parked vehicles back from the junction.

Residents can attend the meeting and make representations in favour of, or in opposition to, any proposal.

Rose Theatre project – further details published

£197,308 rent offered for use of Castle car park

The York Council is being recommended to close part of the City’s most popular car park, next to Clifford’s Tower, between 21st May and 23rd September next summer.

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre will be Europe’s first full-scale working replica of a traditional Shakespearean Theatre which is modelled loosely on a combination of the Rose Theatre and the Globe Theatre which were built in 1587 and 1599 respectively.

 It will aim to attract 100,000 people over the ten-week season, including up to 20,000 students.

It is unclear whether the lessons of last year’s Mystery Plays have been learned. There, matinee performances mostly sold out while evening mid-week performances were markedly less popular.

The twelve-sided, three storey building will create a theatre experience for approximately 950 people including a standing audience of 300 who will enjoy a “high level of involvement in the show”. With a 100+m2 stage most of the audience are within 15m of the action. Around the theatre there will be a “Taste Village”, show casing local food and beverage as well as an area for free wagon performances.

Four plays: Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Richard III and A Midsummer Nights Dream, will be produced by esteemed UK directors, including potentially a production by York Theatre Royal. Approximately 140 shows are anticipated over a ten-week season.

Ticket prices for adults will start at £12.50

The report details how the Council will be compensated for the loss of parking spaces,

“135 car parking spaces will be needed for the pop-up theatre (out of the 318 available).

Lunchbox will reimburse the Council a total of £197,308:

  • £1,616 per day for the period 28 May to 19 June
  • £1,679 per day for the period 20 June to 4 September
  • £1,616 per day for the period 5 September to 16 September”

The report goes on to say, “There is a small risk that the council will lose £40k of revenue”

The Piccadilly multi storey would remain open in the evening for the use of theatre goers.

On the future of the Castle car park the Council report says,

“One of the key aims of the high-level vision, and the working assumption for the master planners, is that the Castle Car Park is to be closed and replaced with alternative uses”.

 “The temporary part-closure of the car park for the theatre would allow officers to understand the impact of the displacement of car parking on the highway network over a significant period of time without incurring the associated loss of revenue.

 Furthermore, it would also start to break the public perception of this area as a car park and encourage further public debate about its future”.

In effect, it is now clear that the Council plans to close the Castle car park on a permanent basis.

No details are provided of any spin off benefits that could be garnered from staging an “Elizabethan” themed summer in the City.

However, the four yearly Wagon Plays – which date from 1386 –  are due to be staged in the City  next summer.

There is no risk analysis included in the papers assessing any reputational risk associated with large number of visitors failing to find a convenient transport system in operation.

The Councils “free parking space” internet based system collapsed 4 years ago and many of the “on street” information signs have only recently started being brought back into service.

The Council is apparently mindful that part of the (woefully uneven) car park will need to be resurfaced to make it safe for pedestrians (which rather begs the question of the risk posed to current users when they get out of their vehicles!)

So, there is still a lot of work to be done with some risk still attached to what is basically an imaginative project

Questions raised about “Rose Theatre” reconstruction timetable

Reconstructed Rose Theatre planned for Castle car park

It seems that the announcement on Saturday – through the pages of the Yorkshire Post – took many people by surprise. Tourist organisations, the local authority, businesses and other media outlets were left playing “catch up” as they scrambled to give their take, on the event, to a receptive audience.

It seems that the leaked information came from the prospective producers of the plays and may have been prompted by concerns that the temporary use of the Castle car park was due to be mentioned – unspecifically – in the York Councils Forward Plan which was published on Monday.

The plan says that the project will be discussed at the Councils Executive meeting taking place on 31st August. The background papers for that meeting will be published in a couple of weeks’ time.

Sources at the Council claim that there is still much work to be done to come up with an effective alternative parking/transport plan to make up for the loss of capacity and income from the Castle car park – York’s busiest.

Barley Hall off Stonegate

There is limited spare capacity on most days of the year at the adjacent Coppergate centre multi storey (287 spaces) and St Georges Field (150 spaces) but nothing like sufficient to make up for a loss of 360 spaces at Castle. The Council has recently closed the Castle Mills car park leaving private sector options like Garden Place, Tanner Row and George Street anticipating a big hike in income.

But it is the timing of the announcement that leads to concerns.

Arguably any debate about a project of this size should have been concluded months ago.

 An “Elizabethan” themed summer tourist season could provide a major boost for period visitor attractions, like the Barley Hall and the Merchant Adventurers Hall, while also helping to maintain high customer numbers at hotels and restaurants.

During its Shakespearian season, the Rose project hopes to attract circa 50,000 paying customers.

To put that in context, it is nearly three times more than attended last year’s Mystery Plays at the Minister.

Marketing of the event needs to start soon.

Merchant Adventurers Hall – a stones throw from the proposed Rose Theatre location

Major hotels and visitor attractions in York are already drafting their programmes and brochures for 2018. It would be a shame if this important event wasn’t given the prominence that it deserves.

One of the reasons why the Mystery Plays didn’t attract the hoped for level of attendance was lack of early publicity in key Far East and American markets. Decisions on 2018 long haul holiday destinations will be taken by many potential visitors over the next few weeks.

So, if there is frustration at the pace of progress on the Rose Theatre project, we can understand it. The York Council and Visit York have a relatively short time to maximise the economic value that a quality “Elizabethan” summer experience could bring to the City.

As we saw with the TdF “Grand Departee concert fiasco, long term planning is all important.

Hopefully the lessons have been learned.

Castle car park to close to accommodate Richard III

Most of the Castle car park is set to close next summer when an ambitious project will see a replica of the Elizabethan Rose Theatre reconstructed  there.

According to media reports four Shakespearean plays will be performed there (Macbeth, A Midsummer’s Nights Dream,Romeo and Juliet and Richard III.

The season at the 1000 seat outdoor theatre would run for 3 months from next June. The car park is likely to be out of use for much longer than that.

The imaginative project is the brainchild of local production company Lunchbox promotions who have previously been responsible for “Thor’s Tipi bar” and “The Ice Factor” at Christmas. The latter had to be moved from the Eye of York to the Designer Outlet following complaints from the nearby law courts.about noise.

Sectional drawing of original Rose Theatre

The plans for the Theatre have not yet been published on the Council’s planning web site although the producers have been quoted as saying they hope to get permission “in September” (!).

It seems likely that talks on use of the car park have been on going with City leaders for some time. A decision to forgo income, from a car park which generates over £1 million a year, is a significant one for the Council.

The project is a welcome step up from the shipping container drinking village standard hitherto favoured by the Council for the Piccadilly area.  No doubt hyperbole will flourish as adjectives like “imaginative”, “bold” “longsighted” vie with “reckless” & “ill-considered” for public attention.

The announcement comes at a time when the future of the whole Castle/Piccadilly area is being subject to a major public consultation. Perhaps the plan is a preemptive strike by those with a fixed view about the future use of the Castle precinct?

There are certainty some questions to be answered about the effect that losing much of York’s popular, and most accessible car park, will have on a City centre retail economy which has been under siege for the last 5 years.

It probably means that the drift to York becoming a “playground” destination will accelerate albeit in this case with perhaps a slightly more refined clientele than comprise the average stag party group.

Ironically the original Rose theatre also had to compete with more down to earth Elizabethan pastimes including “bear-baitingbull-baiting, and brothels” (see below)

Richard III finally makes it to a York car park?

Footnote – The original Rose Theatre in London

.  The Rose was built by dyer and businessman Philip Henslowe in 1587. Henslowe, an important man of the day, had many impressive titles, including Groom of the Chamber to Queen Elizabeth from the early 1590s, Gentleman Sewer to James I from 1603, and churchwarden and elected vestryman for St. Saviour’s Parish from 1608.

Henslowe built the Rose above an old rose garden on the Bankside near the south shore of the Thames, in Surrey. The Rose property consisted of a plot lying on the corner of Maiden Lane and Rose Alley — an alley about 400 feet long, “leadinge [south] from the Ryver of thames into the saide parcell of grownde,” according to Henslowe’s own papers. By the time Henslowe acquired the land lease and began drawing up plans for the Rose, professional playhouses like the Theatre, and the Curtain had been open for over a decade.

Realising the ease with which audiences could ferry across the Thames to London’s South Bank, Henslowe desired to establish a playhouse in that particular location, already familiar to Henslowe’s contemporaries as an area saturated with sundry and sometimes infamous pastymes such as bearbaitings, bull-baitings, and brothels.

The Rose was round and elegant, solidly composed of brick and timber, and easily accessible, making it more sophisticated than the Theatre. After 1592, the Rose seems to have become very popular, and many acting companies performed on its stage, including Lord Strange’s Men (probably including Shakespeare as an actor) from 1592 to 1593, Sussex’s Men from 1593 to 1594, the Queen’s Men in 1594, the Admiral’s Men (Shakespeare’s chief rivals, who performed in the Rose for seven years starting in the spring of 1594), and Worcester’s Men as late as 1603.

Plans for London’s Rose Theatre

During the plague of 1593, the Rose closed down for a time, and nearly 11,000 Londoners succumbed. It appears that actors from Lord Strange’s Men were among those that perished because, when the Rose did reopen, Sussex’s Men opened in their place.

What happened to Shakespeare at this time is an enigma; however, he might have been making plans to move across the river and join Heminges at the Theatre.

The Rose had many successful years, standing the lone, majestic playhouse on the Bankside. But others wished to share in Henslowe’s success and new theatres were built beside the Rose, contributing to its ultimate demise.

The land lease Henslowe had secured some thirty-one years before, expired in 1605. Records show that Henslowe, although suffering financially due to the competing playhouses (primarily the Globe), was ready to renew his lease under the original terms, but the parish from which he was renting insisted on renegotiating the contract, tripling his rent, and demanding 100 marks toward the upkeep of the parish. Henslowe was livid and replied to the parish, exclaiming that he ‘wold [r]ather pulledowne the playehowse then . . . do so.”

Henslowe gave up the Rose in 1605, and it is assumed that it was torn down the following year. Henslowe went on to build the Hope Theatre in 1613, and he died in 1616.

Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare’s Theatres: The RoseShakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. 5th August 2017  http://www.shakespeare-online.com/theatres/therose.html .

 

RingGo smartphone parking – questions answered.

The change of cashless parking operator in York last month provoked some criticism due to a perceived  lack of prior publicity.

The Council says, this contract represents very good value for money and has a key focus on innovation and how best to use new technologies, for example connecting our customers to local retailers.

The Council claims that 2 weeks’ notice of the change of contractor was given. Publicity mainly used social media channels and signage although a media release was issued a couple of days before the system went “live”

We saw little evidence of this marketing until 48 hours before the change was made.

We have so far been unable to find evidence that the decision to award the contract was recorded in the Councils decisions register nor does it seem to have been included yet on the contracts register.

On the other hand, we have seen no evidence of quality issues on the new service, so hopefully it will “bed in” and become the payment method of choice for car park users.

Crack down on the abuse of blue badges in York

City of York Council is stepping up efforts to crack-down on people in York who fraudulently use disabled blue badges.

Civil enforcement officers and Veritau – the company that investigates fraud on behalf of the council – are working jointly to proactively spot and tackle badge misuse in the city.

A two-week amnesty is being offered for holders to return invalid badges without question, or fear of legal action being taken.

It will begin on Monday 17 July and end on Friday 28 July.  A collection box has been left at the customer services reception desk at West Offices.

Once the amnesty is over, a series of proactive ‘enforcement patrols’ are being planned across York in the coming months.

A blue badge should be handed back if:

  •   It has expired
  • The badge holder is no longer eligible to use one
  • It is a replacement for a badge lost or stolen and the original has since been found
  • The badge is so damaged or faded that the details are not clear
  • The badge holder has died

The blue badge scheme is for people with severe mobility problems.

Misuse impacts on the limited capacity of parking available for legitimate disabled users who have little or no choice about how they get about.

It is a problem across the UK and is thought to cost the country £46 million a year.  Someone found misusing a blue badge faces prosecution and a £1,000 fine.

In York, the council has taken people to court for illegally using badges.

In one case a woman was caught using her child’s badge to park when the child wasn’t in the vehicle with her.  Another case involved a man who used his dead uncle’s badge, which had expired, to park for free.  The expiry date was obscured by a pair of sunglasses.
(more…)

Parking by phone – Major changes in York but little warning

RingGo – click to access

The York Council has been criticised by users of the Pay by Phone car parking system for giving only 48 hours notice of a change in contractor.

The move means that users may have to re-register their phones with the new provider RingGo.

It takes about 15 minutes to set up the new RingGo app. The numeric car park identifiers are also being changed.

32 RingGo parking sites in York are listed on their web site.

No explanation for the change has been offered by the Council and it remains unclear who, for what reason and at what cost the change has been made.

The previous “Pay by phone” contractor was widely praised for the ease of use of its mobile phone “app” The system was introduced in the last decade as a way of eliminating the need for drivers to have change for the ticket cash machines. Cashless transactions are generally cheaper for the Council to administer and have lower security risks.

 In a statement issued yesterday the York Council said,
motorists who use their mobile phone to pay for car parking in York are being warned about changes which may affect them from this Saturday (1 July).

From the weekend, the service will be provided by a new company – called RingGo.

It may mean some drivers will need to download a new app to their phone or dial a different number to pay for their parking.

New location codes are also being introduced, but these are being clearly displayed on signage in all car parks where the service is available.

Nine car parks and two coach parking areas are covered by RingGo.

Beyond that, there are no other changes and there will still be no need for motorists to scrabble around to find loose change for a ticket machine.

Minster badge holders will continue to receive a discount in all car parks apart from the one at Foss Bank.

Pay-by-phone has been running in York for several years and with drivers appreciating how easy it is to park with a credit or debit card and just a mobile phone.

Users of the old service must ensure they register with RingGo.  The process only takes a few minutes and can be completed by phone or online.

Instructions, and more information about parking-by-phone is available on the council’s website: york.gov.uk/PayParkingByPhone
(more…)