Multi storey car park gets planning approval

The proposal to build a multi storey car park on the St Georges Field site received planning permission yesterday. The car park is intended as a replacement for the Castle Car park which would be grassed over.

Castle car park last summer

We have said before that we believe this site is too far from the City centre shops to help to sustain the retail economy.

The Castle car park is the most heavily used in the City. One key reason is that it is within comfortable walking distance for those carrying heavy items of shopping.

The drift to out of city retail centers would continue with the City centre left as a visitor attraction hub sustaining only, what is left of, the pubs and restaurants that may survive the pandemic

The pandemic has changed all the numbers.

It now simply makes no sense to spend £55 million on a scheme which could lose the City much needed jobs

The Council should shelve the plans. They should not be bought off by government financial bribes. The country needs to invest wisely to maximise economic recovery.

The City can tolerate the Castle car park for another decade.

In the interim, the Council can make plans which recognise that personal transport will remain a popular method of moving people from the suburbs and region into the City centre. It is a matter of individual choice.

In future the vehicles used may, however, be battery powered.

The idea of having the area, within the inner road road, designated as an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) may well be one that has now found its time.

The move to home working – and with it greatly reduced congestion and emission levels in the central area – provides the Council with some thinking time.

A quieter City centre would be bad news for many service based shops, hair dressers etc., They will be hoping that visitors would expand to fill the gap in trade left by office workers.

The Councils draft budget for 2021/22 anticipates a £375,000 saving on office costs – a clear indication that the authority itself believes that many staff will never return to West Offices. The same will be true of other City Centre companies

The Councils budget also contains a commitment to borrow £2.5 million to spend on the Castle Piccadilly scheme. In addition the £28.2 million proposals to construct flats at Castle Mills are budgeted separately

That would simply add to the additional interest and redemption costs of £1.6 million which will account for much of the 1.9% increase in Council Tax levels from 1st April. (The remaining 3% hike is earmarked for social care).

So time now for some prudent revisions to the Councils investment plans.

Castle Piccadilly plans

York transport and planning policies stalling

 The decision of the York Councils planning committee to delay a decision, on a plan to replace the Castle Car park with a multi storey alternative at St Georges Field, throws into contrast the conflicting policies of the present Council.

The multi-story option emerged after nearly 2 years of public agonising. £2.2 million has already been spent on design work, consultants fees and consultation costs. The resulting plan didn’t suit everyone (including us) but it did present a way forward.

Multi storey car parks are usually ugly, there can be security issues, they concentrate vehicle movements onto limited sections of the road network and – in the case of the St Georges Field site –  park visitors to far away from their ultimate destinations whether that be shops, work or hospitality outlets.

The Council had submitted its planning application despite already acknowledging that changes to the Castle car might have to wait until the, Coronavirus prompted recession, has eased.

No great problem.

The Castle car park has been there for decades and it is the parking location of first choice for many shoppers and visitors. In July and August this summer it was rammed full.

Castle car park full to overflowing this summer

Now a Planning Committee has rejected the St Georges Field plan by 8 votes to 7. The key vote was cast by Cllr J Barker a hitherto low profile LibDem Councillor from Poppleton. The same meeting also deferred consideration of a new housing scheme on the former Castle Mills car park site.

That car park was lost to general use over a year ago and is still unavailable.

Like the odd decision last year, when Labour Councillors bounced the Council into pledging to stop through traffic from using Lendal Bridge, the impracticalities and contradictions in policy now threatened the economic recovery of the City.

The Council has said it will spend £40,000 consulting on the future of car parking in the City centre. If it appoints consultants to undertake the exercise then they will come under pressure from sectional interest groups including the “folksy fringe” who really don’t want any city centre car parking provision at all.

Personal transport remains the preferred mode for getting around for many people. Post COVID, cycling levels have fallen and public transport use has collapsed.

Meanwhile the number of City centre shops going into administration is creeping upwards.

The beginning of the new year – traditionally a poor time of year for traders – may see even more businesses facing ruin.

Some consistency from the York Council is required to avoid an economic collapse

Prosecution for blue badge fraud in York – £1057 fine.

A woman from Pocklington has been sentenced to pay £1057 after misusing a relative’s disabled parking badge.

Kelly Peters, 57, of Percy Road in Pocklington, used the blue badge to park illegally in a disabled bay in a York car park.

On 4 December 2019, Veritau’s counter fraud team worked with City of York Council parking officers to conduct a city-wide ‘action day’, checking every badge in use. Veritau is owned by the council, and investigates a wide range of fraud on their behalf.

Misusing a blue badge is a serious offence. Badges are issued to those with certain conditions, making it easier for them to travel and maintain independence. These benefits are intended only for the person the badge belongs to.

Officers saw a blue badge displayed in a red Toyota parked in a disabled space at York’s Nunnery Lane car park on the date in December. Upon carrying out checks, investigators found the car belonged to Ms Peters.

She was interviewed under caution and admitted to knowing the rules around blue badges and that this was not a legitimate use, since the badge holder was not with her.

Ms Peters said she usually parked on roads with no parking restrictions, but was running late and didn’t have any money or a bank card on her. She had her relative’s badge in the car, and decided to use it to park in a disabled bay and avoid paying for parking.

This is an offence under section 117(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1984.

She pleaded guilty and was sentenced at York Magistrates’ Court on Friday 13 November. She received a fine of £320 and was ordered to pay costs totalling £737.

Bleak and quiet in York today

A combination of wet weather and COVID restrictions has meant that York has been quiet once again today.

This may be the last weekend opportunity for a while for traders to attract customers. The prospect of another national lockdown becomes more likely.

Lets hope for a more considered approach by the authorities as they seek to address the effects of the second wave. We don’t need any more poorly considered road and car park closures.

Swinegate deserted at noon today
The river Ouse water level is high but not yet threatening properties

Marygate car park will be smaller

A report being presented to a decision meeting next week recommends that Marygate car park be reduced in size by six spaces.  

It is part of the fall-out from a proposal which would see the adjacent railway cycle path widened.

Marygate car park was often full during the summer. Railway cycle path on left

There have already been complaints from season pass holders that they have been unable to find space to park because of an impulsive, and totally unjustified, initiative which saw 70 spaces coned off a few months ago.

More welcome, are plans to provide a ramp access to St Mary’s. This will help both disabled buggy users and cyclists.

A design for new traffic lights at the St Mary’s junction with Bootham is also suggested.

More accessible link for cyclists is promised at the bottom of St Mary’s

Objections to the plans are dismissed out of hand by officials although the report does say that a safety audit on the proposals has been completed (the results of it are not detailed in the papers).

The scheme will cost around £360,000 including £60,000 for the path widening part of the project.

Misuse of family member’s blue badge prosecuted

An investigation carried out by City of York Council has uncovered and successfully prosecuted a case of disabled blue badge fraud.

Andrew Nichol, aged 61 of Stonegate Court, York, was caught misusing a family member’s blue badge in the city centre earlier this year. An investigation into the misuse was conducted by Veritau, the council’s fraud investigation service, following information from a parking officer.

Blue badges make it easier for people with disabilities to travel and maintain independence. However, they are open to abuse. Under the regulations, a blue badge can only be used when the badge holder is present, or being picked up or dropped off.

On 21 February the blue badge was spotted by a council parking officer, displayed in a parked vehicle on Duncombe Place. The badge’s details were checked by the fraud team and the badge holder’s location could not be verified.

When Mr Nichol returned to the vehicle, he told the parking officer that the badge holder was at his home and he was going to pick them up. Investigators later found that the owner of the blue badge was not waiting to be picked up by the driver.
Mr Nichol was asked to participate in a written interview under caution but failed to respond. The investigation concluded with him being prosecuted under the Road Traffic Act 1984 for wrongful use of a disabled person’s badge.

No plea was entered and Mr Nichol failed to attend court, but the case was heard in his absence at York Magistrates’ Court on 9 October 2020. He was found guilty and received a fine, plus court costs and a victim surcharge, totalling £1,169.

York economic review published

A report which looks at how the York economy has fared since the pandemic started has been published today. It looks mainly at the City centre although it markedly fails to reveal traffic levels on, and within, the inner ring road.

Instead it highlights trends on major trunk routes. Generally, these reveal that traffic levels have risen to about 90% of the levels seen in February (which itself is normally the quietest month of the year in the City)

Car park occupancy levels are very high. Castle, Marygate, Bootham Bar and the Esplanade have reached record high levels.

This bears out the conclusion in the report that visitors from outside the City have been coming in large numbers and they mostly drive to City centre car parks.

Park and Ride numbers have slumped  along with public transport passengers more generally. Both are down to 30% of the numbers seen in February. Clearly COVID fears account for this change in transport preferences.

The figures provided also don’t provide any information on the numbers using two wheeled transport. Given the clamour for more cycle lanes, that is surprising. Elsewhere in the country the numbers cycling are up slightly (but not when it is raining!).

There may be a lack of data available to the Council on transport patterns.

They admit that only 2 of the “footfall” cameras are currently working and that a replacement system has yet to be implemented.  The available data suggests that footfall is around 20% down on the equivalent period last year.  The report claims though that spend per head is comparable to last summer.

The numbers claiming out of work benefits has trebled. It may get worse when the “furlough” scheme comes to an end. More stats can be viewed by clicking here

The Council says that it is setting up a “board “ to supervise training initiatives which will counter increasing unemployment.

It is right to focus on education as this will pave the future for the City. It is, however, unlikely that a 20 member committee will be sufficiently agile to make much difference.

The Council approach is likely to be criticised for overly focusing on the City centre. Out of town shopping destinations like those along the ring road don’t get a mention and even local centres at Bishopthorpe Road, Front Street and Haxby merit only a passing review. No footfall figures are provided nor are empty commercial priority trends analysed.  In the case of Front Street a promised economic review by a consultant was shelved during the lockdown.

Front Street lies in the Westfield Ward which has the highest unemployment rate in the City

10% of retail units in the City are now empty.

Marygate car park full

Marygate car park has been full today with around half a dozen cars at anytime patrolling the service roads waiting for someone to vacate a space.

The 40 odd spaces on the railway side of the car park are still coned off. There is little use made of these by cyclists and an alternative is available – using the service road – only a couple of feet away.

The old shared use footpath is also very lightly used making social distancing easy.

The French Revolution | Sutori

Residents will wonder what it takes to get the Council to review this obviously perverse decision.

Perhaps the Groves counter-revolutionaries will pay a visit and realign the cones?

In the meantime the Council is losing around £400 a day in car park charge income.

Marygate car park full today
Station car park largely empty

With City centre car parks very busy this week, it is surprising that LNER haven’t taken the opportunity to sell more spaces on their otherwise largely empty car park at the railway station.

Not many people are going to pay £18 for a days parking but the company could help themselves by marketing spaces at a discounted rate.

At the moment they are bringing in no income for the beleaguered, state owned, outfit.

Free parking offer to continue in York

The one hour of free car parking in many of York’s car parks is to continue during September. Other changes have been made which will also see a cheaper “Minster Badge” introduced.

Castle car park

It was another “behind closed doors decision” with the following changes agreed

  • Extend the 1 hour free parking initiative which has been in place for August to the end of September and increase the marketing and promotion to drive up the take up of the offer.
  • In October to launch a new Minster Badge offer which would be valid until the 31st March 2021 for the cost of £2, the equivalent of one evenings charge. Minster Badges provide free evening parking and a discount to residents who purchase one.
  • To standardise the time evening parking charges commence in off street car parks where evening charge is applicable to 5pm for Minster Badge Holders seven days a week until the end of March.
  • To reduce the coach parking tariff to a flat rate of £6.70 per hour (similar to the current hour charge.

Changes to the parking machines will cost £10,000

The Council has not revealed how many motorists took advantage of the discounted parking rates offered in July and August. It does say that car park use has increased back to traditional levels quicker than was anticipated.

It has not released, for general use, the spaces at Marygate and Monk Bar car parks which were taken out of service a couple of months ago.

An extension of the taxi service to and from Monk Bar car park for blue badge holders until the end of September has been agreed. No details of the level of use of this service have been revealed by the council.

NB. At the end of the Summer Holidays the temporary toilet provision that was installed on Parliament Street will be removed.

Coronavirus York updates; 19th August 2020

Deaths and test results

The results table has been updated to show the actual date of positive tests in York plus three more positive test results. . This is now available of the government web site click

Case number trends in York

Monk Bar car park shuttle service news

Empty spaces at Monk Bar car park

A Council official has agreed to extend the free taxi service for disabled users which links Monk Bar car park to the City centre. The little used service had been due to end but has now been extended to 6th September.

A behind closed doors meeting held yesterday heard that “the usage thus far has been low but is slowly increasing and it allows that to be monitored, mindful that those shielding have greater freedoms from the 1st of August”.

The opportunity to reduce the number of parking spaces allocated for the service was not taken, so they are likely to remain unused for the remainder of the busy summer period.

Shops busy

The Designer Centre has been busy this week. Typical 15 minutes wait for access. Good news for the local economy.