York Council refuses to buy empty flats despite increase in homelessness

The York Council won’t use any of its government “New Homes Bonus” payments, housing reserves or developer planning levies to buy homes on the open market.

In total over £10 million is available to supplement rental stocks.

The disappointing announcement came at the last Council meeting when the Labour Councillor responsible for housing (Tracey Simpson-Laing) claimed that empty properties currently on the market in York “are poorly insulated”.

St Stephens Square £65,000 click for details

St Stephens Square £65,000 click for details

Instead the Council intends to spend around £7 million constructing new Council flats at sites like the former Beckfield Lane recycling centre. These properties are likely to cost around £170,000 each including the value of the building plot (which is already owned by the Council).

The decisions comes at a time when a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the housing waiting list – now amalgamated for the whole of North Yorkshire – has over 2800 applications SEEKING ONE BEDROOMED PROPERTIES.

This is more than half the total number on the list, which has now reached 4600. Many of these, though, have been added since the list was “opened up” and includes people from other parts of the country who want to move to York. It also, for the first time, includes many teenagers who had previously rented accommodation in the private sector, lived with relatives or in shared accommodation .

The only planning application so far made for the new Council houses (on Beckfield Lane) is for 6 two bedroomed and 3 one bedroomed flats. In additional the site will accommodate 6 two bedroomed homes as well as several “for sale” units. Approval of the planning application has been delayed.

Birch Copse £115,000 click for details

Birch Copse £115,000 click for details

Potentially the Council could purchase 70 empty flats on the open market for the £7 million. They would be available immediately to ease the demand for more rented property.

In turn this could free up the same number of larger properties (there are 354 existing Council tenants seeking a move to a smaller property).

And there are bargains around.

A modern two bedroomed terraced property in Birch Copse is advertised for £115,000.

A 2 bedroomed (former) Council flat in St Stephens Road is advertised for £65,000.

As a cash buyer the Council would be ideally placed to secure properties like this.

NB. The latest Council report on “homelessness” in the City concedes that the number of rough sleepers in the York has increased. The quarter 3 submission to government identified 8, an increase from the previous year of 2.

The number of households in temporary accommodation remains high despite a reduction in homeless acceptances and the opening of Howe Hill for Young People. The target for 2012/13 was 85. The final number in temporary accommodation as of 31/3/12 was 99

“A Fresh Approach” – The LibDem alternative to Labours Local Plan

York Central Liberal Democrats have published today the representations that they have made opposing Labours “high growth” plans for the City.

Labour propose to increase the size of York by 25% during the next 15 years. Up to 22,000 new homes are planned. The majority would be built on Green Belt land and would be occupied by inward migrants.

The Liberal Democrat alternative suggests that job growth, house building numbers and population plans must be clearly linked.

Between 600 and 800 additional homes would be built each year with growth in jobs directly linked to this figure and implemented at a pace which recognises the need to improve transport, education, and health facilities.

Local residents backing the "save the green belt" campaign

Local residents backing the “save the green belt” campaign

The LibDems say that around 6000 more homes could be built on brownfield sites and have identified many new potential locations which would avoid the need to build in the Green Belt. Many of these would be “windfall” opportunities of the type that have produced, on average, 350 new homes a year in the City over the last decade.

The Labour Council is accused of trying to impose a new town blueprint onto an historic City landscape.

The complete response can be read by clicking the following link http://tinyurl.com/Local-Plan-A-fresh-approach

All comments on the proposals have to be received by the Council TODAY (Wednesday 31st July).

They should be emailed to localplan@york.gov.uk

The sites which could be used for housing but which are excluded from Labour plans are listed as:


Latest Planning applications Acomb and Westfield Wards

Below is the latest planning application received by the York Council last week. Full details can be found by clicking the application reference

Ref No: 13/02524/TCA
Location: 19 The Green Acomb York YO26 5LL
Proposal: Fell Elm, Tree in the Conservation Area
Applicant: Miss Elizabeth Morrell Consultation Expiry Date: 20 August 2013 Case Officer: Esther Priestley Expected Decision Level: DEL

Ref No: 13/02062/LHE
Location: 108 Middleton Road York YO24 3AP
Proposal: Erection of single storey extension extending 4 metres beyond the rear wall of the original house, with a height to the eaves of 2.1 metres and a total height of 3.5 metres
Applicant: Mr And Mrs Hufton Contact Mr John Warrington Consultation Expiry Date 20 August 2013 Case Officer: Elizabeth Potter Expected Decision Level DEL

Ref No: 13/02253/FUL
Location: Olli Alterations 5A Acomb Court Front Street York YO24 3BJ
Proposal: Change of use from first floor of clothing alterations shop to flat (use class C3)
Applicant: Mr David Wong Consultation Expiry Date 20 August 2013 Case Officer: Victoria Bell Expected Decision Level DEL

Representations can be made in favour of, or in objection to, any application via the Planning on line web site. http://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/

NB. The Council now no longer routinely consults neighbours by letter when an application is received.

“Save Acomb Moor” representations lodged with York Council

Campaigners, who are aiming to stop part of Acomb Moor being developed, have submitted their formal objection to the Councils draft Local Plan.

A full copy of the objection can be read here http://tinyurl.com/Save-Acomb-Moor-Issue-1

Residents have until tomorrow evening (Wednesday 31st July) to email their comments on the plan to localplan@york.gov.uk

The “Save Acomb Moor” objectors make several key points:

The transition from rural into an urban landscape
Vehicles leaving Askham Lane and turning into Foxwood Lane continue to have a rural perspective on one side of the road. The other side is softened by the “ravine”, which runs down the length of Forrester’s Walk, which is heavily planted.

The topography of the land
Even 2 storey houses would be immediately visible on the north side of Foxwood Lane to traffic because of the height of the development at its most western point.

View of Minster from Acomb Moor click to enlarge

View of Minster from Acomb Moor click to enlarge

The need to preserve the skyline of the City
Views of the City would be obstructed by houses built on Foxwood Lane opposite Foresters Walk
This is the ridge high point when viewed from Foxwood Lane (near Otterwood Lane north junction), Askham Lane and the A1237.
The issue would be acute in the winter when there is little tree and hedge cover.

The need to avoid dominance of nearby properties
There is a 5 metre rise on the site. Any buildings on the Foxwood Lane high point (opposite Foresters Walk) would dominate existing buildings and those built on the low part of the site. The shape of the site means that opportunities to preserve privacy through layout would be limited

The requirement for informal open space
While the field in question remains in private ownership, there is an established PROW across it. It is likely that continued use over the last 30 years has established a further PROW around the boundary. This would further limit development opportunities.
The area enjoys only limited access to semi rural grassland and the loss of even part of this field would further reduce recreational choice in the area.

Conservation of flora and fauna including the contribution made to the green wedges in the area
Council officials seem to have dismissed the ecological significance of the field in question without producing any evidence that the area has been studied. Similar grassland in the area has been found in the past to have sustained significant, sometimes unique, forms of flora.
The well established hedges provide cover for wildlife providing a link to Acomb Wood and beyond; following the green corridors which open up onto Hob Moor.
The area should be subject to a full ecological study

Drainage issues
While it is acknowledged that proper drainage would be a relevant issue to be considered when a detailed planning application was submitted, there are concerns about the low part of the field being waterlogged during the winter.
Local sewer capacity is inadequate to take additional surface water drainage and it is unclear how the run off for the hard surfacing associated with 40 homes, could be accommodated.
Householders to the east are concerned that such a development would lead to gardens being flooded on a regular basis. There appears to have been no economic assessment conducted on the costs of ameliorating such concerns.
Within the last 5 years the have been serious flooding issues affecting homes on the central section of Foxwood Lane caused by inadequate drainage.

The Council are likely to start debating the representations that have been made in the autumn.

”Get York Building” report to be published

The controversial survey on barriers to house builidng in York discussed by the York Cabinet last year may finally be made available to the public.

Behind closed doors logo

In response to a question from Ann Reid, the newly charmless Cllr Laign has said,

“I would remind Cllr Reid that the findings from the GYB consultation were summarised in the report considered by Cabinet in February.

The conversations with individual developers, as she should realise being an experienced Councillor, often touched on commercially sensitive information and as such has been deemed confidential and it is not appropriate for this to be shared with the wider public.

However, it is acknowledged that not all the information from developers is commercially sensitive and I have asked officers to prepare a redacted version”.

New questions on Our Lady’s school development

Further research suggests that Yorkshire Housings plans, to shoehorn 56 new homes onto the site of the former Our Lady’s school, could involve densities of 82 dwelling per hectare (dph)

Our Lady's school site

Our Lady’s school site

This far exceeds the guidelines set out in the Council draft Local Plan.

Even City centre locations – where blocks of flats increase densities – rarely exceed 80

The Local Plan recommendations on housing densities are:

• City Centre and City Centre Extension Zone: 80-100 dwellings per hectare

York urban area: 50 dwellings per hectare This includes site like Our Lady’s

• Major Expansion Areas and New Settlements: 50 Dwellings per hectare

• Suburban area (incl. Haxby & Wigginton): 40 dwellings per hectare

• Rural and Villages: 30 dwellings per hectare

The published draft local plan envisaged 29 dwellings on the site.

The latest drawing also suggest that the playing fields will be built on while the nature reserve, established by the school, is also threatened.

We know that Council officials have been consulted on these controversial proposals.

It remains to be seen why they have been allowed to progress to the public consultation stage.

Leaflets advertising an exhibition of the proposals are being circulated. It will take place between 3pm – 6pm on Tuesday the 30th July, 2013 at: Acorn ARL Sports and Social Club on Thanet Road.

Our Lady’s school site development – more details

We understand that a leaflet is to be circulated in the area near Our Lady’s school on Windsor Garth giving more details of the planned development there.

Residents, who were expecting to see a plan for 29 new homes (as included in the Councils new draft “Local Plan”) now find that 56 units are proposed.

That’s represents a 93% increase

Proposed layout Click to enlarge

Proposed layout Click to enlarge

Even a casual glance at the plans suggests that the homes are being shoehorned into the site. High density developments like these tend to bring their own problems resulting from neighbour disagreements.

A very liberal interpretation of the “footprint” of the existing (school) buildings is also being taken.

There are some big issues here with the impact of the “big growth” option having on local roads, sewers and other public services.

The problem is exacerbated by the Council’s plan to build on the nearby Newbury Avenue garage site.

House profiles click to enlarge

House profiles click to enlarge

The exhibition of the proposals will take place between 3pm – 6pm on Tuesday the 30th July, 2013 at: Acorn ARL Sports and Social Club Thanet Road YO24 2NW

All the homes will be for rent with most social housing (Yorkshire Housing Association)

The notice being given to local residents is also very short given that we are entering the major holiday period.

No planning application has, as yet, been submitted.

Latest Planning applications Westfield

Below are the latest planning applications received by the York Council last week. There were no applications in the Acomb Ward.

Full details can be found by clicking the application reference

Location: 6 Middleton Road York YO24 3AS Ref No: 13/02396/LHE Proposal: Erection of single storey extension extending 4 metres beyond the rear wall of the original house, with a height to the eaves of 2.300 metres and a total height of 3.300 metres Applicant: Mr And Mrs Thomas Contact Coral Windows Consultation Expiry Date 12 August 2013 Case Officer: Elizabeth Potter Expected Decision Level DEL

Location: 66 Slessor Road York YO24 3JG Ref No: 13/02384/FUL Proposal: Two storey and single storey side extension and erection of boundary wall (resubmission) Applicant: Miss Lisa Swift Consultation Expiry Date 12 August 2013 Case Officer: Heather Fairy (Mon – Wed) Expected Decision Level DEL

Representations can be made in favour of, or in objection to, any application via the Planning on line web site. http://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/

NB. The Council now no longer routinely consults neighbours by letter when an application is received.

What a difference a week makes


Last week the Press followed up our story about the York Council objecting to a government initiative which would have seen empty City centre property brought into residential use.

The Council leader James Alexander said then, “There is a real concern that, in the present economic climate, some property-owners may take only a very short-term view and seek to dispose of existing office accommodation for residential uses.

Former Liberal Democrat council leader Steve Galloway said the authority’s move was “likely to be a blow to those hoping to bring empty commercial properties back into use”, as his party opposes plans for thousands of new homes on green belt land through the council’s draft Local Plan.

Coun Alexander claimed the Lib Dems were suggesting such housing conversions as a “misguided” alternative solution to York’s “homes crisis

A week later and we see a breathtaking double reverse somersault with twist as The Press reveals that as many as 800 additional flats could be converted out of unused commercial space in City centre buildings


The local newspaper reports, “The Press can reveal the city has been awarded £450,000 to help convert the upper floors of the old White Swan hotel in Piccadilly into 18 flats, and hundreds more city-centre flats could now follow elsewhere, to go some way to easing the city’s housing crisis”.

Council leader James Alexander said the work between various organisations on the White Swan project, coupled with the study’s conclusions, “provides evidence of a wealth of potential accommodation for people or businesses which supports our ambition for new homes and jobs, as outlined in the Local Plan”.

He said the council’s role on the White Swan indicated its willingness and innovation to help turn city-centre premises into homes.

The building’s upper floors have been empty for more than 30 years, but talks are now ongoing between the council, the White Swan’s owners and the Fabrick Group, which runs the Tees Valley Housing Association.

Show them you care about our Green Belt – attend tomorrows meeting

What is called a “drop in” meeting has been called by the Council tomorrow to discuss their plans for major development in the Green Belt in and near the Westfield Ward.

Meeting details – Thursday 11 July 2013 between 4.00pm-7.00pm in The Oak room, The Gateway Centre, Front Street, Acomb.

Many “Save the Green belt” supporters are likely to attend the event at about 5:30pm.

Cllr Lynn Jeffries has agreed to present the “Save Acomb Moor” petition to the Council at its meeting on 18th July.

Save Acomb Moor 2