Council progress on Public Rights of Way

A council report says that all but one outstanding applications, for a Public Rights of Way in the City, have now been processed for a decision.

Council barriers used to obstruct public right of way

Unfortunately the outstanding application is the one for Acomb Moor (the link from Foxwood Lane to Osprey Close).

The Council promised to determine this by the end of February.

Following our story yesterday, were advised that the Osprey Close footpath obstruction has resulted from drainage works undertaken in the area.

The residents association is pressing local Councillors to provide a hardcore surface to ensure that walkers can at least get past the mud.

In that respect the path provided by the Council for the Hawkshead Close access into the wood.

Leaf detritus needs to be swept from Osprey Close footpaths

NB. We’ve asked for the Osprey Close area to be swept to remove tree detritus and the remains of last years weed growth which can still be found in some gutters.

Some weeds still obstructing drainage gullies.

Council blocks popular footpath link

Over the last few days contractors have been working on the Council owned section of Acomb Wood near the top of Osprey Close.

They put some hard core down near the entrance gate (good) but they have left a large spoil heap blocking the popular footpath access to the wood.

They have also erected Council owned barriers on the PROW footpath link to Acomb Moor and Foxwood Lane beyond.

As well as the spoil heap, the actions of a tractor have reduced the path to an impassable quagmire. A spectacularly bad time of year to undertaken work like this.

It is unclear who is responsible for the work (the farmer has a right of access but he usually accesses his field direct from Askham Lane).

Paths in the Council owned section of Acomb Wood get very muddy. Their condition contrast with the well maintained – by volunteers – section of the wood on the other side of the road.

Only the Council would have any reason to work on this land – which is a publicly owned amenity area – but to do so without any warning or consultation is remarkably insensitive.

The residents association are planning to discuss the issue at their meeting next week.

There is scope for putting down hardcore on other sections of the popular footpath which goes through the Council owned part of Acomb Wood and which gets very muddy in places.

Hedges – A good time to check if they need trimming

There were a lot of problems during the summer with hedges obstructing public paths. In some cases, the obstructions were caused by Council owned trees and bushes. The jury is still out on whether new processes and budget allocations announced earlier this week will result in an improvement during 2020.

Hedges on the boundary of private gardens and the public highway (including foot and cycle paths) are the responsibility of the hedge owner. Home occupiers must ensure that the highway is kept clear of obstructions at all times

Obstructions can be a significant problem for some users. The partially sighted are at a particular risk and cyclists being “swiped” by stray branches can lead to more serious accidents.

In some cases thorn buses like brambles and roses overhang paths representing an added hazard.

Thorn bush branches at eye height are a particular risk

Sadly, like the problems with damage to verges, in recent years the Council has been tardy in ensuring that hedges are cut back from paths. They do have enforcement powers which have been used in the past to force action. In extreme cases hedges have been cut back to the path line after notice periods have expired. The owners were charged for the work.

No such notices have been issued recently.

Of course, some occupiers may not be physically able to cut badly overgrown hedges. It has been suggested that this is a service area that a “not for profit” start-up could usefully exploit. There are already several local gardening companies which offer trimming services.

Even the Councils own cycle tracks were obstructed last summer

With leaves now off trees and hedges, winter is the optimum time to deal with long standing problems. This needs to be done before the start of the bird nesting season.

The Council also has powers to require its tenants to cut garden hedges as do social landlords.

We have advocated for some time the appointment of a paths supervisor who could trim back Council owned hedges and initiate action against irresponsible neighbours who cause obstructions. We hope that the Council will fund such a post in its new budget.

We hope to see some well publicised action from West Offices over the next few weeks.

Car ban, driver-less shuttle …just posturing?

Comments from some Councillors on social media suggest that the half-baked plan to ban all “non-essential” private cars from the City Centre is not what it at first seemed.

Politicians have been falling over themselves to reassure drivers that there will be exemptions from the ban for those driving to City centre destinations. These include blue badge holders, those driving to off street public car parks, those driving to workplace car parks, those driving to their (City centre) homes, those making deliveries, taxis, tradespeople, those driving ULEVs and more.

The “ban” is now being re-positioned as an attempt to prevent the “through movement” of cars (vehicles beginning and ending their journeys outside the City Walls).

That is an argument that took place more than 2 decades ago when the Council closed access to Deangate (next to the Minster), several streets were pedestrianised and Coppergate was closed to general traffic for most of the day.

 In effect, there is now little “through” traffic using Ouse bridge. There is likely to be even less traffic on the bridge when the Castle car park closes next year. Closure of Ouse Bridge to general traffic is included as an option in the current LTP albeit after improvements to the A1237 bypass have been completed. A new Local Transport Plan is due next year and could provide a background for an informed debate.

There is one big issue. The Labour proposal amount to a 24/7 ban on private cars using Lendal Bridge, which does have an element of through traffic using it. It is the bodged, ANPR enforced, Lendal Bridge restriction re-badged and greatly extended.

That is why the Labour Councillor, who is acting as a surrogate for disgraced former transport chief Dave Merrett (who now heads the local Labour party organisation), has included the whole of the area within the City Walls in his car ban plan.

The additional journey times for people trying to drive from, for example, the railway station area to east York and beyond using the, already congested,  Clifton or Skeldergate bridges should be revealed.

As well as origin and destination statistics the Council is also able to publish congestion trend data. The length of traffic queues on most arterial routes – as a result of initiatives like “park and ride” – are now less than they were 20 years ago.

The trick is to reduce congestion not gamble with changes that could make matters worse.

Cllr D’Agorne- the current transport chief –  has also admitted that he was briefed last summer on plans to seek funding for a “driver-less” shuttle service in the central area.

He says that he maintained confidentially about the plan as officials didn’t want other cities to hijack the idea. No consultation was undertaken.

Some will feel that, if funding is allocated (£4 million is being sought), then the pressure to implement a potentially hazardous system will overcome any objections from concerned residents.

Another project for the “row back” quickly brigade?

Driver-less shuttles for York city centre?

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority has submitted an ambitious final bid to the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund.

The core bid is for £406 million and includes some investment in York.

Some sections of the local media are getting very excited today about a plan to run a “driverless” shuttle service in York City centre. The aim would be to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

According to papers published by the Leeds based Authority, the service would initially be based at the Piccadilly car park although additional “hubs” might later be opened at the Marygate and the University.

There is likely to be some scepticism about the safety of operating driver-less vehicles in busy pedestrianised areas.

Other features, of what the Leeds planners call a FMZ mobility hub, include improved inter model arrangements (pedestrian/cycle), fast charging facilities for electric taxis and delivery lockers. Dozens of sites across the region have been identified for similar “hub” treatments.

Much of the bid money would be spent on improving railway stations including York.

It is claimed that a successful bid would  “enable direct sustainable access to major development sites, including White Rose Business Park, Olympia Park and York Central” and includes a contribution towards improvements to the A1237 York northern bypass.

There will be issues with some of the terminology used in the West Yorkshire centric document.

York is dismissed as being amongst the 20% of wealthy areas in the country with the region failing – like the York Council itself – to recognise that pockets of deprivation exist in parts of the City.  No investment for these neighbourhoods is identified in the bid.

The process serves to emphasise just how remote governance has become in Yorkshire. An unelected regional body determines expenditure priorities for millions of people with little consultation (and minimal communication).

Council taxpayers will be expected to pick up part of the bill for many of these changes yet their involvement in the process seems, at best, to be an afterthought.

York Council decides on Public Right of Way requests

The York Council has considered several requests for changes to the definitive map of public rights of way (PROW).

In total Councillors and officials have decided whether to pursue 13 applications.

There will now be a further period of consultation.

The Council has a large backlog of applications which it has agreed to determine before the end of February

Click an individual application below to view each and the decision

Stonegate carriageway repaving work will last for 4 months.

£500,000 scheme takes up significant proportion of this years highways resurfacing budget

Stonegate

For the first time in a generation, City of York Council is completely repaving Stonegate.

Over the years the council has replaced damaged or worn paving stones but is now investing around £500,000 to fully repave the entire length of Stonegate, with natural Yorkstone paving and concrete foundations.

Over time there has been significant defects in the surface of the road, where paving slabs are broken and uneven, which make it unsafe for pedestrians.

The scheme will enhance the street’s appearance and character, creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment, attracting more people into the area and improving access for pedestrians.

The works will be split into four phases with each phase taking around four weeks to complete and will start from Monday 6 January until Friday 3 April.

It’s estimated that a scheme of this size would normally take around four months to complete. The council will aim to do as much work as possible (weather permitting) before the Easter break, when work will stop.

Over 20 retailers and businesses fed back at a session in November to say they would prefer the council to carry out this scheme in the quieter months of January to March.

This feedback has all been taken on board and works will stop before the Easter holidays start and the council will come back in early 2021 to fully complete the scheme (around an additional four weeks) – if the council is unable to complete the works beforehand.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne, Executive Member for Transport, said: “Stonegate is steeped in history and was one of the first paved-roads in York, which was a direct route to transport the Minster stone whist it was being built. It’s one of the most loved streets in our city centre so this investment will ensure the street keeps its special character.”

Although loved for its paving, Stonegate wasn’t always a paved-road. Photographs sourced from the Explore York Archives show Stonegate’s surface was made up of sets/cobbles in the 1890s and in the 1940s was a tarmac surface.

The high cost of resurfacing this, relatively modest, length of road highlights just how inadequate the Councils highway maintenance budgets are.

Stonegate resurfacing – Frequently asked questions

Labour propose banning private car use on Lendal Bridge

 A Labour Council motion advocates a ban on all non-essential private motor vehicle journeys “within the city walls” by 2023.

Labour are planning a 24 hour a day ban on cars using Lendal Bridge

The motion, which will be discussed on Thursday, fails to identify which journeys would be classified as “essential” mentioning only special arrangements for disabled people. Although ostensibly positioned as a response to climate change, there is no mention of exceptions for electric cars. Taxis and mopeds also don’t figure in the plan.  

The proposal is a simple attack on the idea of personal transport use.

Restricting traffic movement within the “City Walls” is not a new idea. In the past though, advocates of the introduction of a Low Emission Zone have usually referred to the area within the inner ring road as a starting point. The Labour plan would also ban cars from using the inner ring road between its junctions with Rougier Street and Bootham.

Labour have shied away from such restrictions in the past not least because of the increasing number of people who now live in the City centre.

 They changed their policy in 2012 when they tried to restrict movements on Lendal Bridge using ANPR camera enforcement. This proved to be hugely unpopular and ultimately impractical.

A 24/7 ban would go much further. Two (Lendal and Ouse) bridges would become inaccessible. Shoppers with bulky goods would look elsewhere. It would potentially destroy many city centre businesses.

Traffic congestion elsewhere in the City would increase.

The motion is based on the premise that – in addition to encouraging more people to walk and cycle –  it is possible to ramp up the public transport system to the point where it becomes the mode of choice for residents for 24 hours a day. Maybe so but forcing people to use an overcrowded, expensive and – off peak – infrequent bus service looks particularly half-baked as the country enters a period financial uncertainty.

Of course, the proposal may be a bluff aimed at scaring drivers into accepting the implications of a low emissions zone, with the extra costs that congestion charging would entail.

Such a move would be naive given that most harmful vehicle emissions come from buses (an issue being addressed by the Council and operators) and commercial vehicles.

Strangely Labour have so far not supported making the York Central development part of an ultra-low emission zone although there is the opportunity there to design in alternative transport options from the off.

The Councils own fleet is 90% dependent on diesel power. Climate change activists might want to direct their attention there before targeting residents who simply value the convenience and security offered by personal transport.

This motion was one of the items that the Council decided not to publish before Thursday’s General Election vote.

Had they not done so, then the local Labour vote might have reduced even further.

NB. The motion also advocates banning motor vehicles from roads near all primary schools at drop off and pick up times. That will be easier said than done, we think.

Bad week for congestion in York

There has been a lot of congestion in York over the last week or so.  With many visitors coming for the Christmas markets and the “Winter Wonderland” the influx is potentially good news for the local economy.

But transport systems have capacity limits and these were reached at times with the Designer Centre car parks effectively full and Park and Ride services compromised.

Queues at the hospital car park have caused delays on bus services while even cyclists have found it difficult to find vacant City centre cycle racks.

Lenin addresses people waiting in a Waitrose queue?

Add in the arrival of General Election campaigners eager to be filmed with a backdrop of crowds of people and the new security barriers, which hinder movement in areas like St Helen’s Square, and things have turned decidedly awkward even for pedestrians.

So, what’s to be done?

We have criticised the Council before about its failure to utilise modern technology to ease travel woes. The real time parking space availability map was removed from their web site last year.

Many of the parking space availability signs which can be seen on arterial roads didn’t work for a long time.

On line site parking space availability web site abandoned by York Council

 A promised link through GPS to car navigation systems – which would help to direct vehicles to car parks where there were spaces – has not materialised.

As a result, vehicles still circle the City looking for spaces, which sometimes don’t exist, adding to congestion and pollution levels.

The York Council needs to raise its game.

On busy days, it should be tweeting updates on at least an hourly basis. Variable message signs on approach roads should be similarly updated. Local Radio has a part to play.

It would be relatively easy to add a CCTV link displaying the conditions at key locations to the Council web site. North Yorkshire already do this (albeit mainly to provide information on road conditions)

Modern problems need modern solutions.

Sadly at the moment there seems to be little sign of urgency at West Offices on the need to further improve traffic management in the City.