Coronavirus York updates: 15th July 2020

How the Council plans to use extra government transport grant

A secret meeting held today has endorsed a list of transport improvements on which the Council hopes to spend government grant money (Emergency Active Travel grant).

The list does not include any schemes in suburban or village areas, although there have been numerous requests for the Council to improve the maintenance of cycle tracks and to provide additional cycle parking stands on shopping streets. There is very little on the list for pedestrians.

Unfortunately the Council seems prepared to continue the dangerous (for cyclists) carriageway closure on Bishopthorpe Road and will add other contraflow cycle lanes on Coppergate and in The Groves area (Penley’s Grove Street).

Traffic counters are also on the Councils shopping list although traffic measurement tools like these have been deployed in the City for over 2 decades.

Ironically cycle improvements are promised on Tadcaster Road. Since the recent resurfacing this is probably the best road for cycling on in the whole of the City (although the off street path near Tesco does need levelling).

Once again there was no prior notice given of the meeting so residents had no opportunity to make representations before the decision was published. It really is about time for the Council to reintroduce at least a semblance of transparency and democracy back into its governance arrangements.

Deaths and positive test results

An additional positive test result was recorded in York on Monday. This brings the cumulative total to 911

There have been no further COVID 19 related deaths at York Trust Hospitals

Disabled parking changes

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The York Council is to relax its City centre ban on blue badge parking.

In another “behind closed doors” decision, approval has been given to create “a parking bay on Duncombe Place (at the north west end of the street) allowing parking for Blue Badge holders for up to 3 hours and loading for up to 30mins seven days/week”.

The Council is also to investigate and implement additional disabled bays in other on-street areas “where feasible”

The Council has pointedly not revealed how much use has been made of the additional 40 disabled spaces which it laid out at the Monk Bar car park. It appears that the vast majority have remained empty.  

The Council has been paying a taxi company to provide a lift service from the car park to Kings Square. It turns out that the cost to taxpayers has been £238 a day although the service has been little used. Now the hours of operation of the service are being extended to 8:00pm increasing the daily cost to £358 a day.

That is more than the Council used to spend on transport tokens which were made available to disabled people. The tokens could be used to purchase a door to door taxi service.

There is still no news of any help from the Council for suburban shopping areas like Front Street. It had been suggested that the relaxation of parking restriction there for blue badge holders could have provided both a boost for local traders plus a more convenient option for those with disabilities.

Bollards

The Council has also revealed that lift out bollards and sockets are to be provided at three locations: Goodramgate (junction with Deangate), Blake Street and Fossgate (junction with Merchantage), at a cost of up to £5,000.

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Hostile bollards?

The Council says that these will support the enforcement of access restrictions but not provide “hostile vehicle mitigation”.

Staffing costs for manning the access points are put  at £4,800 for the first week when all three closures are staffed (approx. £690/day). “They will then reduce to approx. £1,900/week (approx. £280/day)”.

On street drinking

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The Council has approved the implementation of an “interim pavement café licensing process to enable the hospitality industry to apply for temporary pavement café licences in advance of the Business and Planning Bill being enacted. These temporary licences will be valid for a maximum period of three months after which they will be reviewed and extended for up to a year in line with the requirements set out in the new legislation (not beyond the end of September 2021)”

While allowing outside tables to be provided where space allows seems a sensible step during  the current health crisis, the lack of any comment on the implications on alcohol fuelled disorder have not been acknowledged by the Council. It is unclear where, and when,  the details of any applications will be published

No tip bookings from Monday

The appointment system, which is currently operating at York’s household waste sites like Hazel Court, will be discontinued with effect from Monday

NB. A response to a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the number of appointment requests at Hazel Court have been averaging around 275 a day. At Towthorpe the daily rate has been 214 recently.

Spy camera fines increase in York

Some motorists may be in for a surprise according to the latest figures published by the York Council in response to a Freedom of Information request.

The number of drivers fined for access breaches on Coppergate and Low Poppleton Lane had, in the past,  been published on the Councils web site.

 These stopped abruptly last October.

Now a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the number of offenders caught fell to zero at both sites in January.

Penalty Charge Notices issued

However, more recently – and despite “lock-down” – the numbers are on the rise again.

During May 268 drivers on Coppergate and 90 on Low Poppleton Lane fell foul of the cameras.

The Council hopes to receive around £1 million in fine income.

There was little justification for enforcing access restrictions during April and May.

Vehicle numbers – mainly used by key workers – on York streets were very low and those bus services which continued encountered no congestion.

Most often knocked over traffic bollard? Fastest growing thistles?

Is this the most frequently damaged mini roundabout keep left sign. Located at the junction of Askham Lane and Ridgeway, no sooner is it repaired and another large vehicle – or careless driver- knocks it over again. York Council needs to come up with a better solution.
Thistles are now partly blocking the cycle path at Knapton. Not sure whether this is on the York Council weed killing programme? It should be. It would be a shame to lose this, increasingly well used, cycle link to Rufforth for lack of maintenance.
It would be a shame if the York Council was to be allowed to continue to neglect the Front Street area. More must be invested in improving maintenance standards. However, there are now new opportunities for regeneration. The Councils decision to (effectively) evict disabled drivers (blue badge holders) from the City centre could prompt the reopening of Front Street, for this category of motorists, on at least a couple of days each week. They would then be free to park nearer the shops (disabled parking spaces are currently limited). Cyclists would also benefit. “Social distancing” is made easier because of the shop forecourts. Add in some music/entertainment, street stalls and a high profile marketing campaign and the area could soon be buzzing again. .

New zebra crossing to improve safety near children’s playground

City of York Council is installing a new zebra crossing on Haxby Road next week to make it safer for children and families to access the play facilities in Clarence Gardens.

The council says that it has listened to requests from residents, who called for a new crossing to be placed on Haxby Road, between the Stanley Street and Neville Street junctions. This will improve access to and from the playground, Clarence Gardens, nearby bus stops, Park Grove Primary School, the Groves, York Hospital and local businesses in the area.

Works will take place from 13 to 24 July, between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday only.  In order to carry out the work safely, temporary traffic lights will be installed.

Drivers are advised to plan ahead and if possible avoid the area when the works are taking place, to avoid congestion.

For more details about roadworks in York, visit www.york.gov.uk/roadworks

Major changes to pedestrian hours in York City centre

No consultation prior to “behind closed doors” decision

Pedestrian hours in York City centre will be extended from 10:30am to 8:00pm, 7 days a week. Currently they end at 4:00pm each day.

The scheme will extend to include Fossgate and Goodramgate.

Cyclists will be able to slalom through some of the affected streets.

The Council leadership claims the move is aimed at helping “traders” and says cafes and pubs will be able to “set up tables on the public highway more easily”. The change was agreed yesterday only hours after alcohol fuelled disorder returned to City centre streets.

Disabled people will be badly affected. They can no longer access the City centre streets and have so far snubbed the additional parking spaces – and free taxi service – set up at the Monk Bar car park

The Council have also failed to address the confusion over their “free parking” offer which applies to some car parks in July and August. It got off to a confused start at the weekend.

The Council says that the following public toilets are now offering a contactless payment option and will be open until 10pm

  • St George’s Field
  • Coppergate Shopping Centre –
  • Exhibition Square
  • Silver Street (contactless from next week)

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the Councils recent transport and other decisions reflect the wishes of either the majority of residents or of the business community. Not surprisingly out of town shopping centres seem to be recovering much more quickly from the lock-down recession, leaving the city centre vulnerable to fanciful and ill considered social engineering experiments.

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New pedestrian rules imposed by Junta

What is increasingly intolerable is the failure of the Councils democratic systems. There is no reason why notice of this proposal could not have been published in advance with a decision subsequently taken at a publicly accessible meeting.

Instead it exploited an emergency delegation scheme which was intended to take the City through the worst phase of the lock-down.

The Council own “scrutiny” system has also once again been found wanting with meetings, which took place yesterday, failing to effectively challenge the decisions of the secretive “junta” which now dictates to York residents.

Changes to pedestrian hours may well be something that York people would want to trial. This option could have been included on a list as part of the Councils so called “big conversation” survey.

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It wasn’t, so we don’t know peoples views.

However, given the failures of the last few weeks, they will not forgive quickly those who chose to impose their views in such a discourteous and arbitrary way.

York could be in line for £693,000 to fund emergency transport improvements

Figures released today suggest that the government could give York an additional £693,000 to fund post COVID sustainable transport schemes in the City.

The money will come from the “emergency active travel fund”. The indicative allocations can be read by clicking here

This would be in addition to the £193,000 already allocated

The North Yorkshire County Council could be in line to receive £1,085,000 from the same fund.

York decided to spend much of its initial allocation on a controversial road closure scheme in The Groves area.

£5 million Tadcaster Road repairs budget?

The government announced yesterday an allocation of £5 million for road maintenance on Tadcaster Road York. The local LibDem leadership promptly issued a statement saying that the money would be spent on “repairs”.

“There will be £5m each for plans to make the key route network in Liverpool more resilient, to begin further maintenance on the Swanswell Viaduct in Coventry, and for road maintenance on the Tadcaster Road in York“. – Boris Johnson

This will come as a surprise to many. Tadcaster Road (between Middlethorpe Drive and Knavesmire Gates) was resurfaced last month at a cost to local taxpayers of £600,000. This brought over a mile of carriageway up to standard.

That left a ½ mile stretch between Middlethorpe Drive and Sim Balk Lane to complete. Even taking into account the Tesco roundabout and adjacent off road cycle track (which does need to be reconstructed because of tree root damage) we wouldn’t expect resurfacing this section to cost more than £300,000.

There are many other carriageways in York which are in a much worse condition.

We hope that the Council will move quickly to confirm that the funding is intended to deal with the congestion black spot near the College entrance. There are unnecessary tail backs along Tadcaster Road at peak times as a result of large numbers of people leaving the college and using the pelican crossing.

College pelican crossing on Tadcaster Road

This is compounded by on carriageway bus stops and traffic lights at the Sim Balk Lane junction.

Even the provision of a footbridge would look like an expensive solution to this problem (and not necessarily a facility that everyone would choose to use).

So some further explanation is needed.

Ward highway improvements list published – nothing for Westfield?

It looks like the Westfield area has been snubbed in the latest highways maintenance budget allocations.

In another “behind closed doors” decision, tens of thousands of pounds, from “delegated” ward budgets, has been allocated for highway and footpath repairs plus some other work  like new parking laybys.

Areas benefiting are Bishopthorpe, Clifton, Copmanthorpe, Dringhouses, Fishergate, Guildhall,  Heslington, Heworth, Hull Road, Holgate, Huntington, Micklegate and Rural West.

One of the roads omitted from repair programme

The absence of Westfield from the list is doubly surprising.

Some local roads are in an appalling condition.

Local Councillors were given lists of problem locations over 6 months ago.

Poor weather in the intervening period has seen some surfaces – such as those on the Morrell Court access road – deteriorate quite markedly.

The report to the decision meeting gives details of how much money is available for local ward Councillors to manage.

It also explains the assessment process.

The Ward Highways Capital Scheme is a four-year programme formed from £250k p.a. of capital resources set aside from the main Highways Capital Programme. It is designed to allow wards to bring forward schemes that are important to local residents but would struggle to be prioritised as part of the main capital programme. A nominal allocation is made to each ward on a population basis. Wards are able to aggregate their allocation by carrying over / bringing forward annual allocations in order to undertake more substantial schemes.

The programme was enhanced in 19/20 through the allocation of the following one-off amounts to it:

  • £500k to use for highways improvements in respect of Roads and Footways
  • £500k to use for Walking and Cycling improvements

(NB. Details of how the walking and cycling budget is being spent were published a couple of weeks ago. Yet again no projects in the Westfield area were agreed).

The Council says the aim is to use this funding flexibly to meet the needs of wards whilst taking account of all relevant legislation and statutory guidance as highways are heavily regulated environments.

The following process is used to identify schemes:

  • Community Involvement Officers liaise with ward councillors, residents and key partners to identify potential schemes
  • The Highways team bring forward condition surveys, customer requests, and safety audits for consideration by wards to help inform their decision-making together with information showing the roads in the ward that are to be repaired through the main capital programme
  • Ideas are taken to a ward walk-about for initial consideration followed, where appropriate, by detailed feasibility work and any appropriate community / statutory consultation
  • The Highways team then form the prioritised ideas as far as possible into a coherent capital programme”

Wards not receiving an allocation were Acomb, Haxby, Heworth Without, Hull Road, Holgate and Westfield.

The list of improvements that have been agreed can be viewed by clicking here

Road closures in the Groves – decision tomorrow

Decisions on a whole raft of changes to traffic access arrangements in The Groves area are due to be made at a meeting tomorrow morning.

Details can be found by clicking here

Several objections to the plans have been recorded. Most come from people who live in the affected area.

Some of the objectors have pointed to a lack of clarity on what the objectives of the exercise are and what success measures will be used? The Council is understood to be using some of the money, provided by the government to help with social distancing in the post COVID period, to fund the scheme.

At present, there is very little non local traffic using roads like Penley’s Grove Street.

Little traffic on Penley’s Grove Street this weekend.

The decision will be made by Cllr Andy D’Agorne. The decision can be “called in” for further consideration by any 3 Councillors. It would then be considered by an all party committee.

Separately the York Councils over reliance on “remote” meetings, and the delegation of major decisions to a small cabal of officials and politicians, is attracting increasing criticism.

Other Council are maintaining a more open and iterative process.

Cycle path cleared of obstructions

Its taken a long time, but the cycle path on Tadcaster Road (A1036) has finally been cleared of obstructions. A one metre margin has been cut and the worst of the overgrowing branches have been trimmed.

The Council still needs to apply some weed killer where grass is breaking through tde surface of the path.

There really needs to be an inspection regime put in place to avoid problems in the future on this, and other, dedicated paths.