Police message following suspicious activity in St Stephens Road

At approximately 0500 hours on Saturday 29th December 2018, 3 males were found in a garden on St Stephens Road.

It is suspected that the males were intending to break into the house.

Fortunately the males were disturbed by the occupant and they made off.

Please can we ask that you review your home and garden security, and also report any suspicious activity by dialling 999 in an emergency or 101 non emergency.

Officers quickly responded to the area but the males could not be found.

Latest planning applications for the Westfield Ward

 Below are the latest planning application received by the York Council for the Westfield ward.

Full details can be found by clicking the application reference

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Address       7 Corlett Court York YO24 3LR

Proposal      Single storey side extension

Reference   18/02634/FUL

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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/

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

York Libraries – call for more transparency over future

York Explore Library

Staff working in York’s libraries are understandably concerned about the lack of any announcement about the future of the service.

The libraries are currently run by “Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual Limited” company.

Their contract comes to an end in March 2019.

In June 2018 the Council decided to tender for the continuation of the service.

A report raised several worrying options including the introduction of “volunteer” run branches. Others were concerned that a large leisure management company based outside the City would take over the service.

The contract on offer is believed to be worth £32 million and covers a 15 year period.

Acomb Explore Library

The present management arrangements are essentially a development of the team that led the library organisation when it was run by the Council. They have had a generally successful 5 years with, against the national trend,  user numbers stable and some useful innovations like the reading café in Rowntree Park introduced.

An updated report on the Libraries recent activities was published yesterday (it says that they can now handle visa applications – a role that the Post Office revealed, during consultations about the relocation of the Lendal office to W H Smiths, they were losing)

The Councils Forward Plan which lists all major upcoming decisions runs until 28th April 2019.

It does not include a decision item on the future of the library service.

Castlegate sale – Now Council and Civic Trust have more questions to answer


Castlegate

As long ago as 2012 The Council started negotiations to move its youth facilities centre from premises in Castlegate. Various other locations were considered for the centre before the Castlegate building was declared surplus to requirements about 3 years ago.

The youth facilities were subsequently relocated to Sycamore House.

A series of email exchanges revealed the extent of the “behind closed doors” dealings that the then Labour controlled council had been involved in during 2012.

By April 2017 a Council report revealed that the empty building was worth around £575,000 on the open market.

The report then  went on to justify a sale to the York Conservation Trust for a reduced £431,000 claiming that major repairs were required.

The York Civic Trust promised a £2.8 million upgrade to the building and the adjacent Fairfax House (already owned by the Trust).

This would stimulate tourism for the general benefit of the City centre economy.

So, getting on for 2 years later, what progress has been made?

Very little it seems, with two peak shopping seasons having passed without what is a key location being exploited.

Taxpayers will want to be reassured that the deal, agreed nearly two years ago, is still on course to provide the benefits claimed by officials.

Windsor Garth parking lay-by location options revealed

Local Councillor Andrew Waller is consulting local residents about the new proposals to install additional parking lay-bys on Windsor Garth.

Cllr Andrew Waller

The options are the latest in a series of plans which are aimed at reducing congestion on the narrow roads in the Kingsway/Hob Moor estate.

Several other options have been discounted either for practical reasons or because they did not represent value for money.

Residents had their  say in response to a survey conducted a year ago. Subsequently a plan to provide a lay-by outside the flats on Newbury Avenue ran into delays caused by difficulties in relocating telecoms cabinets. That plan is now expected to be implemented in the spring.

The need for better parking has become even more urgent with the Council having decided to redevelop the Windsor House/Lincoln Court area on Ascot Way. The published plans for the new buildings do not include sufficient “on site” parking space according to many residents.

The Westfield Ward delegated budget includes funding to provide up to 11 additional spaces during the current financial year. Potential locations near Kempton Close and Beverley Court have now been identified. (see plan below)

Residents have a choice of implementing option 2 or 3 this year.

Option 6 will be done as well unless there are strong objections from local residents. .

It is likely that the spaces will use matrix surfacing. This allows grass to grow though the matrix providing a “natural” appearance while also allowing “soak away” drainage.

Any work must be completed before the end of March.

Parking lay-by options in Windsor Garth area January 2019

 

 

Go alcohol-free for Dry January 2019 says York Council

Another part of the Council says drink more water!

City of York Council is supporting calls for residents in the city to try having a Dry January in 2019 and enjoy the benefits from having a break from drinking.

A YouGov poll released this month has revealed that one in ten people who drink – an estimated 4.2 million people in the UK – are already planning to do Dry January in 2019.1 Dry January participants stop drinking alcohol for one month to feel healthier, save money and improve their relationship with alcohol long term.

Current low risk drinking guidelines say that men and women shouldn’t drink more than 14 units per week. If you do drink as much as 14 units, then it should be spread evenly across three or more days.

Dry January is run by the charity Alcohol Change UK.  Signing up for Dry January increases the chances of getting the most out of the month. You can download Try Dry: The Dry January App to track your units, money and calories saved, plus many more features. Or you can sign up at dryjanuary.org.uk for regular support emails with tips and tricks from experts and others like you.

In York 30 per cent of adults drink over the recommended 14 units of alcohol per week, compared to the England average of 26 per cent.

Taking part in Dry January helps people to drink more healthily year-round, according to independent research conducted by the University of Sussex with over 800 Dry January participants.2 It showed that Dry January participants were still drinking less in August:

  • Drinking days per week dropped on average from 4.3 to 3.3
  • Units consumed per drinking day on average from 8.6 to 7.1
  • Frequency of drunkenness on average from 3.4 per month to 2.1 per month.

For all of these measures, people who drank more riskily before Dry January saw bigger decreases in the amount and regularity of their drinking – suggesting that Dry January is particularly helpful for heavier drinkers.3

The research also showed that:

  • 93% of participants had a sense of achievement
  • 88% saved money
  • 82% think more deeply about their relationship with drink
  • 80% feel more in control of their drinking
  • 76% learned more about when and why they drink
  • 71% realised they don’t need a drink to enjoy themselves
  • 70% had generally improved health
  • 71% slept better
  • 67% had more energy
  • 58% lost weight
  • 57% had better concentration
  • 54% had better skin.

A poll found that 8% of UK adults are planning to do Dry January, or one in ten of those who drink.

If you drink very heavily or regularly Dry January may not be for you, so check with your GP or local alcohol service before you start. Where an individual is experiencing physical symptoms when they stop drinking (which may include but are not limited to: shakes, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, nausea, stomach cramps or hallucinations) they should seek medical help urgently.

The charity behind Dry January

Alcohol Change UK is the charity formed by the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research. In addition to running Dry January, we work for a world free from alcohol harm. We fund, commission and share research; work to ensure more and better support and treatment; encourage better policy and regulation; shift drinking cultures through our campaigns; and work to change drinking behaviours by providing advice and information. Find out more.

How to sign up

People can sign up for Dry January at dryjanuary.org.uk, or by downloading the brand-new app Try Dry: The Dry January app via the App Store or Google Play. People who sign up to Dry January are more likely to make it through to the end of the month without drinking. They get access to support, tips and tricks, and more. The app allows people to track their units, calories and money saved not drinking, plus track their drinking year-round.

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Lincoln Court redevelopment – more confusion

Lincoln Court

The York Council has now formally issued its planning decision on the application to remodel and extend Lincoln Court on Ascot Way.

The plans for the  “independent living” block of flats attracted controversy before Christmas when it was revealed that residents will have to move out to allow work to be completed.

This decision was in conflict with assurances given during consultation meetings held earlier in the year.

Now the conditions issued for the planning decision reveal that the 10 new units planned for the site will be “extra care” beds. Condition 12 of the permission states that this will ensure that the flats are not subject to “right to buy” legislation.

Extra care facilities involve 24/7 support and are currently provided by the Council at buildings like Marjorie Waite Court. Because of the staffing demands, the facilities require a “critical mass” of users to make them economic. 10 bedrooms falls far short of the numbers required to sustain such levels of support.

The users of extra care facilities rarely have their own transport and thus have reduced needs for parking provision (although their carers are likely to need some provision).

On the other hand, the car park at Lincoln Court is already congested and the addition of 10 additional flat units will stretch it to breaking point. The current plans do not allow for a rear access to the potential overflow parking – and delivery access – available at the adjacent school car parks.

Officials speaking at the planning committee meeting in December said that the new flats would offer the same facilities as those already in use in the building.

We think that too many mistakes have been made with this project.  

There is now confusion over when residents will be able to return to their homes, over the function of the 10 new units which will be provided and over the future of the all-weather games area which Sport England says should be replaced elsewhere if it is bulldozed.

The planning application should be referred back to the planning committee for these issues,  and problems with traffic congestion, to be clarified and resolved.

 

Damp squib as York Councillor allegations are published.

After 2 years of agonising the York Council’s Chief Executive has finally published details of the claims of “misconduct”  faced by the former Deputy Leader of the Authority; Cllr Keith Aspden.

He was sacked as Deputy Leader in September 2017 by the then Tory Council Leader David Carr amidst dark allegations of “serious offences”.

David Carr was himself subsequently sacked by the Tory Group.

There had been claims in 2017 that Cllr Aspden had been responsible for leaking an audit report which looked into contract irregularities in 2014 when Labour were in control of the Council. It subsequently turned out that a paid official was responsible for that leak. That same official, when faced with the prospect of dismissal for his action, then muddied the water with a series of claims about Councillor and officer conduct at the Council.

Most of the allegations were quickly disproven but two – concerning the appointment of a junior officer in 2015 – have remained unresolved.

Cllr Aspden vigorously rejects the two remaining charges.

It is this allegation that will be subject to a Standards Committee hearing on 3rd January. The hearing is being held in public and all the background reports have been published “on line” at the request of Cllr Aspden. The names of those involved have been redacted.

It turns out that the issue is less “James Bond”, more “Coronation Street”.

Why the Council should have spent nearly 2 years ponderously investigating the bogus claims, and in the process spent nearly £100,00 of taxpayers money on solicitors and investigators, may remain a mystery, whatever the outcome of the hearing.

The substance of the complaint relates to the appointment of an assistant, for each of the 3 main party leaders, following a decision taken after the last Council elections in 2015.

The authority also decided to centralised complaint handling and continued the employment of 3 “political researchers” who had been in post for over two decades.

All in all, the decisions meant that Councillors enjoyed an unprecedented level of support.

It was never clear precisely what the “Executive Assistants” would do. It was said that they would be non-political appointments.

It is claimed that Keith Aspden sought to influence who might be appointed to the post that would work for him. He was understandably concerned that someone should be appointed who was discrete and sensitive to the political environment (the LibDems were working in a coalition with the Tories). The Labour and Tory Leaders made similar appointments.

The claim being investigated is that copies of job application forms were made available when the merits of the candidates for the post were discussed between four people in a York pub in the summer of 2015. Keith Aspden apparently favoured the appointment of someone that he knew.  The recollections of the 4 involved differ on what was said but an independent investigator has chosen to believe the word of the “whistle-blower” Hence a charge of bringing the Council into disrepute,.

 

Hints of political patronage do leave a bad taste. When the York Unitary Council was formed in 1996 it fell under Labour control. Two of the new Directors, appointed to senior positions, were card carrying members of the Labour party. One was a former Labour Councillor.

That made relationships awkward.

But those were senior roles and the Executive assistants have a much more mundane and low profile work remit.

What happens next depends on the outcome of the hearing. If the case is found not to be proven, then those who have relentlessly – and at great expense to the taxpayer – harassed a hardworking Councillor, may themselves find that they are next into the public dock.

NB. Cllr Ayre has had a complaint, about leaking information to the media, outstanding for over 18 months. Cllr Carr may also face the prospect of censure for actions when he was the Leader of the Council.

What’s on in York: Silver Screen Festival 2019

Fairfax House, February

Silver Screen 2019 takes a walk on the wild side, drawing inspiration from the animal kingdom: from Hollywood’s furry and four-legged acting legends, great and small, to the creatures who inspired cult classic titles such as Bringing Up Baby, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and National Velvet to name a few.  With 11 classic films being screened, there is sure to be something to tempt you!

Click here for brochure

Click here to secure tickets