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City centre retailers under increasing pressure

Figures from York Bid

The latest footfall figures for York City centre makes grim reading. The run up to Christmas is usually the busiest time of the year for retailers. With footfall continuing to decline, hopes now rest on the Christmas market stimulating interest.  

The York Council is today discussing a report which considers the progress that has been made in implementing recommendations from a review of the “economic health of the City centre”. 

Eight recommendations were agreed by the responsible executive Councillor at the beginning of the year.  They mostly concern relationships with trade organisations together with the promise that a long-term strategy would be consulted on. The consultation has been dubbed “MyCityCentre”. If it is anything like the Councils  MyCastleGateway project, then recovery timescales will be measured in decades rather than years.

A bid to the governments “Future High Streets Fund” has already been turned down.

The only tangible change for customers was the introduction of aYork Gift Card loyalty scheme. This was launched by the York BID last month.   Unfortunately it competes with a plethora of other loyalty cards – including those run by the York Museums Trust, York Libraries and the Theatre Royal – as well as the, better established, York Pass, for the attention of visitors.

Some joined up thinking wouldn’t go amiss.

The report says that evening park and ride service times have now been made permanent.

Meanwhile the number of shops closing in the City centre is increasing. Debenhams, Bonmarche, French Connection, LK Bennett, Crabtree & Evelyn, Gap, Dorothy Perkins and Burton have, or will shortly, close. They join dozens of others including iconic York brands like Scotts, Hunter and Smallpage, House and Son, Sarah Coggles, Russell’s and Mulberry Hall; all lost during the last decade.

Against that background of collateral damage, it is surprising that the Council could only come up with eight palliatives. In fairness, though, it can do little about the biggest influence – internet shopping.

The shop closure trend is not even mentioned in the Council report.

It is ironic that some politicians are jumping on a bandwagon promoted by access difficulties for some market traders over the Christmas period. They will be unable to close their stalls. remove goods and exit the city before 5:00pm.

Their landlords, the “Make it York” QUANGO, claim that vehicles cannot safely leave the market area before 8:00pm.  

Some might think, in any event, that the high footfall brought by the Christmas Market would be something to be exploited. Empty stalls are a “turn off” for customers.

Nevertheless “Make it York” has acquired a poor reputation for consultation and flexibility during its relatively short lifespan.

It would do well to find a compromise.

What’s on in York: Salley Vickers – Grandmothers

York Explore

Thursday November 14th

6:30 pm – 7:30 pm 

£7.50

Book tickets »

Sunday Times bestselling author Salley Vickers will talk about her new novel Grandmothers, the story of three very different women and their relationship with the younger generation.

Grandmothers is a beautifully observed, sometimes subversive, often tender and elegiac novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Librarian.
It is the story of three very different women and their relationship with the younger generation: fiercely independent Nan, who leads a secret life as an award-winning poet when she is not teaching her grandson Billy how to lie; glamorous Blanche, deprived of the company of her beloved granddaughter Kitty by her hostile daughter-in-law, who finds solace in rebelliously taking to drink and shop lifting; and shy, bookish Minna who in the safety of shepherd’s hut shares with her surrogate granddaughter Rose her passion for reading. The outlook of all three women subtly alters when through their encounters with each other they discover that the past is always with us and that we go on learning and changing until the very end.

Cycle link under northern by pass open UPDATED

We’ve cycled the whole length of the cycle track now. Certainly a lot safer than using the B1224. Around 3 miles in length.

It narrows on the section near Harewood Whin where it is an unmodified footpath. There is room to pass.

Only one secured gate on the route (near the A1237 junction). Rest are easy to navigate.

Ironically the roughest surface is on Milestone Avenue in Rufforth. This forms the public highway access to the cycle path. Small cafe in Rufforth provides refreshments.

Pleasant ride in summer although the nearby clay pigeon shooting range is at little noisy!

Milestone Avenue in Rufforth. Carriageway needs resurfacing

The promised new cycle link from York (Knapton) to Rufforth has been completed. The last section involved the modification of an underpass crossing the A1237 to allow for safe access for pedestrians and cyclists.

Previously the tunnel had been used mainly by cattle.

Signage has yet to be installed on the route although it is already being used extensively by pedestrians.

Entrance to cycle path from Knapton
Link from Knapton
A1237 underpass
Link to Ruforth
Location map. Entrance from Knapton (New House Road)

Further details of homes plans for Ordnance Lane, Duncombe Barracks & Burnholme

The York Council says that the next stage of it’s work with York residents to design the homes, streets and open spaces planned for the city is underway, and everyone is welcome to get involved.

The latest workshops will inform our architects of local priorities before they start work at the drawing boards, and are open to all residents to join in. The next phase of these engagement events will be for Ordnance Lane, Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme site.

Duncombe Barracks housing site

David Mikhail, is the founding director of our architect Mikhail Riches and is the design director for the sites coming forward in City of York Council’s Housing Delivery Programme. He said: “Our design team and City of York Council are eager to learn from the people who live, work or study in the area.

“We believe in co-design and know that collaborating with people on our projects helps us to design and build a better place: a new place that belongs to the neighbourhood right from the start.” 

Tom Brittain, assistant director of housing and safer communities, said: “The three-stage engagement events for the council-owned sites will be guided by our housing design manual (www.york.gov.uk/housingdesignmanual). We want to encourage as many people as possible to continue to support these sessions so that they can help create the homes and settings for them that they want to see.”

The event at Hospital Fields Road will be the first for this site and will start conversations between residents and our architects from Mikhail Riches. This will include asking residents about the area and what they want from the homes, streets and open spaces on the site, as has already been done for Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme.

The events at Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme will be detailed, one-day workshops, with lunch provided. At them, residents can hear the ideas and priorities voiced at the first workshops held in October. They can then create 3D models of how they’d like each site to look like.

The third events are scheduled for spring 2020 for the Duncombe Barracks and Burnholme sites. At these, plans of the proposals will be drawn up and feedback on them requested, as well as from on-line surveys, ahead of planning permission being submitted.

Everyone is welcome to these next meetings as we are very keen to hear your views. They will be:  

For more information, please visit www.york.gov.uk/HousingDeliveryProgramme

New graffiti policy can’t come soon enough

The York Council is set to adopt a new policy on graffiti removal today. It can’t come soon enough with several neighbourhoods reporting an increase in incidents.

We hope that the meeting will decide to make renewed efforts to identify those responsible. As it stands taxpayers could face a bill of £90,000 a year to remove spray point from buildings, boundaries and street furniture.

Nor has the Council been particularly prompt in meeting existing graffiti removal targets. A couple of cases in Foxwood have exceeded the 5 day removal target.

Graffiti incidents can be reported “on line” by clicking this link

Graffiti on the Grange Lane snicket has been outstanding for several weeks.
Tagging of a junction box on Almsford Road
Boundary fences can be a target
The Council will, with the owners agreement, clear graffiti form boundary walls in future.

Latest planning applications for the Westfield Ward

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

Full details can be found by clicking the application reference 

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Cornlands Road York

Removal of public payphone (outside the shops on Cornlands Road) 

Ref. No: 19/02322/TCNOT 

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60 Cornlands Road York YO24 3EA

Two storey side extension and single storey front extension with porch. 

Ref. No: 19/02257/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/

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

Transparency returns to York Council decision making process?

Two decisions on the award of large IT contracts are to be taken in public next week as the York Council takes its first tentative steps towards a more open approach.  It is not the decisions themselves which have attracted attention but rather it is the justification offered for placing them before a public meeting.

The report states “that councillors consider routine procurement decisions over £250k in value in line with procurement regulations and the public have the opportunity to see transparent decision-making in operation relating to major procurements.”

That is always supposed to have happened but some officials have sought to exploit loopholes in the budget process to justify making implementation decisions behind closed doors.  Such “routine” decisions must be reported to the responsible executive member in a “register” This has not been done routinely in a transparent way.

It appears that the Executive are now insisting that proposals are tabled individually. That is a step in the right direction.

The two decisions being made on 18th November relate to

  1. Expenditure of £323,800 on an “on line” customer payments system
  2. A £710,000 investment in a new document management system.  

The meeting will also hear that the Council is scrapping a proposed joint procurement with Harrogate to appoint a technology provider.

Instead the current provider in York will continue until summer 2020 with a new supplier, for managed network services, taking over then. The Council current spends around £2 million per annum on this service.

Full marks to Cllr Nigel Ayre who is taking the first tentative steps towards making the Council more open and accountable