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A meeting with limited purpose?

The York Council Joint Standards Committee – which is charged with ensuring there is probity in public life – meets for the first time in the new Council session on 17th June.

The, decidedly thin, agenda can be viewed by clicking here. It involves only the appointment of a chair, a vice chair and agreeing future meeting dates.

As well as regulating the activities of City of York Councillors, the 10 strong committee also considers complaints about Parish Councillor conduct. The parishes appoint 3 members to the committee. Two of the three nominations are former City of York Councillors. Both were rejected by the electorate at the recent May 3rd poll. (Stuart Rawlings and Sian Wiseman)

Only one of the Council appointed members has (recent) previous experience of York Council work. Ironically that is former Leader David Carr. Cllr Carr was himself the subject of a complaint over his handling of, what turned out to be, bogus allegations against Cllrs Aspden and Ayre in 2017.

It has taken 2 years and expenditure of over £100,000 to resolve those claims.

Steps were taken to start an independent inquiry into the process used by York Council officials to resolve the Aspden/Ayre case. There has been no recent update on the progress of this investigation. The Councillors themselves suffered a significant financial penalty as they lost earnings and had to pay for their own legal representation (costs thought to be in excess of £10,000).

The expectation had been that the outstanding case would have been resolved by now with the conclusion being reported to this standards committee meeting on 17th June.

The minutes from the committees last meeting, held on 13th February, included the following comment

” Since the committee’s last meeting in November 2018, two long running cases had been concluded and two cases remained ongoing. Details were set out in the table at paragraph 2 of the report. Members noted that one of the ongoing cases was likely to be concluded in February and stressed the importance of concluding the other case, which dated from 2017, before the start of the pre-election purdah period on 26 March 2019“.

The case started in September 2017 but investigated allegations going back as far as 2014.

It now seems that there will be no final closure on the Nigel Ayre case for a few more weeks at least.

The actual investigation into the case is understood to have concluded last year.

Report casts light on life in Acomb since Roman times

An archaeology report, produced as part of the investigations into the bowling club development project on Front Street, has provided a further insight into the history of the village.

The report says that, “in February 2005 On-Site Archaeology carried out an archaeological evaluation on the disused allotments located immediately to the west of the current site. Within one of the evaluation trenches two small pits containing late 1st to mid 3rd century Roman pottery were recorded, cutting into the natural sand. A residual sherd of late 1st to early 2nd century pottery was recovered from a subsoil deposit in one of the other trenches”

The allotments land has now been bulldozed to form a building compound. No mitigation measures have been taken to preserve or record any archaeological remains on that site (which is owned by the York Council).

The report goes on to say, “There is no evidence of occupation during the Anglo-Saxon period although the name ‘Acomb’ is Anglo-Saxon in origin meaning “at the oaks”.

“The mediaeval period is when the village of Acomb took on a known form with the focus of the village being the area between The Green and Front Street. Acomb is listed in the Domesday survey of 1086 as a manor with 14 rent-payers. The Church of St. Stephen is an 1830 construction replacing an earlier 12th century church with possible pre-Conquest origins. Archaeological work has taken place behind 12-26 The Green, which produced evidence for mediaeval domestic activity and possible ploughsoil relating to medieval crofts or garden plots An evaluation carried out by OSA in March 2007 to the rear of 95 Front Street revealed late medieval boundary ditches containing pottery dated to the 15th and 16th centuries”.

The findings of the investigation can be read by clicking here .

A report on contamination on the site can be read by clicking here

Have your say on proposed modifications to York’s Local Plan through 6-week consultation

From Monday 10 June, York residents, businesses and other interested groups will get the chance to comment on additional evidence and proposed modifications to the city’s Local Plan.

Planning inspectors have asked for the six-week consultation period before examining the plan at public hearing sessions later this year.

The consultation will ask for comments on the following additional evidence and modifications, including:

  • removing housing site allocations at Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Strensall and Land at Howard Road, Strensall),
  • formally revising the Objectively Assessed Housing Need (OAN) from 867 to 790 dwellings in York each year for the duration of the plan. 
  • amendments to the greenbelt boundary have also been proposed, in order to take into account recent changes such as planning decisions in York and the removal of the Strensall Barracks site.

To have your say, visit www.york.gov.uk/localplan. The consultation will end at midnight on Monday 22 July 2019.

Hard copies of all of the consultation documents will also be available in West Offices, Station Rise and York Explore Library. The main consultation documents will be available in all libraries and Explore Centres in York.

The removal of site allocations – totalling 550 dwellings – follows a recent visitor survey commissioned by City of York Council, supported by Natural England, which highlighted that there would be significant effects on the integrity of the Strensall Common, a protected site, if the proposed housing sites adjacent to the Common remain in the Local Plan. 

The reduction in the housing need figure reflects updated national projections for population and housing growth which forecast lower growth than was previously projected. The additional Green Belt Topic Paper Addendum provides further detail on why and where the proposed green belt boundary has been drawn.

The Planning Inspector has asked for the consultation as they consider these issues to be fundamental to what they are examining the soundness and legal compliance of the plan. This will give all interested parties the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes prior to the hearing sessions.

The Inspectors have directed that the consultation is open to the general public for a period of six weeks and has also advised direct consultation with the Ministry Of Defence, which owns the barracks, and Natural England.

The consultation will only look at these specific modifications and not other aspects of the plan such as the other proposed site allocations. All aspects of the plan will be examined by the Inspector during the subsequent hearing sessions. 

All the representations received during the consultation will be processed and sent to the planning inspectors, who have committed to holding the public hearing sessions as soon as possible after that.

You can read all correspondence with the Planning Inspectors at www.york.gov.uk/localplanexamination

York’s Local Plan

The Local Plan is a framework to guide and promote development, and to protect the quality of York’s unique historic, natural and built environment. The document sets strategic priorities for the whole city and forms the basis for planning decisions; it must be reviewed at regular intervals to be kept up to date.

York’s Local Plan was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in May 2018.  For more details on the process and progress to secure a Local Plan for York, visit https://www.york.gov.uk/localplan

Council hurriedly publishes who does what list

The Council has now published several updates to its constitution.

The changes haven’t been through any democratic process so fail the transparency test.

Amongst the documents now on the Council web site “library”” are sections covering


Executive Member responsibilities (click)

Council Committees and Other Bodies

 Scrutiny Review Procedure Rules

Overview and Scrutiny

Some of the Executive member responsibilities will raise eyebrows.

Splitting responsibility for “parks and open spaces” from “sport and leisure” does’t look like joined up thinking. Both are areas where the last Council had major policy failures, so some sort of refresh is needed.

Extract from new York Executive responsibilities as at June 2019

Who does what at the York Council?

The first round of scrutiny committee meetings are taking place at West Offices this month.

Hopes that the agenda for the meetings would clarify roles and responsibilities appear to have been misplaced.

We are told that the, quaintly named, “Economy and Place” scrutiny committee will hear reports from three Executive members

  • Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning (July)
  • Executive Member for Transport (July)
  • Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change (Sept)

The latter may be a surprise as the Council meeting held on the 22nd May agreed to set up a new “Climate Change Scrutiny Committee”. It didn’t define the terms of reference of that committee but engagement with the Executive member with climate change responsibilities would have been a banker for most observers.

Any list of responsibilities will be subject to a change in the Councils constitution anyway.

Meanwhile the agenda for the  “Customer and Corporate Services Scrutiny Management Committee” to be held on 10th June will receive reports from  the

  • Executive Member for Policy Strategy and Partnerships (Leader) &
  • Executive Member for Finance and Partnerships

No new job descriptions have yet been published for the Councils 9 Executive members. Most of the job titles are opaque, so it remains unclear where responsibilities now lie.

The new Council has got off to a poor start after becoming embroiled in a controversy about increasing the amount spent on Councillors pay. They could easily have avoided that false start by containing expenditure within the existing agreed budget envelope.

New Councillors might have been expected to be more eager to demonstrate their effectiveness by highlighting, via public and social media, the successes they are having in addressing issues raised by residents. Most will have had a full “postbag” during the recent election campaigns.

Little has been heard from the Councils PR department (apart from the occasional anodyne media release) and even the party political propaganda channels have been muted.

During the last 12 months there has been a wide divergence in the number of decision meetings attended by Executive members in York

NB. Executive Councillors receive a payment of £15,600 a year in addition to their basic salary of £9,198.39

What’s on in York: Uncovering Stories – York’s Normandy Veterans

Thursday June 6th

6:15 pm – 7:45 pm

York Explore Library

£6

York Normandy Veterans April 2015

Archivist Laura Yeoman will explain how Explore worked with York’s surviving Normandy Veterans to safeguard their archives and memories for generations to come. Her illustrated talk features video clips from the veterans discussing their experiences.

Find out more about the Normandy Veterans project, learn what Explore now holds in the archive and discover what archivists need to think about in the modern age.

An exhibition related to this talk – York’s Normandy Veterans – will be held at York Explore Library on Thursday 13 June 2019

Details tel 01904 552828