It is clear that the government does hold information on matters of local interest such as the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. It also knows what percentage of local tests have been positive. Whether it will make this information available remains to be seen.
The York Council has issued a media release indicating that the controversial Bishopthorpe Road lane closure will end on 4th August.
However no formal notification of any meeting being held, to endorse the change, has appeared on the Councils register of decisions.
No notice of any decision meeting was published by the Council.
The original decision to close one lane appeared to be based on a whim. It sprang from a request by a Micklegate ward Labour Councillor (Kilbane) but was quickly adopted by the Councils transport executive Councillor (Andy D’Agorne). There was no public consultation before implementation.
The reversal of the decision fails to acknowledge the harm and resentment felt by significant sections of the community about the ill judged scheme.
The scheme has been compared to the closure of Lendal Bridge where a intransigent Council persisted with a failed experiment for nearly two years before admitting defeat. It put the cause of traffic reduction back by 10 years. We hope that the iconic “Bishy Road” shopping area doesn’t suffer a similar setback.
The main criticisms of the scheme were that, contrary to claims, it did little to assist with social distancing. Indeed in places, bollards actually increased pedestrian congestion.
Cyclists were put at risk when using the contraflow cycle lane while those living in the St Benedict Road area had to cope with increased short cutting and consequent higher pollution levels.
Against expectations, in June the scheme was extendedfor another 2 months
Even many who acknowledged that traffic reduction was desirable, pointed out that an (off peak) foot street option might have won greater public support.
We said, right from the beginning, that diverting traffic onto Nunnery Lane and Blossom Street, when the latter was partly closed for utility works, was completely half baked.
So it proved.
It seems that gas works will return on the Blossom Street area shortly.
That, coupled with other road closures in the city, really would have caused traffic chaos at a time when the economy is slowly getting back onto its feet.
The Councils change of heart is welcome, albeit belated. We next hope to see changes to remove some of the unnecessary restrictions on space use in the Marygate car park and on the Monk Bar car park.
There have been no more reports hospital deaths or positive test results in the City according to government figures issued today.
The figures should be viewed with some caution as positive test results are sometimes added retrospectively.
The government does not publish the number of tests carried out each day, so the proportion that are positive is not revealed. The number of tests carried out has gradually increased with some random (voluntary) tests being carried out to check the underlying infection rates.
The number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients is also not revealed.
We think that the government should publish more details.
The government has launched a welcome initiative this week aimed at encouraging more active lifestyles. There has been a lot of support for cycling as a way of keeping fit and losing weight. That is very welcome and we hope that it soon translates into a Council initiative aimed at improving maintenance standards on off road cycle paths, many of which are in poor condition in York.
Less attention has been paid to leisure walking – an option open to virtually everyone.
There has been renewed interest in the use of local Public Rights of Way (PROW) as residents sought to follow daily – social distance – exercising guidelines. The route across Acomb Moor to Acomb Wood became more popular. A localbulletin boardhas seen several people criticise the farmer who blocked off all entrances to the moor before ploughing it.
Access to Acomb Moor blocked
While the owner is entitled to cultivate his land, he should not have blocked the Foxwood Lane access at least while the current PROW application is being actively considered. We have asked the public rights of way officer to intervene.
More needs to be done to enhance and improve access to the natural environment at least on the west of the City.
The Councils own annual survey of opinion revealed that 44% of panellists thought that the Council was not doing well at improving green spaces.
59% thought that the Council wasn’t doing well at reducing air pollution.
The Council planted 515 trees last year. It had previously claimedthat it would plant “50,000 trees by 2023”. It had also promised to expand the City’s strays and introduce more wildflower meadows in an attempt to encourage pollinators.
We understand that a report will be considered by the Council in August which will set out proposals to acquire land which will enable the creation of a “large new area of woodland in close proximity to the city to provide green amenity space for residents and plant trees that will contribute to the council’s commitment to become net carbon neutral by 2030”.
There has to be balance. The country does need to be more self sufficient in food production, so the retention of good quality agricultural land is also important.
However, the creation of a country park on land near Askham Lane would be a welcome step forward. It has been a vision for several years. It would allow hedgerows to be re-established and PROWs to be maintained in good condition.
It would also provide some compensation for the sports and leisure land lost through recent developments in the area.
It only now remains to be seen whether Councillors have the drive and determination to deliver on their promises.
There have been no additional hospital deaths or positive test results reported in York today
There have been no further deaths in care homes with the total remaining at 77
According to the latestONS figures, up to 25th July, there had been 168 deaths registered in the City giving the cause of death as COVID-!9.
Where to find an “eat out” discount restaurant
Not too many restaurants in the Westfield area have registered yet for the government backed “eat out to help out” discounts. The list does include the Indian Ocean on The Green and the Carlton Tavern.
York Council offices – limited reopening using appointment system
The York Council has been under increasing pressure in recent days to provide a road map back to more normal public service access arrangements in the City.
Today they have said,
“From 27th July we are starting to reopen our customer centre by appointment only.
Following government guidance we will continue to ask residents to use our website or contact our team by email or phone in the first instance. We do appreciate that it may not be possible to resolve all queries in this way, so our customer service team will book residents an appointment where needed.
Residents should not attend their appointment if they;
Have any symptoms of Covid-19 such as a fever, new repetitive cough, or change to sense of smell or taste
Share a household with anyone who is currently displaying Covid-19 or is self-isolating due to suspected Covid-19
Have been advised by the NHS track and trace to self-isolate as a precaution to prevent the spread of Covid-19
How will it work?
From 27 July we are reopening our Customer Centre by appointment only. We are asking people to call our customer centre to book an appointment. We will try, where possible, to resolve their query over the phone. However if this can’t be done, we will arrange an appointment.
Following government guidance, we will have a reduced number of staff in West Offices, with the majority continuing to work from home to support residents over the phone or by email.
Why by appointment only?
The safety and wellbeing of our residents and staff is our utmost priority. Government guidance remains that where possible people should work from home, throughout the pandemic thousands of queries have been resolved without the need for face to face appointments as people used the website or contacted our customer service team by phone. We understand there may be some queries or specific individuals that will require in person support and are opening on a limited basis from 27 July, by appointment only.
What safety measures are in place?
We have introduced a number of measures to help keep our staff and customers safe including:
Touchless hand sanitiser station for all customers to use on arrival
Perspex screens for personal protection
Time between appointments
Limiting the number of staff and customers in the building at any one time by operating by appointment only
What services can people access by visiting?
Appointments can be made when a query can’t be managed over the phone or online for the below services: