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Coalition governments £258,000 transport boost for York

The Chancellor announced an additional one off allocation of £50m for Integrated Transport Schemes (ITS) in the Autumn Statement.

York will receive £258k in 2011/12. This is in addition to the £20 million allocated for the new park and ride sites and the £4 million to stimulate sustainable transport use in north east York.

Subject to a decision by Council the ITS funding could be used to support a number of projects including Reinvigorate York and kick starting the Access York (phase 1) project which will see two new park and ride sites established on the west and north of the City. Hopefully the “Reinvigorate York” money will be allocated to a worthwhile scheme such as the paving of Duncombe Place, rather than more gimmicks like the “Wi Fi” zone in Coney Street.

Separately the council has announced minor changes to the work that will be undertaken on transport projects in the City during the current year.

• Reduced allocation for the Fishergate (Pedestrian Route to Barbican) scheme, which will be delivered over the year-end.

• Reduced allocation for the James Street Link Road Phase 2 scheme, as planning approval has not yet been granted for the scheme.

• Reduced allocations for some schemes in the public transport block, due to the lower cost of feasibility work in 2011/12.

• Reduced allocations for some of the cycle scheme development work, due to the lower costs of feasibility work in 2011/12.

• Amendment allocations for schemes in the Schools Schemes block, following a review of progress and predicted costs in 2011/12.

• CYC funding for City Walls Restoration slipped to 2012/13, as the works will not be carried out in 2011/12.

• Reduced allocation for the 20mph Limit Scheme £100k – Development & Implementation, Thankfully Council officials have said additional time is required to ensure the most effective policy is developed and to enable the trial schemes to be delivered. The funding has been reduced from £100k to £20k.

Labour Councillors public humiliation

James Alexander and Dave Merretts decision to leak confidential information, on possible changes to York’s bus service, have been condemned by the chief of York’s major public transport provider. He has confirmed, what most of York already knew, namely that it is entirely a matter for First buses whether – and for how long – they run their ftr fleet in the City.

The incident does however highlight an emerging issue which will be a concern for residents.

Leading Councillors should be proactively meeting with partners, supplier companies, developers and public service agencies with the aim of exploring ways of improving the City.

Change for the better rarely happens spontaneously.

If there is no trust between the representatives of agencies then talks will be – at best – cautious and at worst abortive. A quick Press headline might produce a murmur of approval in the back rooms of the pubs of Micklegate, but it could be a transient victory won at the expense of the long term welfare of the York community.

Labour need to move on now from a strategy based on sloganising, half truths and spin.

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There is an early opportunity later today (Thursday) to stop posturing and actually tell York residents what the implications for them will be if the Council agrees to extend the number of Low Emission Zones in the City.

Air quality is an important health issue and emission levels (mainly, but not exclusively, caused by transport movements) are much the same as they were 8 years ago. A fully costed plan with realistic timescales to produce a downwards trend in emission levels would be welcome.

The Council now says that buses and coaches will be banned from most of the City centre unless they meet – yet to be confirmed – emission standards.

Salisbury Terrace issue (click to enlarge)

Elsewhere Salisbury Terrace is highlighted as a problem location. The street is likely to be incorporated into an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). No details of what this means in practical terms are given in the report nor is any attempt made to address the fears that residents might feel when they read the report extract (see right).

There are no new short term measures proposed. York has for some time been encouraging the use of low emission vehicles. The Council was, for example, one of the first in the country to offer discounts on parking charges for small cars. “Lead in” times for the purchase of new public service vehicles are long.

The clock is ticking.

If more dramatic action is planned then residents will want to know a lot more about what the options, timescales and costs are going to be?

Low emission bus corridor map. Click to enlarge

Community Stadium latest

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We understand that the planning application for the new community stadium development at Monks Cross will not now be considered before February. There are some refinements to the original layout with the original plan – to house most of the community facilities within the stadium – being resurrected. The autumn plan had included a separate community block nearer the car park.

The design for the new stores will include large screen displays which will be used by Visit York – the tourism agency – to encourage visitors to sample the delights of the City Centre during their time in the City.

We understand that representations are being made by some traders direct to government Ministers asking for the scheme to be subject to “called in”. If the planning application is approved by local Councillors it would have – by law – to be referred to the Local Government Minister anyway simply because part of the site (the Huntington Stadium) is owned by the Council.

However it is for the Minister to decide whether to hold a Public Inquiry. Opponents of the scheme know that such an Inquiry would take months to organise. They hope that the scheme – or the football club -would flounder in the meantime.

Something similar happened in 2005 when opponents of a new Barbican swimming pool took legal action to prevent a start on constructing the replacement pool at Kent Street. They didn’t win their case, but the delay resulted in the developer money going elsewhere in the country.

Now the fear is that the anchor occupiers for the enabling development – John Lewis – will concentrate their expansion at the new £600 million development which is taking shape at “Eastgate Quarters” in Leeds.

Separately the Council will discuss on Tuesday how they see any new stadium being managed. The proposal is likely to involve the use of a “not for profit” social enterprise company of the sort that already runs the existing Huntingdon stadium and adjacent fitness facilities (both of which would be modernised under the plans).

The Council now expect to go further and put other leisure facilities such as “Energise” in Acomb and the Yearsley pool under the same management umbrella.

The report gives further details of the community facilities that it is hoped to provide (see list above right).

Rather alarmingly there is still no draft business plan included in the report showing the main income/expenditure heads for the stadium operation while the following description does raise concerns about whether costs are really under control “(provide a) Community Hub, incorporated into an iconic atrium, providing a focal point for all the community activity at the Huntington site. It will be designed around a large, high quality café and informal communal / reception area”.

Nevertheless a Trust type model for stadium management is probably the best way forward and should go some way to reassuring those who question the viability of the project.

Mobile safety (speed) camera locations for the next week (York area only)

North Yorkshire Police will be carrying out mobile safety camera enforcement on the following roads between Wednesday 4 January 2012 and Tuesday 10 January 2012.

· A64 east-bound carriageway Bowbridge Farm Tadcaster

· A64 west-bound carriageway, Bowbridge Farm, Tadcaster

· Millfield Lane, Poppleton, York

· Beckfield Lane, York

· Green lane, Acomb, York

· Ryecroft Avenue, Acomb, York

· Temple Lane, Copmanthorpe, York

· A1036 Tadcaster Road, York

· A1237 Monks Cross, York

· North Lane, Huntington, York

· Strensall Road, Huntington, York

· Ox Carr Lane, Strensall, York

· A1237 Monks Cross, York

· The Village, Stockton-on-the-Forest, York

· A1036 Malton Road, York

· A1237 Monks Cross, York

· York Road, Haxby, York

· New Lane, Huntington, York

· Northfield Farm, Cobcroft Lane, Cridling Stubbs

· Skipwith Road, Escrick

· A63 Hemingbrough

· Church Lane, Wheldrake

The mobile safety cameras will be in operation at the above sites at various times during the dates stated. Cameras will not be in use on the above routes all day, every day.

Graffiti increase!

We have seen an increase in the amount of graffiti over the last few weeks.

With CCTV now covering more of Acomb there is a fair chance that the culprits will be caught sooner or later.

In the meantime please use the “report a problem” links (right or above left) to let us know of any problems that you spot.

Green Lane shops Reported 3rd Jan

Severus Street Reported 2nd Jan

Green Lane. Reported 2nd Jan

Council to build on Lowfields playing fields?

A routine report to the Councils “cabinet” on 10th January has revealed that the whole of the Lowfields school site might now be developed.

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It had been assumed that the playing fields would be retained as a park with perhaps some allotments being provided in line with resident’s wishes. Development would have been restricted to the “footprint” of the former secondary school.

The school building site would have been sold to a private care provider.

Now the council is agonising about whether to run the care village itself and, if so, how it might fund the £6 million construction costs of the elderly persons accommodation included in the scheme.

They are to undertake “soft market” testing (a sort of trial tendering exercise) in January and February after inviting organisations like the Rowntrees Housing Trust to suggest ways in which the care village could be funded and managed. Rowntrees run the successful Hartrigg Oaks facility on the other side of the City.

It is expected now that a decision will be made in April on how to formally tender the Lowfields care village project. Completion of the accommodation is now scheduled for April 2014.

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The same Council report confirmed their intention to close the other Council run elderly person’s homes in the City over the next 3 years. Windsor House is scheduled to close in April 2014, with residents likely to move straight into the new Lowfields care facility.

Oxford “exemplar” for York buses?

A survey of every household in the City is promised as part of another review of bus services in the City.

The idea will be discussed at a meeting to be held on 9th January.

It comes as Labour Councillors struggle to find ways of delivering on their election promises to increase bus frequencies, provide singe ticket journeying and low fares.

The report says that some corridors are “over bussed” suggesting that some neighbourhoods could get a lower frequency service in future.

Consultants are to be asked to consider what “regulatory options are (available) for delivering improvements to the bus services in the city and which of the various regulatory frameworks for bus services (e.g. quality contract, statutory quality partnership, voluntary quality partnership) would be best”

The report points to “the better performance of bus networks in other tourist/ historic towns, such as Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton and Nottingham, which are perceived to be good practice exemplars”.

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The report fails to identify the costs of conducting the review. More importantly, it fails to identify where any resources might be found to increase bus subsidies.

Labour may be hoping that the introduction of a franchise route system (effectively bus companies tender to provide services against a Council specified contract network) would produce lower costs. The experience elsewhere suggests that any increased frequencies (or lower fares) could become a major additional burden on the taxpayer.

Nor have the “exemplar” local authorities got a universally good public transport record. Subsidies in Nottingham are very high, while Park and Ride fares elsewhere in the country are higher than in York.

Journeys – where a passenger need to change from one bus operator to another (and therefore has to buy a second ticket) – account for only 2% of (non concessionary pass) trips.

In Oxford a single ticket scheme has come under fire in the local newspaper a few days ago. The truth is that you can find someone everywhere who will have some sort of grievance about their local bus service

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The solution to “through ticketing” – and stimulating bus use – lies in the adoption of a smartcard fare payment system. This might be the “touch on, touch off” use of the new generation debit cards or could it utilise a stored value system similar to that already in use on Park and Ride services.

Passengers want a public transport system that is:
• Reliable
• Affordable
• Frequent &
• Accessible.

Labours obsession with reversing modernisation trends like the ftr and shunning technology improvements, could mean no improvements in the bus network before 2015 at the earliest.

New Year Crackdown on drivers who abuse the Blue Badge

Tough new measures will be introduced in the New Year to crack down on drivers who abuse the disabled parking system. This will include a new Blue Badge design which is harder to forge this new badge will have security features such as a unique hologram and a digital photo and serial number which will allow parking attendants to check for genuine badges more easily through the windscreen.

Transport Minister, Norman Baker, said “motorists who pretend to be disabled to get some free parking are frankly disgraceful. They prevent real Blue Badge holders from using parking bays designed for those genuinely in need and they cheat the vast majority of road users who play fair when they park their cars. Our new Blue Badge will be as secure as a banknote and anyone thinking of faking it can forget it. We are also tightening up on enforcement and eligibility so there will be no way to scam the system.”

Other measures to be enforced include shared administration between authorities resulting in faster renewals, less abuse and operational efficiency savings of up to £20 million a year plus improved customer service for badge holders, including being able to apply for and renew badges online using Directgov, as well as access to a new national helpline number and from April 2012 customers will also be able to report lost and stolen badges online.

& this concludes our humour week caption competition

This is the true story of a garage owner in the east of Northampton who gave his dog a haircut.
He was sick and tired of thieves breaking into his garage shop to steal tools etc.

So he came up with this idea to give his dog a haircut. He put the word out that he had a new Mexican Lion that would attack anyone that tried to break in or climb his fence.

Would-be thieves saw the “Lion” from a distance and fled the scene.