Something better for Holgate?

With the major parties now being well on their way to selecting candidates for the 15th February Holgate by election, local voters may well be asking “can we do better than the present lot?”

One test of a good local Councillor is how sensitive they are to local opinion and how proactive they are in leading and supporting local campaigns. In Holgate there have been several major issues over the last couple of years which prove a clue to the answer.

York central access route

The preferred access route of the York Central development was decided in 2007. The link would be from Water Lane and would have the advantage of providing a “by pass” for the Leeman Road area. It had the advantage of avoiding the busy Poppleton Road communities. In 2013, the local Councillor James Alexander brokered a deal which saw the council buy land for a route which passed close to Cleveland Street (Chancery Rise) .  This route was approved by the Labour Executive with two, of the Holgate Wards three Councillors, supporting it. It wasn’t until the Council leadership changed in 2015 that the plan was reviewed. Opposition to the Chancery Rise option was led almost entirely by residents. No Leadership was provided by Holgate councillors. The Chancery Rise option has now been dropped.

Severus nature reserve

More recently, a planning application to develop land between Lindsey Avenue and the Water Tower (Severus SRE) was submitted by Yorkshire Housing. The opposition to the proposals was led entirely by residents. 159 letters of objection were tabled at the Planning committee meeting held on 16th November. Many objected to the loss of a natural nature reserve.  Only one Holgate Councillor attended the Planning committee meeting although the application was refused.

Arson attack on Lodge

West Bank Park

An active voluntary group now helps to sustain the West Bank Park. To address anti-social behaviour issues, they have used “crowd funding” arrangements to secure the park at night. Crime concerns peaked last year when the park lodge was set on fire. It remains as a monument to ineffective policing in the area. There is no evidence that local Councillors have prioritised addressing the issue, although they did authorise a Ward Committee* donation of £2000 to the gate locking project

Carlton Tavern planning application

An application to demolish the Carlton Tavern Pub attracted widespread concern. Opposition was led entirely by residents. Only one Holgate Councillor recorded an objection to the plan when a report was presented to the planning committee in December. The demolition proposal was refused although an appeal against the decision is expected.

Closure of Acomb Police Station

Two years ago, North Yorkshire Police announced that they intended to close the Police station on Acomb Road. The plan might see an alternative depot established in Lowfields. However, the present site provides a high-profile hub for community safety activities plus good access to the whole of west York. The Holgate ward Councillors have failed to oppose the closure plan.

The Holgate area is fortunate in having many active voluntary groups. The Holgate Windmill Preservation Society is an inspiration for many while – against the odds – the Poppleton Road Memorial Hall continues to be sustained entirely by volunteers.

Whether these, and other, local groups get the support they deserve is open to question.

We will try to answer that question next week.

*NB. Most of the delegated Holgate  Ward Committee  budget for 2017  remains unused.

Police tight lipped about Acomb Police station closure

Acomb Police StationThe Police and Crime Commissioners office (PCC) has refused to reveal details of the proposed move of the Acomb Police station to a new site at Lowfields. They claim “commercial confidentiality” as a reason not to reveal their forward investment programme (other Authorities agree forward capital plans at public meetings).

The PCC does admit that £141,000 was spent in 2013 modernising the existing station on Acomb Road.

The PCC claims that the Police do not hold any notes or the minutes of any meetings which have taken place during the last 2 years at which the expansion or relocation of the Acomb Police Station has been discussed. Nor will they provide details of the costs associated with any proposed changes

The PCCs decision-making process is at best opaque.

A response to an FOI request refers to a decision taken by the PCC in 2015. A report then outlined ways in which around £1.6 million a year will be saved from the police budget by rationalising premises.

Across North Yorkshire, it estimates that total capital costs (including project management costs and costs for digital technologies) would be of the order of £17.6m, and will exceed disposal proceeds (estimated to be £12.4m) by around £5m.

A background paper says that police services will be delivered through three tiers,

  • Tier 1: Core operational hubs; which will typically include essential core police and back office activities including Force Control Room locations, Custody locations, Investigative Hubs and facilities to store and retain property and exhibits.
  • Tier 2: Deployment/Response bases, strategically located across the force to supplement the core operational hubs and provide operational coverage to mitigate Threat, Risk and Harm.   These bases may be shared with other public services.
  • Tier 3: Local community “touchpoints” will provide a range of mechanisms to increase and enhance the opportunity for the public to engage with the police, including mobile police stations, online “real time” contact and community based information points.  These may include mobile Gateway access via either shared multi-agency public access points or virtual access (online/self service).

It is unclear what role any office in Acomb will fulfil although most residents have supported the idea of providing a police contact desk at the Library rather than go through an expensive new build project at Lowfields.

The annexes to the strategy are exempted on “commercial grounds” meaning that taxpayers do not know which police stations could be affected.

This raises suspicions that financial, rather than operational, needs are driving the change process in Acomb

The PCC declines to say which functions any new Police building at Lowfields would be designed to accommodate.  For example it has been suggested that the site will be used for overnight parking.

The FOI response says that “a letter of intent for North Yorkshire Police to work with the City of York Council in respect of the Lowfields site, has been sent to the City of York Council by North Yorkshire Police’s Chief Executive Officer”. The date and content of the letter are not revealed.

Given that it appears that the Police have no idea what kind of facility they hope to build at Lowfields – and at what cost to taxpayers – any letter of intent would seem to be premature.

The PCC has made no attempt to engage with local Councillors or residents on their plans

The PCC is proposing to increase the police precept by 1.99% in April.

PCC FOI response Jan 2017

PCC FOI response Jan 2017

Acomb Police station closing for renovations

The Acomb Police station will be closed for a couple of months.

The public desk – which is manned by volunteers – is being relocated to Sanderson House Community Centre in Bramham Road, Chapelfields.

Details here

Meanwhile a survey being undertaken by Chapelfields LibDems has found that many residents feel that they don’t see a Police presence in local streets as often as in the past. Most want the Police to keep them up to date, with what is going on, through the distribution of leaflets. The main concern raised by residents is the lack of car parking provision on the estate.