Direction signs project update – planning applications submitted

Further to yesterdays story, about the Council/BID project which will see £700,000 spent on new City centre direction signs, planning applications have now started to appear on the Council web site.

This one is for two “finger” signs on Ouse Bridge

There is a backlog of controversial planning applications building up at the Council. Normally they would be dealt with at public planning committee meetings.

We understand that a meeting may be scheduled in a few weeks time to discuss an application at the hospital. In the interim, the best that objectors can hope for is that “on line” remote meetings will be scheduled.

£350,000 Council Tax bill for new tourist signs in York

A Council official has agreed, at another “behind closed doors” meeting, to contribute £350,000 towards the provision of new “wayfinding” signs in the City centre.

The total cost of the project is £700,000 with the York Business Improvement District (BID) contributing half.

The plan has prompted a mixed reaction in the past. The new LibDem led Council administration had been expected to review the proposals, along with other expenditure commitments – like the £20 million Guildhall project – which it inherited in May.

However, that hasn’t happened, with the new administration adopting a very low-profile approach to public service reforms.

The decision notice says, “The February 2019 Budget Council meeting included the following …. this scheme will allow the Council and York BID to proceed with full implementation of a new Wayfinding scheme starting in Spring 2019, following a detailed consultation exercise. Works will include the removal of 60 current heritage fingerposts to reduce street clutter, and installation of 36 new totem signs, 14 fingerpost signs, and 13 wall signs. York BID have committed £350k to the full implementation, which will be matched by the Council as part of this scheme”.

Opinions on the design of the new signs – one of which is located outside the Mansion House – have been mixed with same favouring the more traditional “finger” signs.

However, the main area of contention relates to prioritisation at a time when an increasing number of visitors to the City depend on smartphone features like Google Maps to find their way around.

While Visit York has a good website, there is scope for a more specialised smartphone app.

There are several commercial applications available with some depending on advertising revenue. Currently Visit York doesn’t provide a list of approved Apps that are available. Anyone accessing the iTunes store and entering “York” will be offered only 2 options. One of these is currently unavailable.

Visit York should commission an official real time “walking tour” type guide and promote its use via its web site, social media and at entry points to the City.

Meanwhile, many will take the view that £350,000 might be better invested in ensuring that the City is weed and litter free, and that street furniture like bins and seats are kept in good condition.

The Council should also finally deliver a replacement for the real time car parking space availability signs, and “on line” service, which was lost some 8 years ago.

Such a “clean and seen” campaign must include the main road and rail routes into the City which are so important in forming a visitors “first impression” of York.

Council to fund clean up projects in “high streets”

The York Council has announced that it will help to fund 3 projects which support the governments initiative to help “High Streets”.

Acomb Green

Two of the projects are located in the Westfield ward

The York BID will get an additional £27,300 for York City Centre Cleaning

The Friends of Acomb Green will get £4,500 for a Community Clean Up Day

Acomb Alive gets a £1,200 boost which is to be used for improving seat furniture.

The Council says that it is supporting the extension of existing grant beneficiaries as there “wasn’t time to seek fresh bids before the governments deadline”.

A Tale of Two Cities

York Council says, “Recycle old Christmas lights to Acomb”

The York Council is planning to offer its old Christmas decoration lights, no longer required for the City centre, to Acomb and Haxby.

Front Street Christmas lights

The lights have become surplus to requirements following the decision by the York Business Improvement District (BID) to invest heavily in their own displays. These have already been reinstalled on the Bar Walls in preparation for this year’s festivities.

Christmas lighting in Front Street has improved significantly in recent years thanks to the efforts of local traders and residents.

Acomb Front Street is changing rapidly as the effects of the recession wear off and the efforts of the local trader’s organisation Acomb Alive bear fruits. There are few empty premises in the area while some independent traders may also be set to benefit from budget changes announced on Monday.

City centre lights

But there may be a feeling that the “hand me down” lights proposal once again fails to recognise what is needed to give Front Street a major lift. Residents, in survey after survey, have criticised the uneven surface in the pedestrian area and have called for a holistic solution.

This would involve the owners of the private forecourts, which would have to be incorporated into any paving scheme, cooperating. In turn this could only happen if a full time precinct manager were to be appointed and funded by the Council.

That initiative doesn’t seem to be any closer.

Meanwhile the Council is considering commissioning more reports into the ailing City Centre retail economy. They have been shocked by the decline of Coney Street as a shopping destination, although they claim that the “high street decline” is less pronounced in York than in other City’s.

Visitor numbers – who are not necessarily shoppers – have increased over the last 5 years.

Nevertheless parts of the City, including the Councils own Guildhall building, are looking shabby and need urgent attention.


York BID project manager heads for Bournemouth

Councillors appointed to BID Board as £50,000 loan approved.

BIDSteve Hughes who managed the York Business Improvement District campaign has left the City to take up a  similar post in Bournemouth.

At today’s Council Executive meeting, senior members agreed to loan the BID organisation £50,000 while at the same time appointing two of their number (Cllrs Steward and Aspden) to the new organisations Board.

It appears that the BID organisation will have a completely separate governance structure from “Make it York” (MIY) which is also responsible for stimulating the prosperity of the City Centre.

It is to be hoped that the York BID will have a more refined set of Key Performance Indicators on which progress can be monitored.

MIY has struggled for credibility with many interest groups in and around the City.

Business Improvement District for York city centre – taxpayers asked for £50,000 loan

…..but still no sign of help for sub-urban commercial centres like Front Street

Front Street snubbed by Council

Front Street snubbed again by York Council

The York Council’s Executive will be asked to support the successful implementation of the Business Improvement District (BID) in York at a meeting on Thursday 28 January.

The meeting comes after a ballot in November 2015 saw businesses across the city centre vote in favour of a new Business Improvement District, which will deliver over £800,000 in new investment for the city centre each year.

Executive will be asked to note a draft memorandum of understanding and baseline operating agreement for the Business Improvement District ahead of final terms being reached.

The Executive will also be asked to approve a cash flow loan of up to £50,000 to help support the creation of the Business Improvement District. It’s proposed this loan will be reimbursed in full by Summer 2016.

The business-led BID will take decisions on how to invest in the city centre and will focus on areas such as improving the cleanliness of the city centre, tackling anti-social behaviour and supporting businesses.

However the Council continues to ignore calls for regeneration initiatives in sub-urban retail areas like Front Street. Its Quango partner organisation “Make it York” is also entirely focused on the City centre area.

The Council report also outlines City of York Council’s annual contribution, via levy, of around £28,000 beginning in the 2016/17 financial year. The BID will however reimburse the administrative cost of levy collection up to £25,000.

Stonegate’s iconic Mulberry Hall to close

Mulberry HallSad to hear reports that the iconic Mulberry Hall in Stonegate is set to close.

The business has been an important part of York’s traditional street scene for decades. It offered a unique mixture of high quality china, glassware and jewelry. In recent years it has also been a home for a household equipment section and had opened a popular coffee bar.

The owner of the shop – Michael Sinclair – is also the driving force behind the annual Christmas lights display in Stonegate and led the campaign to have a Business Improvement District established in the City Centre.

The business may have been the victim of increased internet shopping although pressure from the – higher margins/turnover – leisure sector may also have been a factor.

We will see when the future use of the building becomes clearer. A link to a relevant planning application – for change of use to a restaurant – submitted in October can be seen by clicking here

Some will also say that the last decision of the last Labour led Council, to double parking charges in the City centre, may also have been a factor.

We hope that the Mulberry Hall business will re-establish itself elsewhere – it already has a major internet presence – and that the Stonegate building will not remain empty for very long.


Businesses in York vote YES to a Business Improvement District in the city centre.

Detailed figures for the vote were as follows:

·         Yes by Number: 76%

·         Yes by Rateable Value: 80%

A not-for-profit BID company will now be formed to carry out a wide range of improvements and services from April next year.

The York BID has been established following more than a year of consultations with businesses across York. Establishing a Business Improvement District in York was first mooted 10 years ago,

The yes vote has been secured after a higher than average turnout of 42% of York city centre businesses with 76% voting to establish a Business Improvement District for York.

Establishing the BID will create a fund of about £4m to spend on a series of projects and services over the next five years. The money will be raised by charging a 1% levy on the rateable value of each business premise in the city centre.

The BID business case promised a cleaner City centre, with improved safety, physical improvements and a year round entertainments programme.

The York Council has backed the BID process for a decade but has been criticised over recent months for ignoring the needs of sub-urban commercial and shopping areas.

The BID business plan can be viewed here:

York Council snubs iconic City centre business

Mulberry HallThe Council has decided to rescind the use of a permit allowing a small van to service the Mulberry Hall shop on Stonegate

The business had been issued with the permit since 1988.

The shop said, in an appeal against the highways department ruling, that it would only, in future, access premises during pedestrian hours on “no more than 2 occasions each week”.

The business is understood to be facing a major challenge from out of town and internet competitors and wanted to be able to continue to provide a prompt and accessible service for its customers.
BehindClosedDoors 2015

The owner of Mulberry Hall – Adam Sinclair – is leading the campaign to have a Business Improvement District (BID) established in the City.

The Council decision was taken at another “behind closed doors” meeting with the agenda only being published on the Council’s web site after the meeting had concluded.

Business Improvement District poll set for November

It looks like a poll of businesses located in the City centre will be held in November to decide whether to establish a Business Improvement District (BID) in York City centre. The plans were approved by the Council’s Executive last week. The ballot will be run on behalf of the Council by the Electoral Reform Society.


For the bid to be approved it will need to secure the support of over 50% of the businesses in the area both in simple and in rateable value terms. If there is a yes vote, then the first levy on Business Rates will be available for investment during the next financial year starting in April.

Over £800,000 a year is expected to be raised from the levy each year.

The four priorities for funding have been identified as:

  1. Appearance and environment
  2. Events and Festivals
  3. Safe and secure
  4. Business Support and Development

Further details here (and see footnote)

This is the second attempt to establish a BID in York

The BID team still have to clarify several issues before the poll.

  • The impact on marginal businesses – which add to the character of several of the City’s streets – may be adversely affected by the 1% increase in Business Rates that they will have to pay. Businesses with a rateable value of less than £12,500 are exempt from the new charge
  • Similarly any additional investment in the City centre may draw trade away from sub-urban shopping areas like Front Street. The Make it York economic development organisation has yet to address the issue of sub-urban prosperity.
  • The boundaries of the proposed BID area exclude many of the City centre car parks (Bootham Row, Union Terrace, Marygate, St Georges  are not included). These car parks are often the first areas that visitors see close up when they arrive in the City. If part of the plan is to invest in cleanliness, street maintenance and floral enhancements, then car parks should be on the list.
  • The BID board is currently self appointed. Elections to a new board are promised if a BID is agreed. However no guarantees have so far been given that different sectors (visitor attractions, retail, commercial, hospitality, residents associations etc.) will have a seat at the table. Similarly the requirements and aspirations of different geographical parts of the City do vary, so some sort of spatial spread of representation would be desirable.
  • And finally the documents published so far by the BID organisation fail to tell us what “success” will look like. There are no performance indicators or targets. The relationship with “Make it York” is unclear although the terms of an SLA with the Council were agreed last week. Canny businesses will want to see the performance base data before they commit large sums of money to the project.

If these, and other, issues can be addressed before the ballot takes place, then the establishment of a BID in York will be a welcome initiative.

When suggested in the last decade it was the multiple stores that sunk the plan. Now the new BID promoters must convince the likes of Morrisons and Waitrose that they should vote for a scheme which may only be of marginal benefit to them.

We hope that they are able to do so.

The BID plans are described as