If you want to influence these decisions then you are too late!

The York Council has revealed a whole raft of decisions taken on Wednesday at “behind closed doors” meetings. Although the Council could have chosen to publish the agendas and supporting papers (such as they are) before the meeting took place, it chose not to.

Even those sympathetic to the current administration are now losing confidence in the leadership and its aversion to transparency.

This is likely to weigh against the status quo when the future of the unitary authority is considered during the next few months.

Wednesday’s seance apparently considered;

 COVID 19 – Business and Planning Act 2020 – Officer Delegation

The Business and Planning Act 2020 came into force w/c 20th July and has
immediate operational impacts associated to the Covid 19 emergency requiring officers to take actions on behalf of the Council in order to comply with new legal obligations. This therefore requires officers to have appropriate delegations to implement this new legislation.

NB. This legislation provides for

  1. A new “Pavement Licence” regime, to be administered by local authorities, designed to make it easier for premises in England serving food and drink such as bars, restaurants and pubs to seat and serve customers outdoors through temporary changes to planning procedures and alcohol licensing.
  2. Alcohol licensing changes that will allow operators with existing alcohol on-sales licences to also serve alcohol for consumption off the premises and to make deliveries. 

So with the Alcohol Restriction Zone/PSPOs  policy still up in the air, we seem likely to have nameless officials nodding though even more alcohol consumption on the streets of central York.

 COVID 19 – Economic Recovery – Blue Badge parking;

Additional blue badge parking spaces on Duncombe Place, Dundas Street, St Saviourgate and Carmelite Street

 COVID 19 – Economic Recovery – Revised Café pavement Licence fee;

The fee for an annual café licence has been set at £100/application, with the option to apply for a shorter, 3 month licence, for a £25 fee “to enable shorter term trials by business who have previously not operated licences and who need to accommodate Covid distancing measures to re open”

Cliffords Tower land ownership

COVID 19 – Granting English Heritage a licence for Land at Clifford’s tower to accommodate Covid 19 mitigation measures

License for English Heritage to expand the area that it occupies at Cliffords Tower for  9 months (see left).

 COVID 19 – Economic Recovery – Castlegate traffic management

To approve a Temporary TRO to change existing access restrictions on Castlegate, implementing the following:
a. No vehicular access between 10:30 and 20:00 seven days a week (no exemptions for cyclists or Blue Badge holders, extended hours in line with extended footstreet hours) – between number 12 and number 28 Castlegate;
b. Loading ban between 10:30 and 20:00 for the whole length of Castlegate; and
c. Enable two way traffic between number 28 Castlegate and the junction with Tower Street 24h/day.

 COVID 19 – Not to Extend the Closure of the Southbound Lane of Bishopthorpe Road Between Darnborough Street and Scarcroft Rd from 4 August 2020

This was the decision publicised on Wednesday. Turns out that the meeting did not receive any statistical analysis or impact assessment. The background is restricted to 13 lines of hand wringing.

Having reviewed the current impacts of the TTRO on Bishopthorpe Road, it is evident as the economy reopens there is increased traffic in the area, in particular there is a negative impact on queue lengths on the inner ring road and the level of traffic on adjacent residential streets e.g. St Benedict’s Road. There will also be additional traffic diversions operating in the area when the Micklegate Bar is closed on 10th August due to gasworks which have already commenced on 24 July. Having considered the latest public health advice and traffic impacts, I confirm the decision to not extend TTRO. This location will be kept under review in light of prevailing Covid 19 advice and further considerations of sustainable traffic interventions at this location will be considered as part of the Local Transport plan development. The feedback collected on the scheme will be reviewed and presented in a future decision session.

Face mask Friday – but concern grows about Council knee jerk decisions

Face masks will have to be worn in shops from today. It remains to be seen how effective this government policy will be.

What is now clear is that some of the impulsive decisions taken a couple of months ago, at the peak of the pandemic by the York Council, have not met the test of time.

Tinkering with traffic systems without proper consultation or impact assessments was always a recipe for failure.

Crucially no attempt was made to define how success would be measured.

So how have they fared?

Bishopthore Road lane closure

This was intended to provide queuing space for shoppers. It was claimed that it would make social distancing easier.

Critics pointed to new hazards for cyclists on the contraflow lane, increased congestion & pollution on alternative routes and a missed opportunity to trial an off peak pedestrian area (10:30am – 4:00pm) approach.

The results have been disappointing with the alternative Nunnery Lane/Blossom Street/ Scarcroft Road suffering for increased congestion. Bus services have been adversely affected. There has been short cutting through residential areas like St Benedict Road where parking is also now a problem

There is little footpath queuing on the east of the shopping area. The forecourted shops on the other side have adequate space although bollards have reduced flexibility.

Verdict – scrap it

An ill considered scheme which missed the opportunity that part time pedestrianisation might have offered.

Fortunately there have been no accidents involving cyclists yet, although northbound traffic levels remain below average (as they do across the whole of the highway network)

Reduced social distancing requirements (now one metre rather than two) and the introduction of face masks should lead to this trial being abandoned. A more thorough consultation on the options for the Bishopthorpe Road area could then take place.

Bollards have not improved social distancing on Bishopthorpe Road
Problems with car parking and short cutting through the St Benedict’s Road area

Foss Bridge

One of the general traffic lanes across Foss Bridge on the inner ring road was repurposed for cyclists (southbound) . The lane had been coned off while maintenance work on the bridge was carried out in the early spring.

Most cyclists opt to use the riverside off road path. Comparatively few choose to use the inner ring road.

Verdict – retain and consult on its future

There has been little congestion on this section of the inner ring road although general travel patterns are not expected to return to pre COVID levels before September.

The cycle lane has been obstructed on occasions by delivery drivers, taxi pick ups etc. so the solution is less than perfect.

Vehicle numbers on this section of the inner ring road greatly exceed the number of cyclists

Monk Bar car park disabled spaces

The Council allocated 40 spaces at the Monk Bar car park for blue badge holders when additional access & parking restrictions were introduced in the City centre (e.g. Goodramgate). A “free” taxi service link to the rear of Kings Square is offered. The decision – like several others – was taken by the Councils acting chief executive with no prior consultation.

Blue badge holders can park on single yellow lines and park free of charge at Council car parks.

The little used taxi service is costing taxpayers £354 a day.

It appears that no attempt was made to assess the demand for disabled parking spaces at Monk Bar or for the taxi link. The Council didn’t specify the use of low emission vehicles on the taxi contract

Typically no more than five blue badge holders are parking at Monk Bar at any one time. The remaining general parking spaces are being increasingly used but the car park has yet to reach the full occupation levels seen before the pandemic. The Council has also recently allocated more on street parking spaces for blue badge holders in streets like Duncombe Place.

While the initiative was well intentioned, the Council hopelessly misjudged the demand for the service.

Verdict – revise the scheme

The number of reserved spaces can be reduced and the taxi link abandoned. Consultations can take place with disabled group representatives and traders on other options. These might include a “home to city centre” subsidised taxi service for the disabled where costs are recompensed when goods are bought.

Monk Bar blue badge spaces unused
Narrow access path at Monk Bar car park. No provision made for social distancing (see Maygate below)

Marygate car park

Around 40 parking spaces have been cordoned off. The Council claimed it was to allow cyclists to avoid joint use of the footpath (which links Scarborough Bridge to Bootham Terrace). In turn this helped to maintain a two metre social distancing zone.

The scheme was criticised when proposed because if failed to assess the effectiveness of the obvious alternative (encouraging cyclists to use the internal car park service road) which would have involved the loss of only one parking space.

There were bigger problems on other routes from Scarborough Bridge both at the north (Marygate) end of the bridge and crucially at the station itself. A narrow tunnel connects the shared cycle/footpath to Bootham Terrace.

The introduction of one metre social distancing guidelines and the use of face masks will reduce any health threat.

Observations at the car park suggest that the cycle route through the parking spaces is very little used (with some cyclists opting to use the service road anyway).

The car park has been busy on occasions but has not yet reached capacity. This may change if August is as busy as it has been in the past

Verdict – amend the scheme to allow cyclists to use the car park service road.

There is no Coronavirus heath justification for routing cyclists through car parking spaces. The break in the perimeter fence can be retained – and one place bollarded off – to allow access via the service road to Bootham Tce and Almery Garth. A ramp to St Mary’s – promised but never delivered – would be a useful for both cyclists and disabled buggy users.

The Council should sort out an acceptable route for cyclists wishing to access the route from Scarborough bridge to Lowther Tce (long term plans for the station frontage remodelling need to recognise this demand)

Conned off section on Marygate car park is little used by cyclists
No cycling when you reach the station