“Stay away” Tory leads to defeat on Willow House development

Willow House

The local Council Tory Leadership suffered a defeat this evening when their plan ot sell off land at Willow House was referred back for further consideration.

It is understood that one Conservative councillor absented himself from the meeting without appointing a substitute. (He was apparently elsewhere in West Offices when the meeting was taking place)

The result was that a vote on a “call in” was tied and the Labour chair used his casting vote to stall the development.

There are likely to be repercussions for the Council as the sale of the former elderly persons home site for development was needed to fund new elderly care homes.

The main concern apparently centred around an area of open space next to the home which would have been developed for the first time. Locals say that it is used for informal recreational activity.

There are several other controversial plans in the pipeline which would see similar open spaces developed. In the Acomb ward the development of the old Manor school playing field has been criticised while there is also a major campaign to save threatened open space at Lowfields.

The called in decision will now be referred back to the Executive who will have to decide whether to re-advertise the site for sale and, if so,  with what conditions. Further delays to the care programme seem inevitable.

The disagreement within the Tories is the latest in signs of unrest with Council Leader David Carr heavily criticised  since unilaterally sacking two executive members and later resisting publication of a report into contractor appointments.

Other projects such as the, Tory backed, shipping container village on Piccadilly and arrangements to sign the final Community Stadium contract are also mired in controversy.

Political posturing or considered debate? York Councillors opt for extra meetings

Three decisions taken by the new Council have been called in for further consideration.

The topics chosen are an eclectic mix of the important (new house building), the improbable (listing an derelict  “malt house”) and the bizarre (objections to letting a new security contract)

Council house building and Newbury Avenue

Newbury Avenue garages

Predictably the Labour group hope to divert attention away from their failure, over four years, to provide significant numbers of additional affordable homes in the City. They are “calling in” an Executive decision which sets out how more Council houses will be provided in the future. Despite the minority Labour (and Green) Groups now having a voice on the new style Executive, they are still opting to delay work starting on the new building programmes by calling for further reviews.

The “call in” specifically refers to the decision taken to review the demolition of a garage block in Newbury Avenue and replace it with 9 flats. This was the highly unpopular decision forced through by Labour when it had a Council majority. They failed to address concerns about lack of alternative car parking in the estate or the cumulative impact that additional building was having on the limited highways capacity in the area.

An alternative, much better located, site for new homes on Front Street – left derelict for 4 years by the last Council – had been suggested.

In calling in the item, Labour are also delaying a start on other – less controversial – Council housing developments in areas like Ordnance Lane.

There must be a suspicion that what Labour are really trying to do, is deflect attention away from an inquiry into their stewardship of the housing estate. 

It has emerged recently that their flagship “Get York Building” programme collapsed 6 months ago when meetings were abandoned. They are likely to face some testing questions about the cost of “Get York Building” and its complete failure to achieve what its slogan title implied.

While the scale and location of new housing is clearly a matter of City wide significance, the same cannot be said of the other two issues.

Council security services


Three Green Councillors have called in the decisions made by the Executive on 25 June 2015 to “commence a procurement exercise for a comprehensive set of council wide security services, to include on site security services in all council properties, fire alarm response and investigations and the provision of the Council’s CCTV control room operation and ongoing maintenance”.

The Executive decision was simply to commence the procurement process.

It appears that the Greens are opposed to the outsourcing of CCTV monitoring although this is common place elsewhere. 

They raise a series of question about the scope of the contract most of which could have been raised and answered before the Executive decision was taken.

Community Right to Bid under the Localism Act 2011 – Clementhorpe Malt House

Malt house Clementhorpe

The Council Leader – rightly – decided that this building, which has been empty since its use for storage ceased several years ago,  could not reasonably be regarded as a “community asset”.

The building had been unused – and arguably an eyesore – for many years before a deal was brokered to convert it for residential use. The conversion seeks to tastefully incorporate some of the historic features of the building. The demand for malt houses is somewhat limited these days.

The fact of the matter is that, those who now feel that they want the building to be retained and in particular the local ward Councillors, have missed the boat.

They had many years to pursue an alternative use for the building but failed to do so.

The property has been sold and planning permission has been granted.

The Council should encourage the developers to get on with the building work and provide more homes on what is a brownfield site.

Hopefully the new more inclusive decision making process – due to be introduced in the autumn – will allow issues like these to be fully explored before decisions are taken.

Spurious “calling in” tactics simply waste time and tie up the Councils limited administrative resources.