Future of Piccadilly to be decided today

York Council to slow pace of redevelopment

Piccadilly Oct 2015

The pace at which  the regeneration of the Piccadilly area of York – now dubbed the “Southern Gateway” – will take place will be decided by the Council’s Executive today. A report from Council officials talks of establishing a blueprint for the general development of the area.

As we said three months ago, the brownfield site offers a major opportunity to provide additional housing in what has become a very popular destination for new home owners.  Even high value properties in Hungate and St Leonards Place are selling like hot cakes.

It is estimated that at least 450 new homes could be provided on the Piccadilly site.

Today’s report offers little that is new.  “Partners” will be sought to redevelop the old airspeed factory, a project manager will be appointed and taxpayers will be asked to spend £185,000 on further developing the plans.

Potholes on Castle car park

Potholes on Castle car park

Officials are recommending that the Council work closely with developers who have already worked up plans for some of the individual sites in the area.

The Council itself owns the busiest car park (Castle). The car park generates over £2 million a year in revenue – although it currently is in very poor condition.  The Council also runs Castle Mills and the St Georges Field car parks.

One option to be considered is an underground replacement.

It is also known that there is a strong preference to make major changes to Ryedale House which could become a major residential development.

The Council seems set on slowing down (again) the pace of redevelopment.

Three months ago they had reached the stage where possible land uses had been identified.

These clearly did not fit in with the ambitions of the private landowners. Hence the decision to pull back..

At this rate we doubt whether there will be any major development in the area much before the end of the decade.

Just when you thought it was safe to…..

Coppergate spy cameras to be switched back on?
Coppergate - Time to move on

Coppergate – Time to move on

Council officials are recommending that Number Plate Recognition cameras, used to enforce access restrictions on Coppergate, be switched back on.

They will not do so though “until signage has been improved”.

Consultation is also promised.

The Council was forced to offer refunds to thousands of motorists, fined using camera evidence. when an independent inspector ruled that the signs indicating the restriction were inadequate.

The restriction hours were changed to coincide with the introduction of the ANPR camera enforcement system.

An extra hours enforcement was added at the end of each day (and Sundays were included in the restricted hours).

While the original restricted hours (8:00am – 6:00pm) had been in force for many years, it was the extension to the hours which caused confusion.anpr camera

We think that the Council would be wise to revert to the original restrictions (but including Sundays) and to rely on conventional means of enforcement.

The spy camera fiasco has left a bad taste in many mouths and reintroducing a failed system would further damage the Council’s reputation.

Coppergate refund process and FAQs

Coppergate - Time to move on

Coppergate – Time to move on

Following approval by councillors on 30 July, City of York Council has opened the application process for the repayment of Penalty Charge Notices in relation to the traffic regulation of Coppergate.

 The application process will close on midnight on 31 March 2016.
An application must be made before midnight on 31 March 2016 in order for this to be considered for repayment. The deadline for Lendal Bridge applications has also been extended  until 31 March 2016.
All applications must be made online via www.york.gov.uk/coppergate , although support will be provided for anyone who doesn’t have access to the internet.

Full FAQs detailing the repayment process can be found on this webpage, or below.

Drivers are asked to read these FAQs relating to the repayment process before submitting their application.  (more…)

£387,350 Coppergate fines saga drags on

A report has been published which confirms that £385,000 of Coppergate fines will be repaid before 31st March 2016. The applications deadline for seeking Lendal Bridge refunds is also being extended to the same date.

The report pointedly fails to indicate the costs that will be incurred in writing to all the drivers who were illegally fined between August 2013 and April 2014.

Nor is any information provided indicting how much has been claimed back by drivers who were illegally fined for using Lendal Bridge.

In total, though, over £2 million is involved.

Coppergate - Time to move on

Coppergate -signs

The Council now needs to publish an up to date statement detailing all of the costs of this disastrous transport initiative.

The Council has now accepted that the signage used to indicate a change of access hours (an hour was added to the restrictions at the beginning and end of each day) was inadequate. The restrictions were later successfully challenged through the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

12,269 drivers are thought to be entitled to a refund. Many were visitors to the City.

Council officials are not suggesting that the restriction order be revoked. Rather they suggest that better signage be installed following  consultation with the Department of Transport.

It is anticipated that the original restriction hours will be re-introduced (although the officer report is silent on this point)

The elephant in the room remains the future use of “spy cameras”.  The use of ANPR surveillance systems have been on the increase in recent years but the badly handled Lendal Bridge trial seriously damaged their credibility in the eyes of many York residents.

The cameras have not been used since April 2014.

In our view, the Council should abandon their use, in enforcing traffic restriction orders, unless there is a clear and specific safety issue that could only be addressed by the use of cameras.

Instead a uniformed Police officer could from time to time check that drivers were observing any restrictions of Coppergate.

If one or two drivers – whether by mistake or design – slip though the road during the day then that is something that the City will have to live with.

The Council will also have to decide whether to revive the idea of a public inquiry into the shambolic initiative.

In the past Councillors who acted recklessly with public money could be forced to pay compensation to taxpayers. Those concerned – most of whom lost their seats in May – may well be beginning to wish that they had heeded the warnings issued  by officials before the trials started and many aggrieved residents who – in the first 6 weeks – had pointed out the obvious failings in the project.

Council building on Piccadilly “could collapse”

Residents should read the Council report on the condition of the old tram depot (and aircraft works) on Piccadilly.

17/21 Piccadilly

17/21 Piccadilly

Officials say that it might collapse any day and barriers are being erected to protect passers-by.

Buildings don’t become dangerous overnight and the state of the building is just another testament to the neglect that the Labour Council showed for any project that didn’t offer them a quick buck.

Five years ago the building was scheduled for demolition with suggested interim uses being either as a coach drop off point or car parking. The latter at least could be enacted quickly providing some revenue for the Council.

However a planning application could take 12 weeks to determine.

In the meantime it seems the building will continue to represent a risk.

In the longer term, one option for the site is high quality apartments with developers challenged to reflect the sites varied history in any design proposals.

The whole of the Coppergate area has been blighted for two decades by indecision, failed planning applications, competing sectional interests and bankrupt ownership.

Hopefully we will see signs of renewed leadership on the future of the area when the Council’s new executive meets for the first time on Thursday,

NB The Executive will take place on Thursday 25 June at West Offices from 5.30pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch live online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

Congestion “Commission” was an expensive gimmick

Although there has been no official statement from the new coalition rulers at the York Council, it seems likely that plans to establish a “congestion commission” will be scrapped when it holds its first Executive meeting on 25th June.

The Council leadership are right to get some of the detritus that it inherited, from the last administration, out of the way quickly.

Similar statements of intent would be welcome on issues such as the future of the Guildhall, the Knights rugby club, Coppergate fines. Oliver House etc.

Coppergate - Time to move on

Coppergate – Time to move on

The “Commission” idea was floated by a discredited administration which was desperately trying to recover from the Lendal Bridge shambles. Rather than face the criticism that is usually attached to taking any decision about transport in the City, Labour hoped to deflect the odium onto third parties. Hence the establishment of a Commission which would no doubt have agonised again about congestion charging and the like.

The debates would have been at a huge cost to taxpayers – £135,000 was quoted.

The Council already has a transport plan. It was agreed in 2011 and offers a balance of initiatives aimed at reducing congestion. It needs updating, not least because the decision to bring a trial cross river access restriction forward from 2025 to 2013 has seriously damaged its credibility.

But any transport strategy has to be affordable. With dualling of the northern by pass still elusively outside the resources of even the “combined authority”, talk of trams, tubes, extra river bridges and river buses would be just that – talk.

A1237 dualling still illusive

A1237 dualling still illusive

Any updated transport plan needs to build on what has been successful over the past decade when congestion levels have remained more or less stable.

There has been some modal shift to cycles and walking. Buses were becoming more popular until Labour made the grand gesture of evicting the ftr without having anything half as attractive to passengers to substitute, while new roundabouts on the A1237 have eased bottlenecks.

Now Labour have played an old – and discredited card – when claiming that “80 people a year” die in York as a result of poor air quality. This was the favourite claim of former transport chief Dave Merrett who – after much pressing – admitted that the figure was simply a local extrapolation of national respiratory death statistics.

No one knows how many local deaths, through respiratory diseases, are caused by the pollutants emitted by vehicles (or industry for that matter) but most would, no doubt,  support verifiable actions to address locations where pollution levels are sometimes high (mainly narrow terraced streets like Gillygate).

New electric bus fleet launched last week

New electric bus fleet launched last week

So some marks should be awarded to the last Council for beginning the roll out of the type of electric buses first trialled in the City in 2010.

More of this kind of thinking – making the best use of advancing technologies – will take the city forward in a measured and affordable way and with a reasonable chance of carrying the local population with it.

28,153 drivers apply for Lendal Bridge refunds

Only 3 from non UK residents

The York Council has responded to a Freedom of Information request about the progress made in offering refunds to drivers who were fined for driving over Lendal Bridge.

Sight seeing bus on Lendal Bridge

The Council decided, after pressure from opposition parties, to write to all affected drivers telling them of the process for claiming refunds.

The refunds were offered after the traffic adjudicator ruled in 2014 that the Council had acted unlawfully.

The Council has now confirmed that 27,181 letters were sent to drivers on 13th February.

In total 28,153 applications for refunds have been made although this figure does include some duplicates.

Since the decision to send out the letters a total of £334,921 has been refunded.

The Council has broken down by the postcode of the applicant the refund applications which have so far been successful

  • 3,506  applicants have YO postcodes
  • 15,782 are from the rest of the UK
  • Only 3 appear to have originated outside the UK

Taking into account the refunds made last year, a total of £689,531 has so far been refunded.

At the March 2014 Council meeting Cllr Merrett, who then was responsible for the trial closures on Lendal Bridge and Coppergate, admitted that over £2 million had been raised in fine income.

With the Council now having been judged to have acted unlawfully on Coppergate as well as Lendal Bridge, it seems likely that a further tranche of letters will shortly be going out advising more drivers of their right to a refund.

Commenting former Council Leader Steve Galloway, who submitted the Freedom on of Information request, said,

 “Clearly many thousands of drivers did not know about their right to a refund.

Opposition Councillors have been vindicated for their decision to ask that all drivers be notified by letter of the refund process.

It is unfortunate that so few foreign visitors have responded to the letter. This rather suggests that the reputational cost of this project failure may be with us for several more years

I hope that the Council will act quickly to refund fines levied on Coppergate and will be more circumspect in future when rolling out new technology like ANPR cameras

York Council loses Coppergate appeal

Another £400,000 to be paid out to fined motoristsCamera

The traffic adjudicator has rejected the York Councils appeal over fines issued for breaches of the  Coppergate access restrictions.

It means that drivers who were caught and fined during the trial period (August 2013 – March 2014) on the route will be entitled to have the fines repaid.

It also puts paid to any idea that the Council may have of switching its spy cameras back on.

The Council may have a right of appeal to the High Court over the ruling but it seems unlikely that the new Councillors, who are due to be elected on 7th May, will pursue that costly option.

In total over £2 million was unlawfully taken  by the York Council in fines on Lendal Bridge and Coppergate.

Even when it was clear (after only 6 weeks) that the trial had gone badly wrong and should therefore be suspended, prominent Labour Councillor Dave Merrett refused to suspend the restrictions.

His chances of re-election on 7th May must now be fading along with the hopes of other Labour Cabinet members who also failed to act to end the scandal.

Both major opposition parties have promised a full public inquiry into the circumstances which led the Council to act unlawfully. Labour declined to hold such an inquiry when they were in office, with Green Councillors also voting against a probe for the truth.

 

1000 year wait for Monkgate parking changes blamed on Traffic Penalty Tribunal adjudicator

Longer consultation periods are now in operation in York for changes to traffic orders.

1000 years wait

The move follows a further delay in getting the traffic adjudicator to release details of the  result of the Councils appeal against a ruling that fines imposed on Coppergate were unlawful.

In a behind closed doors decision the Council has now agreed to put off until after the election a decision on whether to remove some parking spaces on Monkgate. They are understood to be interfering with cyclists using adjacent cycle lanes.

The background papers, which were released after the decision had been taken, suggest that the proposed charges were first suggested in 1014.

That was the year that the first traffic adjudicator Æthelred the Unready returned from exile in Normandy to reclaim the throne of England.

Coppergate Fines – No decision until after the elections

Voters will go to the polls on May 7th still not knowing whether nearly £400,000 was collected by the York Council unlawfully.

The Council have appealed against a ruling by the traffic adjudicator that fines levied using ANPR cameras on Coppergate in 2013 and 2014 were unlawful.

Coppergate bus lane enforcement plans  June 2013

Coppergate bus lane enforcement plans June 2013

The Council accepted last year that similar enforcement tactics used during the Lendal Bridge trial closure were flawed. Refunds totalling over £1 million are owed to affected motorists.

The Council has been asked to provide an updated statement indicating how many drivers have responded to the claim letters which opposition Councillors forced the authority to issue to Lendal Bridge motorists in January.

On Coppergate the problems arose when the operating hours of long standing traffic restrictions were extended during the morning and early evening periods. For the first time in York, cameras were used to enforce a ban. The adjudicator ruled the scheme unlawful because the signs were inadequate.  

The ANPR cameras were switched off a year ago when an appeal against the ruling was lodged by the Council.

 It has taken over 12 months for the appeal to be considered with speculation mounting that the ruling will be sustained and that the new Council will be left to pick up the financial pieces of a mistake which has had calamitous consequences for both drivers and taxpayers.

Labour Councillor Dave Merrett was widely held responsible for the blunder although it effectively ended the York political career of former Council Leader James Alexander.