Bishopthorpe Road to reopen to traffic

The York Council has issued a media release indicating that the controversial Bishopthorpe Road lane closure will end on 4th August.

However no formal notification of any meeting being held, to endorse the change, has appeared on the Councils register of decisions.

No notice of any decision meeting was published by the Council.

The original decision to close one lane appeared to be based on a whim. It sprang from a request by a Micklegate ward Labour Councillor (Kilbane) but was quickly adopted by the Councils transport executive Councillor (Andy D’Agorne). There was no public consultation before implementation.

The reversal of the decision fails to acknowledge the harm and resentment felt by significant sections of the community about the ill judged scheme.

The scheme has been compared to the closure of Lendal Bridge where a intransigent Council persisted with a failed experiment for nearly two years before admitting defeat. It put the cause of traffic reduction back by 10 years. We hope that the iconic “Bishy Road” shopping area doesn’t suffer a similar setback.

The main criticisms of the scheme were that, contrary to claims, it did little to assist with social distancing. Indeed in places, bollards actually increased pedestrian congestion.

Cyclists were put at risk when using the contraflow cycle lane while those living in the St Benedict Road area had to cope with increased short cutting and consequent higher pollution levels.

St Benedict’s road suffered from short cutting

Against expectations, in June the scheme was extended for another 2 months

Even many who acknowledged that traffic reduction was desirable, pointed out that an (off peak) foot street option might have won greater public support.

We said, right from the beginning, that diverting traffic onto Nunnery Lane and Blossom Street, when the latter was partly closed for utility works, was completely half baked.

So it proved.

It seems that gas works will return on the Blossom Street area shortly.

That, coupled with other road closures in the city, really would have caused traffic chaos at a time when the economy is slowly getting back onto its feet.

The Councils change of heart is welcome, albeit belated. We next hope to see changes to remove some of the unnecessary restrictions on space use in the Marygate car park and on the Monk Bar car park.

Marygate car park spaces closed off
Unused disabled spaces in Monk Bar car park

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

Audit report raises concerns about York Council data security

A report due to be considered by a Council committee next week reveals continuing concerns about the security of personal data held by the Council.

The auditor says,

Whilst good progress continues to be made (on Information Security & GDPR) , further improvements are required to ensure compliance with the council’s policies for handling and storing personal and confidential information. There are also a number of issues still outstanding, relating to actions agreed in July 2019, following a GDPR readiness audit. These actions relate to policies, guidance, contract clauses; the information asset register; privacy notices; mandatory data protection training; management information on data security incidents”.

No further details are provided and the level of vulnerability of Council customers to data breaches is not explored.

On the impact of Coronavirus on the Councils activities the auditor is similarly vague. He says,

This opinion is however qualified, in light of the current coronavirus pandemic and the impact of this on the council. The opinion is based on internal audit work undertaken, and substantially completed, prior to emergency measures being implemented as a result of the pandemic.

These measures have resulted in a significant level of strain being placed on normal procedures and control arrangements. The level of impact is also changing as the situation develops.

 It is therefore not possible to quantify the additional risk arising from the current short term measures or the overall impact on the framework of governance, risk management and control”.

NB. Another report, to the same meeting, claims to address the impact of the health crisis on the Councils activities. Unfortunately, it adds little to what has already been published and singularly fails to quantify the exposure that the Councils projects and revenue finance actually face.

Council post COVID opinion survey launched

Our Big Conversation

The York Council has launched a survey which it claims is aimed at finding out residents views on how well the health crisis has been handled and what should happen next.

Some of the questions are a little “leading” and seem to be aimed at getting a pat on the head for decisions already taken.

There is no opportunity to rate controversial schemes like the Bishopthorpe Road closure, reduced car parking provision or restrictions on car access in The Groves area.

The Council also fails to test opinion on emerging issues like anti social behaviour.

Respondents will look in vain for questions about the Councils democratic accountability since it adopted a “behind closed doors” decision making process.

Nor is there any opportunity to comment on the Councils financial strategy (if indeed it now has such a strategy) .

Economic regeneration seems to begin and end with putting restaurant tables onto open spaces.

Details, of what the Council is describing as a “Big Conversation”, can be found by clicking this link

Unfortunately, as with any survey taken against a rapidly changing background, some of the questions already look a little dated.

Shopping centres quiet

On the third day of trading shopping centres around the City were reporting only steady shopper numbers.

There were spaces available in all car parks.

The unspectacular start may result in calls for the Council, and its agent Make it York, to step up publicity, street entertainment and special deals on car parking.

Plenty of free parking spaces at the Designer Centre at lunchtime today.

Meanwhile support for the campaign to have the Museums Gardens reopened is gaining momentum.

Paul Fawkesley, Founder of Treasure Hunt York, has emailed his support for the reopening

Footsteets to be extended to aid social distancing and “kickstart” York’s economic recovery

York’s footstreets are set to be extended from 15 June. The main impact will be on disabled access.

“City of York Council is extending York’s footstreets from 15 June to increase pedestrian zones within the city centre and support local businesses by providing residents more space to social distance, making access to city centre shops and businesses easier”.

There has been no consultation on the proposals

“The actions are designed to support the council’s Economic Recovery – Transport and Place Strategy, to build resident, visitor and stakeholder confidence that York is a safe, healthy and attractive place for everyone.

York has one of the largest pedestrian zones in Europe, with many areas within York’s city centre already designated as pedestrian footstreets.

In line with the Government relaxing the restrictions for retailers this month, pedestrian zones will be extended to include the following streets:

  • Goodramgate (between Deangate and King’s Square)
  • King’s Square
  • Church Street
  • Colliergate
  • Blake Street
  • St Helen’s Square
  • Lendal
File:Blake Street, York - geograph.org.uk - 1059330.jpg ...
Blake Street pre lockdown

The core footstreet rules will apply to the extension area, including no vehicles being allowed to access, or park on, these streets, including deliveries between 10.30am and 5pm.

During the footstreet times, barriers (staffed for an initial period) will be in place in Goodramgate and Blake Street to control access, but emergency vehicles and the Dial-a-Ride vehicle will be permitted access at all times.

The council is exploring a further extension of the hours in to the evening, to coincide with the reopening of the hospitality sector, alongside encouraging the safe return of residents and visitors by considering incentivised short stay parking in some of the city’s car parks”. 

Blue Badge holders can, as has always been the case, park for free in any council car park and can take advantage of using disabled bay spaces in Council car parks too. For more information on council car parks visit www.york.gov.uk/parking

Blue Badges

The council is also exploring where it can create additional capacity for Blue Badge holders elsewhere in the city by the 15 June, and provide further support. 

This will include shop-mobility type assistance and additional replacement disabled bays at Monk Bar Car Park. Guides will be available to direct people to other car parks and provide on the day information about car parking availability. 

Coronavirus York Updates; 2nd June 2020

No more deaths

No more coronavirus hospital deaths have been reported this week. The total across the York and Scarborough hospitals remains at 210.

Safeguarding support for children updated and improved

Another step to further improve support for children and young people across the City of York has been taken.

Over 600 professionals from City of York Council, North Yorkshire Police, the NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and local health organisations have helped update guidance which extends the city’s coordinated approach to safeguarding.

This threshold document clearly sets out for all agencies consistent safeguarding assessment levels, at what point early help or intervention for a child or its family is needed, and the level or intensity of that help or intervention.

Published by City of York Safeguarding Children Partnership, the guidance builds on cross-city work already underway by York’s multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) which was set up in July 2019.

Reporting concerns about the neglect or abuse of a child is now done through the MASH and the updated contact details are:

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Police and Fire chiefs to answer questions at 1:00pm today

Leaders of North Yorkshire’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic will give an update on the work they are doing, and answer questions from residents and businesses.

North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan will lead the live update and will be joined by:

  • Chief Constable Lisa Winward – North Yorkshire Police
  • Chief Fire Officer Andrew Brodie – North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

Members of the public are invited to watch the meeting from 1.00pm on Tuesday on YouTube  and submit questions in advance by emailing info@northyorkshire-pfcc.gov.uk, posting on Twitter using the hashtag #NYscrutiny or commenting on Facebook. Not all questions will be able to be used, but they will inform the Commissioner’s questioning and the general discussion.

Julia Mulligan has decided in these uncertain times that there should be a regular update on the Coronavirus response direct to residents and businesses, and this is the sixth of those broadcasts.

Previous meetings can be viewed on our website: https://www.northyorkshire-pfcc.gov.uk/coronavirus/cvupdate/

These updates replace the regular public accountability meetings which are an opportunity to ensure the police and fire service are performing as well as possible to keep North Yorkshire safe and feeling safe.

All are invited to find out more about the meeting and watch live at https://bit.ly/CV2June

Agenda:

  • Local Resilience Forum update
  • Police – operational response update
  • Fire – operational response update

Coronavirus York updates; 31st May 2020

Deaths & Cases

ONE more patient with coronavirus has died at a hospital yesterday within the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. A further four died today. The five further deaths takes the total number of Covid-19 related fatalities within the trust to 210. The trust includes York Hospital and Scarborough Hospital.

There are 456 confirmed cases in the city

Council urges caution

Following changes to the government’s coronavirus advice, social distancing and lockdown measures, we are encouraging residents to continue follow the guidance, protect the NHS and save lives.

New guidelines are set to come into action on 1 June which allow the opening of car showrooms, outdoor markets and permit groups of up to six people to meet outdoors, as long as social distancing is followed. The revised national guidance can be found here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

We are continuing to advise people who may want to visit to keep their trip to York on hold for now, so they can instead see the city and enjoy our attractions in full when it is safe to do so.

Leader of City of York Council, Cllr Keith Aspden, said:

“As certain lockdown restrictions are starting to be eased, it’s of course encouraging that people will be able to see some of their family and friends again. It’s also positive to see more local businesses putting plans in place and reopening as we start on the road to recovery.

“We are continuing to look at the new ways that services right across the Council will be delivered in the coming weeks and months, as we all work together to help York recover from this pandemic.

“As part of our recovery, it is vital that residents continue their great work in following these national guidelines; especially social distancing and continuing to frequently wash hands.”

Deputy Leader of City of York Council, Cllr Andy D’Agorne, said:

“It has been great to see how York’s residents and business have pulled together over the past weeks and months to help fight coronavirus. This next easing of restrictions signals another step on the road to recovery.

“That being said, it is vital that we all continue to be vigilant. It is only through each of us playing our own small part that we can continue to reduce the number of infections and ultimately save lives going forward.”

For more information about coronavirus in York visit www.york.gov.uk/coronavirus

York’s small businesses reminded to prepare for extension to grants scheme

City of York Council is reminding small and micro businesses which have missed out on government support that its grant scheme will be extended from Monday (June 1).

City of York Council is reminding small and micro businesses which have missed out on government support that its grant scheme will be extended from Monday (June 1).

The council is using an additional £2.2m discretionary government fund to expand its own small and micros grant scheme, which has already supported over 1000  local businesses affected by the coronavirus.

The grants will benefit small businesses including those in shared offices and flexible work spaces, science parks and incubators. Regular market traders without a business rates assessment, nurseries, B&Bs paying council tax instead of business rates, and charity properties which all missed out under previous schemes will also be eligible.

The council is also now able to welcome new applications for grants from people who are self-employed with fixed property costs after the government removed a restriction on the use of the funds.

The grants will be between £1000 and £10000 depending on the size and nature of the business, with the following available:

  • Small business and childcare nurseries                        up to  £10000
  • Micro business                                                                  up to    £5000
  • B&Bs and market traders who live in York                   up to   £2,500
  • Self-employed with fixed property costs                       up to    £1000

Businesses must have been trading before 11 March 2020, have a rateable value or annual mortgage of below £51,000, and demonstrate both an ongoing fixed property cost and significant financial impact of the coronavirus. It is not available to any business eligible for any other government COVID grant.

We expect these grants to be in high demand, so please visit our  www.york.gov.uk/COVIDMicroGrant to understand if your business is eligible and what evidence you’ll need to make a successful application.

Businesses can get a message as soon as the form goes live by signing up to an e-newsletter https://www.york.gov.uk/form/EmailUpdates

The council has continued to process applications for the existing scheme in order to ensure no eligible business misses out on any funding. All outstanding applicants and previous grantees will be contacted by the council next week, as many will be eligible for a top-up under the enhanced scheme.

The council acted quickly to distribute £110m of grants and rates relief to over 3000 York businesses, and created its own £1m grant scheme to benefit over 1000 more which did not qualify for government support.

Under the discretionary fund, local authorities have been given an additional 5% of the total value of grants already distributed in York, together with some government rules and outline guidance on which businesses should benefit. However, this means councils have to use local knowledge to decide how to fairly distribute the money to benefit as many businesses as possible.

Depending on the volume of applications and the amount of additional checking and verification required, the council aims to pay all grants within four weeks.

Schools

Advice from York Council

 

Following recent announcements from the government, City of York Council has confirmed the arrangements and work that is taking place to safely welcome more pupils to return to school from next week.

The Government has advised that from Monday 1 June a phased return for early years settings and schools should take place where it is possible to do so safely, with pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 returning to school in smaller classes.

The city is taking a partnership approach to ensure that the changes are gradual and are based on robust risk assessments. As part of the York Schools and Academies Board (YSAB), the council is supporting schools and engaging with unions. All are prioritising the health, safety and wellbeing of pupils and staff.

Risk assessments have been being carried out at every school in the city to determine whether they can safely increase attendance from 1 June. Cleaning regimes are being put in place as part of those risk assessments, and personal protective equipment (PPE) has been delivered to Early Years settings and schools.

Schools will be guided by the number of staff they have available, size of their buildings and any other relevant issues when taking decisions about how many children they can have on site to maintain social distancing requirements.  York’s schools will continue to prioritise places for the children of key workers and vulnerable children – numbers in these groups will determine the pace of re-opening for additional year groups from 1 June. In practice, this will mean that not all schools in the city will be admitting additional year groups on 1 June, but all will continue to be open for vulnerable and key workers’ children who are encouraged to attend school.

Any decision to extend the opening of schools to additional year groups is being taken by headteachers, schools’ governing bodies or trustees following their risk assessments. They will be in contact with parents and carers to confirm the arrangements for their school including any changes to the timing of the school day.

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