Fake news? Now we’ve got fake consultation

Controversial Lowfields Planning application being heard next week

Council officials are recommending that the whole of the Lowfields school and sports pitch site be redeveloped.  The planning application will be determined next week, even though objections to the Local Plan have not  yet been considered by the independent inspector.

There are two proposals.

The first  is an outline planning application for the whole site (click) This still includes the highly unlikely Police station (the Police have no plans to move from their current York Road base) and a “health centre” although none of the NHS/GP budget holders have allocated funding for such a project. The application outlines where the Council hopes 96 houses, 26 bungalows, 18 apartments and an 80 bedroomed care home will be located. 6 self-build and 19 “community build” dwellings are also included near the southern boundary of the site.

The second application is the detailed (i.e. final) planning application for the 142 “open market” dwellings (click). Strangely this detailed application is scheduled to be considered before the outline application!. The Council says that 20% of these will be “affordable”. It is these housing plans which are likely to be most controversial as they are the ones being being built on the sports pitch.

A brief history

The area to be built on has increased – and open space provision reduced – every time a new pan has been drawn up by officials

When the Lowfields school closed some 10 years ago, the Council gave an assurance that only the “built footprint” of the former school buildings would be redeveloped. The green space would be protected. The site was slated to be retirement village – the west York equivalent of Hartrigg Oaks.  Plans were produced, and the scheme would have proceeded had there not been change in control of the Council in 2011.

The incoming Labour administration wanted the village to be predominantly public (rather than private ) sector. They raised the possibility of building on the football pitch in 2012 but nothing came of the idea. Four years wrangling later and it was accepted that the development would need private investment.

York went to the local election polls in May 2015. No party said it intended to build on the playing field

The suggestion that the green space would be lost came in December 2016 when the then new Tory housing executive member persuaded his colleagues that selling off the land for private development would provide the money (approximately £4.5 Million) for other projects including facilities in Burnholme.  

They later rowed back from setting up a “development company” and instead plan to manage the development themselves

The Council claimed that “landscaped green space will be open to the public for the first time” In practice the playing fields were open to the public until about 5 years ago when the Council tried to secure the boundaries. At the time, they said this could only be a for a few months.

Alternative proposal for Lowfields tabled by residents

A Lowfields Action Group was formed to oppose the emerging proposals. They established a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LowfieldsActionGroup/

Consultation

  • 2011 – The Lowfields care village was subject to formal consulted on in 2011.  The proposal was widely praised throughout the City
  • 2016 – Local Westfield Ward Councillors conducted a door to door survey in October 2016 which revealed that residents top priorities for the site  were an elderly persons home, flats for “downsizers” and bungalows. They also wanted a nature reserve and the retention of the football pitches
  • 2017 – In October 2017 the Lowfields Action Group published an alternative proposal for the Lowfields site. This was fed into the Local Plan process.

Its over 9 months since the deadline for comments on the planning application passed.

None of the comments made by residents in response to the many earlier iterations are being reported to the Planning Committee next week.

These is a growing suspicion that the Council – as the owner of the site and with a major vested financial liability – is not being even handed with all interested parties.

Unless they adopt a different approach, pressure to have the application “called in” will grow

Last day for objections to the “Lowfields Green” development

The deadline for objections to the Councils “Lowfields Green” planning application has now passed.

The Action Group opposing the proposal to build on the playing field part of the site have submitted a comprehensive objection. A copy of their objection can be found via their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LowfieldsActionGroup/

Most of the representations of support for the scheme seem to be generated by the  communal living project (Yorspace) although there is general support for the plans for specialist accommodation for the elderly.

None of the representations in favour of the Councils proposals come for people living near Lowfields (or indeed from the Westfield/Acomb area more generally)

The only unconditional message of support for the Council plan has been lodged by Bob Towner – a former Director of Housing at (you guessed!) the City of York Council!  He says local people should use Hob Moor for recreational activities.

Further examination of the artists impressions of the proposals reveal a regimented design, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the 1960’s.

Lowfields Green – a candidate for the least imaginative architecture award?

 

 

 

Lowfields playing field development – self builders sought

Lowfields plans

People wanting to build their own home are invited to drop in to West Offices between 6pm and 8pm on Tuesday 11 July to find out about opportunities at what the Council styles as its “Lowfield Green” development.

The self build site is adjacent to the controversial playing field development which is being opposed by local residents. The self build site backs onto Tudor Road

The Council says that later in July, neighbours of the Lowfield site will be invited to attend a drop-in session at Gateway Community Centre, Front Street, Acomb (Tuesday 18th July between 4.30 pm and 7.00 pm) to see how the proposals have developed since the public engagement last year and in advance of the submission of a planning application later this summer.

There will also be a display of the Lowfield Green proposals at Acomb Explore from 18th July 2017 and the master plan drawing will also be available online.

The Lowfields Action Group is planning to oppose any move to build on the playing fields,. They believe that the Council has misjudged the protection which is afforded by national legislation for green spaces of this sort.

The Council says it wants to encourage self-build housing and in 2016, councillors agreed to include space for self-build plots on the southern part of the former Lowfield School site in Acomb.

This development will include new housing, housing for over 55’s and a residential care home.

This self build event will showcase self-build housing and the planned plots at Lowfield Green.

An application for outline planning permission for self-build homes on this land will be made later this year and the plots will become available in 2018.

Some 90 people who have expressed an interest in creating their own home have been invited to the event to discuss how the council can help, and others are also welcome to attend. Besides conversations with council officers, representatives from YorSpace, the community-led housing group, will be there as well to discuss individual plans, ideas and to listen to views on what interested residents would like to see on their development. YorSpace plans to construct 19 homes with communal space and shared gardens on land set aside for this purpose at Lowfield Green.

 

 

UPDATE – COUNCIL PUBLISHES DEVELOPMENT PLAN as mystery surrounds Lowfields development exhibition

Consultation meeting on Wednesday

Village_Green_Masterplan Oct 2016

 

York Council officials have now given a preview of their plans for the redevelopment of the Lowfields school site (above).

The scheme – called “Lowfield Green” (sic) – includes the “provision of a care home, age related housing including bungalows, a health and police centre, family housing, plots for self-build and public open space”.

The scheme still involves building on the sports pitches but officials claim they wish to retain the mature trees on the site and provide a “pocket park and allotments“.

The Council plans to relocate the football provision to a site off of Tadcaster Road, in partnership with Woodthorpe Wanderers.  This will allow them to have fenced off pitches which help with the “player environment”.

Residents are invited to two drop-in sessions with council officers who will explain the plans and answer questions.  The drop-in sessions will take place on Wednesday 12 October and Tuesday 18 October between 4.30pm and 7.30pm at the Oak room, Gateway Community Church on Front Street. The plans will also be on display at Acomb Explore Library Learning Centre from Wednesday 12 October for 3 weeks where residents will be able to feedback.

Alternatively residents can have their say by emailing lowfield.development@york.gov.uk or see www.york.gov.uk/consultations.

Even a casual glance to the proposals confirms that they represent a gross over-development of the site. Fundamental mistakes include the provision of a through road from Dijon Avenue to Tudor Road (previous plans had indicate access from two cul de sacs to minimise short cutting).

The plans include two big traffic generators.

One is the GP surgery which is to be transferred from its present location on Cornlands Road. While there are bus stops within 100 metres of the Cornlands Road site the nearest equivalent public transport point  to Lowfields is about 1/4 mile away on Front Street (although a one direction service does serve Tudor Road). This means that most who attend the surgery will drive to the site.

Another big traffic generator would be the proposed Police depot. The Police intend to close their Acomb Road station and relocate vehicle parking, messing and briefing facilities. There are no plans to provide a manned police reporting desk (either here or at the Acomb Library which is the location favoured by the majority of local residents).  However 24/7 vehicular access will be required.

Taken together the Surgery and Police depot will have a major impact on traffic levels and parking problems in what is currently a quiet residential area.

Although putting starter homes near to elderly persons accommodation may seem attractive to some, history suggests that the differing lifestyles of the two age groups are rarely compatible,. We think that the site should be reserved for older residents who could be encouraged to “downsize” from their exiting larger houses, freeing them for family use

All in all these are very disappointing proposals.

The Council has not yet even responded to the public consultation comments submitted a couple of months ago when the Draft Local Plan revealed that the number of homes planned for Lowfields had more than doubled.

The Council should let that process conclude before tabling new plans.

There is a suspicion that the rush to sell off the site – which could raise £4.5 million – is simply a way of funding  the extravagant plans for the Burnholme site on the other side of the City.

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EARLIER – Residents have criticised the York Council for not updating them about the future of the Lowfields school site.

Many returned comment forms when a Local Plan consultation took place in Acomb 2 months ago. No one has received any feedback.

Residents had also been told in the summer that  a further consultation event would be held during October but so far the Council have not confirmed that this will actually take place.

Residents completing a survey form had criticised the Council plans which would see building on the school playing fields. This was a direct contravention of assurances given when the school closed over 6 years ago and flies in the face of national government policy on the retention of sports pitches and facilities.

Lowfields survey results 10th Oct 2016

Latest residents survey results

Residents want to see the site used predominantly to provide accommodation aimed at older age groups. They have been particularly concerned about proposals to move police vehicle garaging & messing facilities from the present York Road site into the area. They fear that 24/7 access will exacerbate, already difficult, traffic and parking issues in the small estate.

Two weeks ago the NHS said that it had discounted the site as a possible location for a new mental health hospital

The Council is next scheduled to discuss the Lowfields plans at a meeting taking place on 8th December.