The environment and informal leisure

The government has launched a welcome initiative this week aimed at encouraging more active lifestyles. There has been a lot of support for cycling as a way of keeping fit and losing weight. That is very welcome and we hope that it soon translates into a Council initiative aimed at improving maintenance standards on off road cycle paths, many of which are in poor condition in York.

Less attention has been paid to leisure walking – an option open to virtually everyone.

There has been renewed interest in the use of local Public Rights of Way (PROW) as residents sought to follow daily – social distance – exercising guidelines. The route across Acomb Moor to Acomb Wood became more popular. A local bulletin board has seen several people criticise the farmer who blocked off all entrances to the moor before ploughing it.

Access to Acomb Moor blocked

While the owner is entitled to cultivate his land, he should not have blocked the Foxwood Lane access at least while the current PROW application is being actively considered. We have asked the public rights of way officer to intervene.

More needs to be done to enhance and improve access to the natural environment at least on the west of the City.

The Councils own annual survey of opinion revealed that  44% of panellists thought that the Council was not doing well at improving green spaces.

59% thought that the Council wasn’t doing well at reducing air pollution.

The Council planted 515 trees last year. It had previously claimed that it would plant “50,000 trees by 2023”. It had also promised to expand the City’s strays and introduce more wildflower meadows in an attempt to encourage pollinators.

We understand that a report will be considered by the Council in August which will  set out proposals to acquire land which will enable the creation of a “large new area of woodland in close proximity to the city to provide green amenity space for residents and plant trees that will contribute to the council’s commitment to become net carbon neutral by 2030”.

There has to be balance. The country does need to be more self sufficient in food production, so the retention of good quality agricultural land is also important.

However, the creation of a country park on land near Askham Lane would be a welcome step forward. It has been a vision for several years. It would allow hedgerows to be re-established and PROWs to be maintained in good condition.

It would also provide some compensation for the sports and leisure land lost through recent developments in the area.

 It only now remains to be seen whether Councillors have the drive and determination to deliver on their promises.Tree Walking GIF - Tree Walking Tired - Discover & Share GIFs

Council publishes performance data

Only 29% of York residents feel that they can influence decisions in their local area. 91% however feel is important that they should be able to influence their local area.

The paradox is revealed in the latest set of performance indicators published by the Council. They outturn figures for the last there financial years.  

Another perhaps significant finding is that only 31% of the members of a residents “talkabout” panel “speak positively about the Council”; 28% speak “negatively”.

However, 52% agreed that the Council treated them “fairly and with respect”.  

  • The number of instances of violence in the City centre rose from 1010 to 1057.
  • The number of cases of graffiti reported to the Council doubled to 385. This may have been prompted by the Councils decision to establish a new (and useful) graffiti removal team.
  • The number of street cleaning issues reported increased from 1943, in 2018/19, to 2578 in 2019/20.  The number of street cleaning issues remedied with within target times was 75%
  • Three fixed penalty notices were issued for littering during last year. This was down from six issued in 2018/19. There were also three PCNs issued for dog fouling offences.
  • The number of issues raised about weeds and overgrown hedges increased from 1919 to 2191.

The figures predate most of the lockdown period.

More issues reported for attention in west York

Quick work by York Council this morning in getting part of the Moor Lane carriageway surface dressed.
Adjacent to the Moor lane works, the badly worn carriageway on Askham Lane still needs repair
Leaf detritus in the Askham Richard drainage gulleys have been reported for sweeping
The York Council has accepted responsibility for sweeping the A64 cycle path near its junction with the A1237
We’ve asked again for the Tedder Road/Cornlands Road snicket to be given a “deep clean”. Dog fouling a problem with hedges also beginning to obstruct the path ”

Good work by Highways England

Highways England removed the carcass of the dead badger from the A64 yesterday. The response was very swift.

The dead badger removed from the A64. There is a continuing debate about where responsibility rests for cleansing the cycle path along the A64 and on into York. Currently there is a lot detritus on it in places which restricts its width.
On Moor Lane in Dringhouses, the Council has removed the cats eyes from the highway prior to resurfacing on Sunday. The surface dressing process – which arrests wear on the road surface -, will involve one way working so some delays can be expected. Alternative routes are unlikely to be busy.
The Council have agreed to cut back the branches from the tree that is blocking the Thanet Road cycle path. They say they will do so when labour becomes available.
The York Council has promised to repair a section of carriageway on Bradley Lane near Rufforth

Dog fouling still a problem

Snickets fouled in Foxwood

There is still too much dog fouling going on in parts of York. Owners who do not clean up after their pets can face an on the spot fine of £75. This could be increased to £1000 if the case goes to a magistrates court.

You can report a fouled footpath by clicking here

If you spot a full poop scoop bin it can be reported via this link

The Council says, “If a dog bin is full or overflowing, we’ll empty it within 2 hours. If we get your report after 3.00pm, then the dog bin will be emptied before 10.00am the following working day.

If a bin is damaged or missing we’ll repair or replace it as soon as possible”.

Not just west York suffering from neglect

Residents from the Huntington and Heworth areas have added their voices to the criticisms of the Council’s performance in keeping local streets clean and tidy. Although, like Woodthorpe on the west of the City, some streets in Huntington appear to have been well swept, they are outnumbered by those where even basic weed clearance has not taken place this summer.

One again it is the main entry roads into the City which are most neglected. It presents a poor image for visitors

Weeds block gutters and paths on Malton Road
Paved area on Huntington Road near Bell Farm has not been sprayed
Weeds engulfing street furniture on Jockey Lane
A blocked gully on Heworth Green. These need to be cleared before wetter weather arrives with winter.
Long term build up of detritus around traffic island build outs on Malton Road

York climate change action plan update

City of York Council’s full council declared a climate emergency in March 2019, and agreed to set a target to become net carbon neutral by 2030.

A report is now being taken to the council’s Executive to provide an update on the next steps to progress the climate change action plan.

Following the climate emergency declaration, a new cross-party climate change policy and scrutiny committee was created to help develop the climate change action plan. Its first meeting will take place in September (and every other month after that).

The council is in the process of recruiting officers to two new posts to address sustainability and climate change to support on this work.

A report detailing the next steps will be taken to a public Executive meeting on Thursday 29 August.

York has a strong history of taking the lead on reducing carbon useage, including:

  • £2m programme of LED street lighting;
  • Solar PV installed on 541 council houses;
  • Air source heat pumps installed in 57 council houses;
  • A programme of cavity wall and loft insulation across the council’s housing stock;
  • Work with private tenants and homeowners to draw on funding from Government and regional programmes for improved energy efficiency and delivered through Better Homes Yorkshire;
  • Plans to use an innovative water-source heat pump for heating the redeveloped Guildhall complex;
  • Council support for the Treemendous initiative to plant 50,000 trees in York;
  • Investment in improvements to cycling infrastructure including the recent opening of the Scarborough Bridge cycle route and promotion of cycling – including achieving Cycling City status;
  • The i-Travel programme which includes active promotion of walking, cycling and sustainable travel options to groups and individuals.

Small things affect a City’s image

There were some raised eyebrows yesterday when the Council announced that £40,000 from a “rates pooling system” would be spent on art initiatives on the Castle car park.  

The project was touted as being integral to the consultations still taking place on the future of the “Castle Gateway” area.

 That is the consultation which started off in an exemplary and inclusive way but which is now disappearing into a mass of self-contradictions and public agonising. 

Projecting artwork images onto Clifford’s Tower will tell us little more than we already know.

So, what could £40,000 buy that might make a bigger, and probably more sustained, difference to the York visitor economy?

The answer may lie in what you see when you look out of a train window when approaching the City. The Minster dominates the skyline but lower down we have a different picture.  We have our fair share of graffiti and weed infested public spaces.

It affects the image of the City and gives an impression of neglect.

The priority given to environmental crime by the Council can be seen in a report that its executive will receive next week. It reviews the successes and failures of the last year.

Littering and dog fouling don’t merit a mention. Prosecutions for those offences are rare

The number of graffiti cases does get a passing mention. There has been a recent upward trend in reports. N

o information is provided on the number of successful prosecutions.

Graffiti reports in York

It seems that people may have stopped reporting issues because the Council refuses to address those that are on “private property”. This includes boundary walls and telecoms junction cabinets. The real impact is probably much greater than the authorities will currently admit.

Some Councillors commendably are taking local initiatives.

In Dringhouses Cllr Stephen Fenton has been out with a graffiti removal kit.

Independent Councillor Mark Warters has called for the owners of street cabinets (companies like Virgin Media) to be more systematic in getting graffiti removed quickly.

The new LibDem administration has promised to reinstate the Street Environment Officer system which worked well during the last decade when dealing with environmental crime issues.

All these initiatives are welcome.

However, an initial clean-up of all graffiti in the City followed by the deployment of camera surveillance to identify any repeat offenders would be a good way to invest any LCR funds which may be available.