St Sampsons Square 40 years ago
Councillors are being called to a special meeting to discuss the future of both the St Samsons Square (former) toilets and the “Fountain” on Parliament Street.
A proposal to demolish the disabled toilet block – last used 8 years ago and replaced by facilities at nearby Silver Street – has been called in for further consideration. Surprisingly one of the reasons given for the objection is the lack of alternative disabled facilities.
The Council says, ” Its removal will enable the square to be better used offering increased space for the temporary cultural, recreational and retail events that happen in the city. The water and drain connections will remain to allow toilet facilities to be provided for such events if needed”.
NB The former St Sampsons Square underground toilets were just about the least accessible facilities in the north of England! They were replaced 25 years ago by the unlamented “splash palace” at the other end of Parliament Street.
Redundant St Sampsons Square toilet block
Green party Councillors also now seem to be wanting to distance themselves from their budget plan to erect advertising hoardings on Parliament Street. They describe – with some justification – the existing (water-less) fountain as a key meeting point.
Extensive repairs would be required to bring the fountain – which was the preferred choice of residents who took part in a public consultation poll 25 years ago – back into use. Other options for use the space would also incur costs.
A council report says,
“A permanent replacement will need to be considered by key stakeholders including the Civic Trust, York Business Improvement District, Make it York and will need to be sufficiently iconic that it may well require planning permission”.
It is unclear what, if any, public consultation will take place over the future of the site.
The same meeting will consider how to implement new government rules on houses in “multiple occupation”
Parliament Street fountain
It looks like the Council are set on removing the fountain from Parliament Street. It was provided over 25 years ago following a poll of York residents who were asked what features they wanted to see in the remodelled street.
Now the Council says that it is beyond repair and gets in the way of other activities.
In other words, it reduces the amount of commercial events that can take place there.
St Sampson’s Square 30 years ago
A report to a meeting in April will also consider the future of the – long disused – underground toilets which are located in St Sampsons Square.
In both cases is is unclear what alternative use the spaces would be put to.
“Make it York” caused a storm a couple of years ago when they targeted the fountain for removal.
The fate of the fountain on Parliament Street will be decided by the York Council’s Executive when it meets on 24th September.
Although the new Executive now includes a representative from both the Labour and Green groups, it is anticipated that a more balanced all party meeting of a “scrutiny committee” will also consider the same issue a week earlier.
The future of the fountain was brought into question when the Quango “Make it York” announced that it would be demolished.
The statement was widely criticised as there had been no prior consultation with residents or most Councillors.
Another petition is being collected concerning the nearby site where children’s rides are traditionally located at Christmas. It is expected that it will attract sufficient signatures to force the Council to publicly debate the issue and consider reinstating the Carousel at its traditional location.
York’s Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Leisure, Culture & Tourism has called for a review of the plan to demolish the fountain on Parliament Street.
Make It York, the city’s new destination management organisation, said earlier this month that the fountain should go in order to create a more attractive open space which could be used by festivals. It is understood that the previous Labour Cabinet Member had given the green-light to demolition, but since last week residents have said that they want the fountain to stay and an online petition has been launched. This petition runs until August.
The fountain was originally installed 25 years ago, but the power supply was switched off in 2012 when the Parliament Street toilets were demolished.
Cllr Nigel Ayre, Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Leisure, Culture & Tourism, has now said that there should be a cross-party look at the options. He commented:
“The previous Labour administration wasted millions on vanity schemes in the city-centre that had no cross-party or public support such as the controversial King’s Square redevelopment. We are taking a different approach and therefore, when the petition closes, I will ask the council’s cross-party Learning & Culture policy committee to undertake a review.
“This review will allow councillors and residents to have their say and decide how they want the space in Parliament Street to be used within the budget constraints which currently exist. It should be a short review which will also involve proper consultation with market traders and with Make it York.”
NB Cllr Ayre aims to initiate the short review at September’s cross-party Learning & Culture Policy and Scrutiny Committee and no formal decision on the fountain will be taken before
Apparently York’s newest QUANGO “Make it York” is claiming that it will demolish the fountain in Parliament Street later in the year.
It is unclear who will pay for this work or what this means for the streetscape, and activities potential, of York’s premier shopping area.
The fountain was installed about 25 years ago as part of the last major refurbishment of the area. The results of a design competition had been put to a popular vote and the inclusion of a fountain had been a high priority for residents.
“Make it York” is a curiosity. It was launched by the last Labour regime but without securing unequivocal all party support.
It is a Council owned company which seems to struggle with the basics. Its sales brochure is already out of date not having been updated to reflect the change in Council control which occurred over two months ago. They claim (wrongly) to have a former Labour Council Leader on their Board – a possible reason why the current Council Leader (a Tory) today claimed that he knew nothing of their plans to demolish the fountain.
The organisation has no transparency at all. No details of meetings are published and it doesn’t seem to have a remit to consult local taxpayers
The Council was criticised for signing off the new organisation without published smart performance indicators and targets. Even now, 3 months on, the baseline performance numbers haven’t been established.
A few more unilateral decisions, like the one about the fountain, and this organisation is likely to lose popular support – and with it any Council subsidy.