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

Latest planning applications for the Westfield Ward

Below are the latest planning applications received by the York Council for the Westfield ward.

Full details can be found by clicking the application reference

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Address       21 Foxwood Lane York YO24 3LH

Proposal      Fell 1no. Ash tree protected by Tree Preservation Order no. 3

Reference   20/01258/TPO

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Representations can be made in favour of, or in objection to, any application via the Planning online web site.  http://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/

NB The Council now no longer routinely consults neighbours by letter when an application is received

So how did the first days shopping go around York

Neighbourhoods

Local shopping streets like Foxwood Lane/Beagle Ridge Drive mostly continued trading through the lock-down. All but the hairdressers are open. No problems with parking today and a few shoppers around at lunchtime

Coop on Beagle Ride Drive has been popular throughout the lock-down period
Secondary shopping area

Acomb is York’s second largest shopping area. Its focal store (Morrisons) has remained open throughout the pandemic and has undertaken an increased number of home deliveries

Acomb Car park about 505 full at lunchtime today
Most shops in Acomb have reopened. Exceptions are hairdressers, a charity outlet and cafes (although outside/takeaway service available.
A “nail bar” will open ins an empty unit shortly
Specialist shopping streets

Bishopthorpe Road has established a reputation for itself as a bijou shopping destination with good quality independents predominating. It became mired in controversy a few weeks ago when local Councillors campaigned successfully for the road to be closed to southbound vehicles. It is unclear how this has affected trade but the area was generally quiet today at lunchtime. Road works start on nearby Nunnery Lane this evening. Most shops are open. There was limited space in the dedicated car park

The contraflow cycle “lane” is controversial. The existing northbound cycle lane has been abandoned.
The bollards were placed on the road to encourage social distancing.
Road works starting this evening

We’ll take a separate look at how the first day of the city centre shopping arrangements have gone.

Concern about housing in York

As lock-down eases, concerns about the condition of some housing estates are starting to emerge.

The Council’s lettings and void repairs staff have made slow progress on getting empty properties back into use. As a result some long term empty properties have deteriorated. No management information has been published by the Council recently so the scale of the problem is unclear.

Even some “prime” site bungalows (usually very attractive to those on the waiting list for homes) have been empty for 6 months or longer.

Dumping and vandalism at empty council houses.

While cleansing standards have generally improved during lockdown (fewer people around and individual staff members focused on local areas) there have been problems with dumping. Scheduled skip visits, funded through ward committees, didn’t happen and replacement visits have yet to be scheduled.

Dumping on communal areas still a problem
Drying area vandalised
We’ve escalated problems with filling in potholes like these on the Morrell Court access road
Broken branch in Dickson Park reported. Several trees were damaged during Friday’s gales.
We’ve reported several more hedges in the Thoresby Road and Tudor Road area which are now impeding public footpaths
Holgate (Hob Moor) beck was flowing yesterday following heavy rain. It is still, however, obstructed by vegetation
We’ve asked for hardcore to be put under this kissing gate access to Hob Moor. Access for the elderly and disabled is currently very difficult.
We’ve asked for the Tithe Close/Tedder Road snicket to be tidied up.

Mixed picture on public services standards in York but some impressive progress

The lower tree branches that were impeding the cycle path on Thanet Road were trimmed back yesterday. Less than 24 hours from a report being made to action being taken. Impressive.
Grassed area opposite Foxwood shops clear of litter for the first time in over a year. Partly down to dedicated cleansing operative who is doing a sound job in this area.
Extension to Lincoln Court independent living flats completed. Suggests that much missed children’s play area could be reinstated when builders leave?
Slower progress on the Centre of Excellence for disabled children on Ascot Way. The project was never likely to meet its June target completion date even before the health crisis intervened.
Weeds are already overgrowing the little Green Lane garage area. This was problem last year. We expected that the garage owned site would be added to this years treatment list although there is no sign of “die back” yet. A builders skip has also appeared on the site.
We’ve reported the potholes that have appeared ion Windsor Garth

York Council trying to maintain public service standards

Good to see at least some public services continuing in York. Verges and open spaces are being cut today in west York. This will be appreciated by the many additional users who are using parks and other spaces for their daily exercise.

Also the pot hole filling team has been at work with long standing hazards on Foxwood Lane patched this week. This should make cycling safer.

Still a lot of catching up to do though and the highways side.

Some of the potholes on Foxwood Lane have been levelled.

Reprieve for number 3A and 12 bus services in west York

In September the current operator of services 3A and 12, First York, announced that they planned to withdraw service 3A (the 7-day per week evening Askham Bar Park & Ride service) and part of service 12 (specifically the section between Foxwood Lane and Alness Drive) as they were “no longer commercially viable”.

The Council agreed to subsidise the services until the end of the financial year, while seeking tenders for their continuation.

The cost of continuing the services is £24,000 for the 3A and £65,000 for the 12.

The Council is being recommended to use part of a government funded bus service operators grant (worth £150,416 in total) to subside these two services. The Council already allocates over £700,000 a year for bus service subsidies (not including the cost of the free pensioners bus pass, which is funded from central taxation).

The Council is banking on the two services being more popular in the future and therefore requiring a lower subsidy.

It says demand for service 3A may increase when the planned paid overnight parking service at Askham Bar Park & Ride site comes into action in spring 2020 and that demand for service 12 may increase when the LNER Community Stadium (at the other end of the route) opens in 2020.

Improvements in other bus services

Through the “Funding for Local Bus Services 2020-21” scheme, the council has the opportunity to bid for £83.5k one-off funding in order to achieve one or more of the following objectives (which must deliver an increase in services and therefore the 12 and 3A services are not eligible as they currently exist):

  • “to improve current local bus services – for instance increasing evening or weekend frequencies, or supporting additional seasonal services in tourist areas.
  • “to restore lost bus routes where most needed to ensure people have access to public transport services.
  • “to support new bus services, or extensions to current services, to access e.g. new housing, employment opportunities, healthcare facilities etc.”

The funding must be used for the provision of local bus services- i.e. time tabled services open to any member of the public upon payment of a fare.

The funding available in York is £83.5k – equivalent to the operating costs for a single bus for approximately 8 months. It would not therefore have a major impact on service levels.

The City has submitted a bid for “a package of enhancements to routes which support York’s evening economy”

Road repairs backlog building in York

Residents will have a lot of sympathy with local highways inspectors who have the unenviable task of allocation very limited resources to road repairs. Poor weather has increased the number of potholes appearing over recent weeks. The poor state of highway surfaces is a reflection of inadequate investment in maintenance by the York Council for nearly a decade.

An additional pothole filling team is promised to be in place from April. Their arrival can’t come soon enough, at least in west York.

The Councils on line “report it” system now monitors highway defect reports. It is possible to see which reports have been read by officials. Several, reported over the last month, are recorded as “solved”. In reality the problems remain. The potholes have simply been judged not to be deep enough to warrant filling.

That is potentially bad news for cyclists.

Councillors receive very little in the way of monthly performance reports on highways activities, so its impossible to know whether the condition of roads and footpaths is getting worse or improving. The number of reports and complaints received is not routinely published.

Complaints about damage to verges, like parking on footpaths, go largely unmonitored. In summer it is a similar situation with highway obstructions like over grown hedges and weeds.

We hope for better in the future.

Askham Lane carriageway, near A1237 roundabout, will not be repaired
We’ve asked for detritus to be swept from the gutters in Otterwood Lane
The thorn hedge on the snicket to the rear on St Josephs Court (Cornlands Road) needs to be cut back before it becomes a hazard for pedestrians
The Acomb car park recycling area is tidier than it has been on some occasions in the past. Someone is still fly tipping in the area though.

More graffiti

The Council will decide today whether to extend its graffiti removal service to include utility boxes. We hope that they will. The professions service introduced 4 moths ago has made a major diffidence to the appearance of parts of the City.

But we would like to see progress made in prosecuting those responsible. It should not be up to taxpayers (or utility company customers) to fund clean ups like these.

Some Councillors apparently want to use “community payback” to do the graffiti removal. From time to time, this might be an option but it does depend on a steady supply of offenders and there would be a supervision cost.

Probably best to give someone a full time job. There are plenty of other clean up tasks to do if, as we hope, graffiti volumes fall..

Tree issues being addressed by York Council

The Council has acted promptly to fell a “self seeded” tree that was damaging the boundary railings at the Foxwood Lane pumping station.

Earlier in the week the Council announced its most ambitious ever tree planting programme.

£600,000 a year will be invested to enable the purchase land or to utilise pieces of land, already in the council’s ownership, that are suitable for planting trees.

The budget would cover the cost of planting new trees and replacing diseased trees as the council’s contribution to the White Rose Forest initiative.

The White Rose Forest has 3 aspirations: Leadership for sustainable economic development, Social well-being and Facing Climate change.

In Foxwood, the local residents association has suggested several sites for additional tree planting.

These include the Foxwood Park, Dickson Park, the Thanet Road sports area, Chesneys Field, Acomb Moor and the rural part of Askham Lane.