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.

Hidden in open view?

We’ll get an idea of the calibre of the newly elected York Councillors this week when they begin to consider how to scrutinise the management performance of the local authority.

A series of updates are being presented.

A typical report is being tabled on housing and community safety issues on 24th June.   

Litter blights some neighbourhoods

What is immediately clear is that no performance indicators have been tabulated (or referenced out). Councillors aren’t being told how long it takes to do things, what any backlogs are, what quality checks are in place or what the levels of public satisfaction are.

Some of the information is available on York Open Data but you have to search for it. Many of the figures are not up to date.

Some major issues are not mentioned at all.  

Empty garages reduce local authority rent income

The housing section fails to even mention empty Council garages, tenants don’t feel they can influence decisions (most tenants organisations have folded) and there are delays on the Housing Estate Improvement programmes.

Similarly on community safety (mainly policing matters) anti-social behaviour in sub-urban areas hardly gets a mention. Trends in drug and alcohol abuse are not quantified. Vandalism, criminal damage, graffiti, all of which disfigure residential areas, are ignored. The trend in the number of prosecutions for this type of offence and similar environmental crimes (litter, dog fouling) is not revealed.

Graffiti scars some streets.

The challenge for new Councillors will be not so much to question the information that has been provided by officials, but more to probe the areas where reports are silent.

York river bank needs a tidy up

With the City economy now so dependent on visitors the Council and its partners needs to up its game and give some public areas a face-lift.

Graffiti on Scarborough Bridge
Flood barrier work and graffiti next the Ouse. One of the first things rail travellers see as they enter the City
Missing fencing on Dam Judy Dench Walk – reported several weeks ago – still hasn’t been repaired
while the Lendal Bridge steps need a coat of paint.
Hopefully any investment in public service standards in the City centre won’t be at the expense of the suburbs. Here graffiti and detritus blight Kingsway North
Hopefully the Council will persuade more businesses to “adopt” roundabouts in the City.

Spark appeals against planning decision

Spark April 2018

It seems that the Spark organisation has submitted a last-minute appeal against the Council’s decision not to allow them to keep the Street Art/Graffiti on their Piccadilly frontage. They had hoped that the Council would not enforce the planning condition which requires them to install wood cladding on the outside of the shipping containers.

In August they lost their planning application to revise the conditions governing their use of the site.

Any appeal could take months to resolve, so it may now be down to the Council, as the landlord, to act to remedy the defect. The Council will be expecting a major payment from the business over the next few weeks.

The Spark lease runs out in June 2020.

Chapelfields looking better but delays to some repairs

Responding to a recent survey, local residents had said that litter and weed growth were one of their main concerns.

Good therefore to see this week that the Chapelfields estate is looking much tidier. Most gutters are weed free although the recent wet/warm weather will likely prompt further growth. Litter also seems to be under control.

We’ve reported one or two other public service issues that require attention.

The Council have been asked to give start date for promised additional lay-by on Bramham Ave. The provision of off street parking will make access easier for buses, bin lorries etc.

Notices put up to deter dog fouling

Grange Lane park largely litter free

Gutter in The Burn were reported and are now largely clear of weeds (although there are some on the footpath)

Still waiting for new fence on Walton Place snicket. Was ordered several months ago.

Graffiti on Grange Lane snicket needs to be removed

Lamppost 11 on Grange Lane is leaning. Reported for action

Telecoms junction box on Bramham Road vandalised

Sad to see garage 11 on the Bramham Road block still unused. Was reported to the Council 6 months ago.

Build outs make street cleaning and weed removal difficult

Weeds in St Stephens Square have not been treated this summer.

Trolley storage area on Acomb Car park needs a good clean

High growth of weeds and hedges but damaged verges still stubbornly bare!

The expectation was that the reinstatement of verges in the City following the UFO broadband works would have seen grass growing back by now. Recent rain has provided ideal growing conditions but there is little sign of life so far!

Dust bowl verges on Gale Lane. Still no grass

Tithe Close snicket has been cleared of litter and graffiti

Litter a problems on several snickets at present like this one on The Reeves.

More hedges blocking public footpaths

Hedge stops passengers waiting at Askham Lane bus stop from seeing approaching buses

Nettles another threat for bus passengers. No sign of the Council treating weeds so far this summer

Trolley area on Acomb car park needs a good clean up

York central consultation leaflets dumped

Disappointing to see so many “York Central” consultation leaflets left in the foot-wells of flats in the Kingsway West area. Not a very effective way of spending taxpayers money.

Problems also with graffiti, broken glass, and detritus in the same area. All reported to the Council for attention.

Idyllic scenes on the Ouse BUT…

Cyclists will be hoping that the York Council’s announcement that £500,000 will be spent upgrading major cycle routs in the City will allow for work to be undertaken on the York – Selby path. In places, the popular leisure route has become very uneven following the ravages of winter.

River Ouse at Naburn today. Well within its banks

Snow melt has caused large ponds to form on low woodland

The cycle track is still scarred by graffiti and dumping. The Council no longer clears graffiti unless it is judged to be obscene.

Good news for footpath users – less so on graffiti blight

The Westfield Ward Committee has agreed to provide soft surfacing to make the Hawkshead Close access to Acomb Wood passable. Cllr Sheena Jackson (photo) has been pressing for the change – which will have to wait until the ground has dried out – for some months.


Unfortunately we have had another outbreak of graffiti in west York. Problems in Kingsway West, Bramham Road and Kir Crescent have been reported this weekend.