Road users face several more months of congestion on one of York’s main arterial routes.
We commented on Friday that it seemed that gas main works at Micklegate Bar would not be finished by todays deadline.
Further down the route gas main laying is edging forward but with no end in sight.
Work at the St Helens Road junction is due to start tomorrow.
Now the Council has said that it will also start drainage testing, cleaning and improvement works on the section from the A64 to the Askham Bar roundabout.
The work is expected to last for 5 weeks. (This is the section of carriageway which wasn’t resurfaced last year). Most of the work is expected to take place in the late afternoon or overnight.
When this work is completed, works are planned for the section between Askham Bar and Blossom Street.
The improvements are expected to cost around £5 million.
While we think that the Council is right to get as much work done, on well used roads, while traffic levels are relatively low, we are not convinced that the last years work, and this years projects, could not have been better coordinated.
It looks like the Westfield area has been snubbed in the latest highways maintenance budget allocations.
In another “behind closed doors” decision, tens of thousands of pounds, from “delegated” ward budgets, has been allocated for highway and footpath repairs plus some other work like new parking laybys.
Areas benefiting are Bishopthorpe, Clifton, Copmanthorpe, Dringhouses, Fishergate, Guildhall, Heslington, Heworth, Hull Road, Holgate, Huntington, Micklegate and Rural West.
One of the roads omitted from repair programme
The absence of Westfield from the list is doubly surprising.
Some local roads are in an appalling condition.
Local Councillors were given lists of problem locations over 6 months ago.
Poor weather in the intervening period has seen some surfaces – such as those on the Morrell Court access road – deteriorate quite markedly.
The report to the decision meeting gives details of how much money is available for local ward Councillors to manage.
It also explains the assessment process.
“The Ward Highways Capital Scheme is a four-year programme formed from £250k p.a. of capital resources set aside from the main Highways Capital Programme. It is designed to allow wards to bring forward schemes that are important to local residents but would struggle to be prioritised as part of the main capital programme. A nominal allocation is made to each ward on a population basis. Wards are able to aggregate their allocation by carrying over / bringing forward annual allocations in order to undertake more substantial schemes.
The programme was enhanced in 19/20 through the allocation of the following one-off amounts to it:
£500k to use for highways improvements in respect of Roads and Footways
£500k to use for Walking and Cycling improvements
(NB. Details of how the walking and cycling budget is being spent were published a couple of weeks ago. Yet again no projects in the Westfield area were agreed).
The Council says the aim is to use this funding flexibly to meet the needs of wards whilst taking account of all relevant legislation and statutory guidance as highways are heavily regulated environments.
The following process is used to identify schemes:
Community Involvement Officers liaise with ward councillors, residents and key partners to identify potential schemes
The Highways team bring forward condition surveys, customer requests, and safety audits for consideration by wards to help inform their decision-making together with information showing the roads in the ward that are to be repaired through the main capital programme
Ideas are taken to a ward walk-about for initial consideration followed, where appropriate, by detailed feasibility work and any appropriate community / statutory consultation
The Highways team then form the prioritised ideas as far as possible into a coherent capital programme”
Wards not receiving an allocation were Acomb, Haxby, Heworth Without, Hull Road, Holgate and Westfield.
The list of improvements that have been agreed can be viewed by clicking here
The York Council says that it will give more powers to local residents to influence how resources are used in 4 key public service areas.
Increased ward budgets.
A “Safer Communities” fund to meet residents’ priorities.
More ward control of spending on highways to meet
Timely delivery of Housing Environmental
Improvement Schemes (HEIP). NB.These are tenant funded.
The plans are
broadly to be welcomed.
Over the last 8
years the number of locally determined improvement schemes has declined while those
that have been approved have faced unacceptable delays in implementation.
One set of new parking
laybys in the Westfield area took over 4 years to plan and construct.
A reportto the Councils executive meeting this week, paints a confused picture of what is wrong with the current “ward committee” process and what might replace it.
dominated “Ward teams” will stand in for residents associations where the latter
do not exist.
£250,000 has been allocated to wards for them to spend making local communities “safer”. Although joint working with the police is proposed, the major issue – an institutional reluctance to expand the use of technology solutions such as CCTV – remains. So, the most that residents will likely see will be “target hardening” style initiatives.
Two additional staff
members are to be employed helping to administer ward committee improvements. Last
year £157,000 of ward budget was not spent. This is put down to process delays.
£500,000 is being allocated for local highways improvements (road and footpaths). A further £500,000 is allocated for “walking and cycling” improvements. The irony, that better highways maintenance is the best way of encouraging safe walking and cycling, appears to be lost on the report authors.
The £1 million simply
should be added to the road and footpath resurfacing budget.
The budget is classified
as “capital” meaning that it must be spent on an asset with a long lifespan.
That would seem to rule out a crash programme aimed at removing the trees, hedges
and weeds which obstruct many existing foot and cycle paths.
The idea of recognising and responding to local concerns is the right one though.
Poor highway maintenance is invariably the most criticised local public service in residents satisfaction polls.
The Council plans to introduce a “6 stage” process in allocating the estate improvement budget. As the main criticisms of the existing process is that it is cumbersome and slow, the introduction of additional bureaucratic stages is unlikely to be welcomed.
The report talks of the provision of parking lay-by taking up to 24 months to complete. In the past, the use of contractors had cut this target time down to less than 4 months. Councils should return to the old procedure where Residents Associations/Parish Councils took responsibility for drawing up improvement lists.
Finally, the report
talks of using a mechanistic formulae for assessing the “social value” of each
project. As a way of spending scarce public resources this is a discredited
approach. The value of projects can best be determined by door to door surveys thus
giving residents a chance to directly influence their neighbourhood.
The report does not propose any PFIs to monitor progress on any of these programmes.
It does, however, require decisions to be made in public and with a public record. Regular “on line” updates are proposed (although these have been promised in the past but have never been produced in a timely or accessible way)
There are no proposals
which would provide better support for Residents Associations. The Council
recently refused to even publicise RA activities on its web site.
How much locally?
The Council has published a list indicating the amounts that will be available to spend in each ward. In Westfield (one of the largest wards) during the present financial year that totals £55,878
With highways (£63,830)
and safer communities fund (£17,181). That figure increases to nearly £120,000
over 4 years.
To put that into context a 4 space parking bay
costs around £10,000, while the resurfacing of Stonegate is costing £1/2
million this year.