UPDATE – New representations have now been made by the York Council to the Planning Inspector. They can be viewed by clicking here
The latest exchange of correspondence, between planning inspectors appointed by the government and the City of York Council, on the proposed “Local Plan” simply serves to highlight how difficult it is to produce a robust proposal which can stand the test of time.
The latest exchange concerns apparent lack of justification for the Green Belt boundaries. These heavily influence the size of the area allocated for new housing in the City.
It is not a new argument.
It is nearly 20 years since York embarked on an attempt to update its strategic plan. It came close to success in 2011 when aproposal was ready to be sent off to the planning inspectorate.
Of the five drafts that have seen the light of day, this was perhaps the one which achieved the broadest consensus. It envisaged building an additional 575 homes in the City each year for 30 years
In the main it was some developers and the political fringe who objected to it.
A change of political control saw an inexperienced Labour administration adopt a newproposalwhich would have seen the City increase in size by 25%. The stance contributed to them being booted out of office 4 years later.
Anotherattempt was made but was again jeopardised by the unexpected(in this case the decision to close barracks in the City).
It would be 2019 before the revised plan was ready to be submitted.
It still included a higher growth rate for housing than was necessary to sustain the existing City. It anticipated large amounts of “inward migration” to fill the extra jobs and homes that were envisaged. But again, changing government policies, unstable population growth forecasts and then coronavirus combined to halt the final “examination in public” part of the process.
Now the inspector wants the Council to withdraw its proposals and start again. That would mean more delay, plus expenditure of another £x million for taxpayers with no guarantee that a plan would be approved at the end of the process.
Planning inspectors are paid a fee of around £1000 a day! Some may feel that they have a vested interest in prevarication
The Council has opted to try to provide more information to move things forward.
There are vested interests at work for whom delays are an advantage.
Lack of a strategic blueprint means that developers can chance their arm by submitting planning applications on wholly unsuitable sites in the Green Belt. Schemes at Moor Lane and Boroughbridge Road are recent examples.
Getting a Local Plan adopted is pretty much impossible given the current high level of central government interference.
The City needs to be able to get on and determine its own future. The ballot box provides a safety net against the adoption of extreme policies.
What will happen, before the detached hand of a North Yorkshire Mayor tries to seize the reins of power, remains to be seen.
Hopefully the Council and the planning inspector will now find a way to move forward more quickly.
One family group of cyclists was seen wobbling down the A1237 today. Parallel routes are safer!
NORTH YORKSHIRE POLICE ISSUES ADVICE TO NOVICE CYCLISTS
Police are sharing safety advice for cyclists as more people take to two wheels for their form of daily exercise.
Despite quieter roads, police are warning cyclists they still need to take safety seriously, as well as observing new rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Government measures allow “one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household”.
The government goes on to say: “When doing this you must minimise the time you are out of your home and stay at least two metres away from anyone else that isn’t from your household.”
Major Collision Investigation Sergeant Kirsten Aldridge said:
“While North Yorkshire roads are quieter, there are still lots of things cyclists need to be mindful of.
“Firstly, quieter roads have led to some drivers dramatically exceeding the speed limit. While we’re trying to enforce this as widely as possible, it puts cyclists and pedestrians at significant risk.
“Secondly, the government measures make it clear that cyclists need to practice social distancing and should only ride alone or with people from the same household. Please remember that, as our officers are out on patrol ensuring people follow these rules.
“Finally, we’d remind drivers that they should always expect the unexpected around each corner, especially at the moment, and pass cyclists at a minimum distance of 1.5 metres when it is safe to do so.”
North Yorkshire Police has also noticed that many new cyclists are taking to the road, including families with children who have started cycling as their one-a-day form of exercise.
The force is sharing the following seven safety tips with novices:
Plan your journey in advance and advise someone of where you are going and when you intend to return, especially if you are cycling in a remote location.
If you are riding as a family with young children, consider riding routes with dedicated cycle paths to ensure the safety of young children and pedestrians. Please remember that if you are cycling on the roads that vehicles such as HGVs, are still regularly travelling routes in order to move much-needed supplies. Large vehicles might scare and unbalance young children on bicycles when overtaking them.
Ensure that your bicycle is road-worthy. If it has been unused for a while, ensure that the mechanisms such as brakes and gears are working and that tyres are pumped up before starting any ride. Brake failure can cause a serious collision.
Think about your positioning in the road and whether you can be seen by other road users. Wearing reflective clothing and ensuring that your bike is fitted with lights and/ or reflective discs helps with visibility. Assuming a position towards the centre of the lane where possible maximises the rider’s line of vision and means that other road users have a clear view of you.
If you are riding with protection around your face ensure that this does not restrict your head movement and that you are able to look around freely without restriction so that safety checks can be carried out.
If you’re riding with your family, help motorists overtake you with the safe distance of 1.5 metres, promoted by our Close Pass campaign, by filtering down to single file.
Effectively communicate with other road users, by using hand signals when turning left or right. Try to make eye contact with other road users and pedestrians to ensure that they have seen you.
Sgt Aldridge added: “As long as people follow the government’s rules about how they exercise and observe social distancing while they do it, we want to give people the knowledge they need to ride safely.
“North Yorkshire is a beautiful county with a strong cycling scene and 6,000 miles of roads. That’s plenty of road for everyone if all road users stick to the law, take sensible precautions and look out for one another.”
In west York they list Buongiorno (tel. 07985 797754), Bengal Lounge (tel. 01904 796666), Taverna Yamas (tel. 07960 920979), Woodthorpe Spice (tel. 01904 700070), Salsa Pizza (01904 788888), Pizza Hut (01904 606222), Tea on the Green (01904 789380) and several others.
Not sure how up to date it is.
More deaths from coronavirus at York Hospital
A total of 19 patients with confirmed coronavirus have now died at York Hospital, following a further three fatalities.
Grass cutting and weed control
This service continues.
The Council are maintaining the public highway, which includes highway verges and pavements to keep them in a safe and accessible condition, because:
• If the grass gets too long it will grow onto
pavements causing slip/trip hazards and cause sight line issues at junctions
• if weeds grow on pavements they will become unsafe to walk
• it will cause longer term damage to pavement surfaces,
causing the breakup of the surface
• If we don’t keep the weeds under control at the beginning
of the year this will put greater pressures on the service for the whole year.
All frontline staff, whether gardening or street
cleaning are working alone to ensure social distancing.
NB. Please also keep boundary hedges/tree cut trimmed
back from public footpaths
The Council says that “Staff and volunteers of
our community hubs and in the customer centre are continuing to work incredibly
hard to support residents who need it. We have attached a document (who we are
helping) which sets out who is deemed to be ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’
and the types of support we are offering them and others in communities across
The extremely clinically vulnerable above are supported by food parcels from community hubs.Government guidance on this group and how to protect and work with them Click
In terms of wider support for residents who have asked
for help with food:
Those who are generally able and financially secure
but who are not able to shop are given a list of food delivery businesses
and/or link them to the COVID-19 Mutual Aid facebook groups *
Older or disabled
residents who need help with shopping and are financially secure are
referred to specialist voluntary organisations such as Age UK, Good Gym
The medically shielded are
delivered the Government-provided food which the council supplements
especially for those with special dietary needs eg diabetics or coeliacs
People eligible for Food
Bank vouchers are sent a delivery from the food bank where appropriate
People struggling for
other reasons ie anxiety, caring responsibilities, mobility etc are
delivered a Council-sourced food box put together at the hubs.
In addition, parents of children eligible for Free
School Meals are given vouchers.
As well as this support volunteers are helping to
check on people’s wellbeing by calling individuals to check they are ok and
also chat to them for a while to help them feel they aren’t alone.
Vulnerable people who can ask City of York Council for
help on COVID19help@york.gov.uk or
01904 551550.Anyone can ask for help from COVID19help@york.gov.uk
if they don’t currently get help from CYC or the NHS, or have any
help from family or friends”.
*NB. The Council have still not published a list of shops
undertaking home deliveries despite many requests.
Morrisons now providing an “essentials” telephone ordering/doorstep delivery service for the vulnerable
Yorwaste has become the latest employer to deploy theuir
workfioece in support of street level public services.
The Council started to make payments to local businesses on
Monday. They will be working over Easter to complete the process. They are also
making checks to weed out any fraudulent claims.
We have started making payments, with several million pounds
worth of grants processed today. This is an entirely new process and we have a
duty to quality assure every payment and protect York businesses grants from
potential fraud. We have had 2,500 applications so far and need to run each one
through the government’s anti-fraud software before we can process payments;
this is to verify bank account details of organisations which have never had a
financial relationship with us before. We’ve started contacting businesses as
part of that process and appreciate your patience with us whilst we carry this
out. Please remember we will only ask you to verify your details and would
never ask you to make payments.
Support for children and young people
Kooth (www.kooth.com) is commissioned by TEWV to offer mental health and well -being support to young people in York and North Yorkshire aged 11-18 years. The service provides young people with:
An opportunity to access
support services anonymously
Access to BACP accredited
counsellors via online chat
Access on to online
articles and magazines written by counsellors
An opportunity for young
people to write their own articles and to share their story
Young people can set their
own personal goals and are supported by the counsellors online
Young people can access
the support service from any internet device, 365 days a year.
If you have significant concern regarding a vulnerable pupil please contact MASH: 01904 551900, out of hours: 0845 0349417
If parents have questions regarding childcare, i.e. OOSC/PVI please direct them to: FIS@york.gov.uk
To The Council says it is working to avoid delays to the council’s ambitious housing projects which might incur costs or slow the delivery of much-needed homes.
Following a 48-hour pause on construction at Lowfield Green (to complete a thorough risk assessment) a new site working procedure has been drawn up which allows construction of the 140 new homes to continue. The new way of working also keeps building contractor Wates’s employees and their self-employed contractors safely on site.
Momentum around resident engagement has kept going! A workshop for residents on intergenerational living moved online to involve 19 residents and officers. It used a combination of pre-recorded presentations and a live panel with local residents taking centre stage.
The York Council’s much hyped “shared ownership” programme has provided homes for only 10 families during the last 3 years.
The figures are revealed in a response to a Freedom of Information request.
All the 10 homes were purchased on the open market. The
scheme encourages residents to identify a property for sale before asking the
Council to purchase it for them. The family then buys part of the property on a
mortgage while renting the rest.
The Council has decided to set the rent well below
commercial levels, effectively providing the occupier with a taxpayer subsidy.
The only recorded discussion of the strategy, which will see a large proportion of the 600 new homes being built by the Council over the next few years allocated to shared ownership, came at a private meeting. click for details
The York Council admits that priority for shared ownership homes cannot be given to those on the housing waiting list. Nor can it restrict availability to existing York residents. It blames “Homes England” for these restrictions. These seem perverse restrictions given that the housing list is, and has been for many years, the accepted way of determining housing need and priority in the City.
The Council said that, “A key ambition (of shared ownership)
is to support key workers by marketing housing for them. Key workers include
teachers, health and social care workers, the police, the fire service and
others working in the public sector”. It can only do so through a direct marketing
campaign. It is unclear how many of the homes have gone to “key workers”
landlords have provided 30 shared ownership properties over the last 3 years. Of
these, 29 have been “new build”.
By contrast, only 45 additional homes have been added to the
Council housing stock since 2016.
Only 4 of these were purchased on the open market.
The open market purchase of homes, to supplement the rental stock, has been the flagship policy of the Liberal Democrats for over a decade. It only became a practical option 4 years ago when restrictions on the use of income from Council house sales were relaxed.
There are over 1700 applicants on the housing waiting list in York
Meanwhile the Council has taken on extra staff to manage its new build housing programme. They have so far failed to report how many shared ownership deals have been completed by the new team during the current financial year.
We think it is time for the Council to have a candid public debate about the demand for shared ownership and other forms of housing tenure in the City.
Lowfields Green – “pack em in” approach to housing development?
Not content with being the largest provider of affordable (Council House) accommodation in the City, the York Council is now considering entering the private rented market.
Under plans to be discussed next week, it would set up a company that would develop homes on land currently owned by the authority. They hope to reinvest the profits from rents, and some house sales, into further developments.
In recent times, Council land has generally been developed by Housing Associations who have rented the properties at little more than the rents charged to Council tenants.
This approach is set to change with the Council now saying it will enter the private rental market.
Private rents in the City are typically three times higher than Council house rents. Private rent levels in the city have increased by 17% during the last 5 years.
Any private rented properties managed by the Council would not be subject to “Right to Buy” legislation (and hence discounts).
Individual developments would still have to include a planning requirement for at least 20% affordable units. It is possible that the housing revenue account (mainly income from Council House rents) will be used to purchase homes to expand further the number of affordable units available.
The sites that the Council hopes to develop through a new QUANGO are located at these sites:
Former Askham Bar Park and Ride
Former Burnholme College
“City Centre car parks”,
Former Clifton Without School,
Hospital Fields Road/Ordnance Lane,
Former Lowfield School,
Former Manor School,
Tang Hall Library,
The plan to develop land in the city centre, which is currently used for car parking, may come as a shock. The Council has yet to confirm what its long term policy is on parking space numbers in the city centre, but any reduction is likely to be opposed by beleaguered traders. It is possible that the intention is to add one or two floors above existing car parks. That is an idea that has been floated in the past with mixed reactions.
The inclusion of the other sites may be premature. Particularly so in the case of Lowfields, where a recently submitted planning application has yet to been determined.
Taxpayers face an early blow if the plan is approved.
Upfront costs of £450,000 have been identified. This will mostly be spent on staff.
Ongoing staffing costs of £225,000 a year in the development company are predicted, while forecasts suggest that development costs will not be fully offset by sales income for up to 8 years.
All in all, this is a risky and complex project for the Council to be considering. There will be unease that it is biting off more than it can chew with delays on providing homes the most likely consequence.
In the last couple of years the numbers of new homes built in York has exceeded 1000 – well above draft Local Plan requirements.
Most additional homes constructed in York over the next 25 years will be occupied by inward migrants.
Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge
The latest birth rate figures confirm that less than 10,000 homes are required over the next 25 years to meet the expected natural increase in the City’s population.
Labour however plans to build 22,000 (over the next 15 years) most of which will go to people not currently living in the City.
Yesterday developers announced a plan to build 1500 homes at Huntington on a green field location
The Council’s leadership have shot themselves in the foot claiming that with births exceeding deaths in the City new homes will be occupied by existing York residents.
That is clearly not the case.
Who would occupy 22,000 additional homes click to enlarge
Indeed average housing building rates, over the last 10 years, have more than equalled the natural growth in the City’s population.
The increase in population over the last decade has mainly been caused by higher life expectancy, although the population did get a boost as a result of the (unrepeatable) growth in Higher Education provision in the City.
The census returns indicate an average annual increase in the City’s population of 1691 during the last decade.
There is a housing problem in the City but it stems from high rent levels in the private sector. Even after taking into account housing benefit (rent rebates), renting a home in York is relatively expensive.
Potential owner occupiers can still buy 2 bedroomed homes from £120,000.
That should lead the Council to give the top priority to providing more Council and Housing Association rented homes in the City.
NB. The Council have now accepted that their quoted housing waiting list numbers have been wildly exaggerated for the last 2 years.
Cllr Tracey Laing has told residents that she can’t afford to buy a home in York.
With several 2 bedroomed properties available at around £120,000, one wonders just how much more a £24,000 a year “Cabinet” member needs to earn to get on the housing ladder?
Or indeed how “cheap” a house has to be before it becomes “affordable”.
But the biggest eyebrow raiser will be the comment that 22,000 extra homes are required over the next 15 years because of “increased birth rates”.
No evidence was presented by the Council, before the Local Plan consultation started, to justify such a claim. They should publish a trajectory showing how many of the new homes will be occupied by “local people”.
There was a hike in birth rates 3 years ago but it is falling again. York has a lower birth rate than the rest of the region anyway.
For the 22,000 homes to be occupied by the children of existing York residents, an amazing advance in medical science would be required.
Increased procreation will need to be backdated to 1995.
The Council argued that it needed nearly 5000 homes to meet waiting list demands.
Birth rates click to enlarge
A few weeks ago it downgraded that requirement to 2200, taking 2400 people off the housing list at one fell swoop.
It also claimed that the homes would house workers in new industries which would grow in the City.
Clearly that level of economic growth isn’t going to be sustained, but – if it was – then vast majority of the houses would be occupied by inward migrants.
The representations made by York residents haven’t yet been considered by the Council. We understand that they intend to “redact” responses to obscure the identities of the authors.
Irrespective, that is, of whether the authors wish to remain anonymous.
It is already clear that some Labour hard liners are going to ignore electors, paving the way for a major showdown at the Public Inquiry next year and at the 2015 local elections.