York Council criticised for Lowfields decisions

Lowfields Green – Unimaginative layout

The “Save Lowfields Playing Field Action Group” are rightly unhappy this morning. https://www.facebook.com/LowfieldsActionGroup/

They have criticised the quality of analysis which preceded the councils decision yesterday to form a development company which may be used to build on the Lowfields playing fields.

The Council also decided to back financially the provision of football pitches at Bishopthorpe although these are too far away to be relevant to the leisure needs that already exist and those of the 350 new residents that the Lowfields development will attract.

Many of the  pkanned hiomes will be for private rent. They will not be added to the Councils housing revenue account and so will not be subject to “right to buy”. However private rent levels are high.

Typically a 3 bedroomed house in the Lowfields area would cost around £800 a month in rent payments. 

The Action Group rightly point out that the decision is not only risky for taxpayers but also premature because the planning application for the site has not yet been considered.

The Lowfields scheme has been criticised by local residents for providing an inadequate amount of open space and for the cramped and unimaginative layout design.

NB. Both Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates in the 20-15 Council elections promised to conserve the Lowfields playing fields and restricted development to the built footprint of the old school.

 

 

Elderly in York to be hit as Tories plan to cut garden assistance scheme

Over a year ago, the York Council notified elderly and disabled people that it planned to scrap its garden assistance scheme. The scheme employs contractors to cut the hedges and lawns of elderly and disabled residents.

The plans produced a barrage of complaints and the threat was withdrawn

Now a report has revealed that a Tory Councillor is again planning to slash entitlement to the service. About 50% of current users will be told to make other arrangements.

It appears that some people aged over 70 with severe disabilities may continue to get the service from an estate “handymen”, but many others will miss out.

Story last year

The cuts are expected to save the Council around £40,000 a year.

The Tories claim that this cut is essential to balance the books. They forget that last week a review of the Housing Revenue Account revealed that it will have an average credit balance of over £30 million in each of the next 30 years.

This partly arises from the expected 1% per annum real terms increases in rents.

As well as kicking existing users off the programme, the report talks of establishing a “waiting list” for people who need the service.

The Councillor responsible for the proposal is Sam Lyle a youth who recently graduated from University. Quite what he knows about the challenges faced by many older residents will no doubt become clear over the next few days.

Fortunately, as we have reported before (left), there are a lot of caring students at the York and St Johns Universities who hopefully will prove to be part of the solution to this shabby proposal

In the meantime, the Council’s website is down. Anyone trying to Email Councillors is referred to a web page apparently containing a list of contact telephone numbers. http://democracy.york.gov.uk/mgCommitteeMailingList.aspx?ID=0

That web page is also currently unavailable!

 

York Labour housing building plans questioned

A Labour leaflet advocating large scale housing building plans on greenfield sites has been criticised by the Liberal Democrats.

The Labour plans would see many playing fields and green belt sites developed. They are similar to those promoted by the party in its 2014 Local Plan which failed to secure government approval

Now the Liberal Democrats have hit back with some home truths

 

Muddle, confusion and fabrication – York Council approach to Lowfields planning application

Many residents living in the Lowfields area were surprised to get a letter last week from the Councils Housing Directorate. The letter told them that two planning applications had been submitted which would lead to the development of the whole of the Lowfields site.

The letter quoted reference numbers. 17/02428/FUL, covering roads and housing, and 17/02429/OUTM covering “the whole site including self-build, community housing, care home and health facilities”

It turns out that someone jumped the gun as these applications still do not appear on the “planning on line” web site  https://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications//

The letter claims that there have been changes made following the last consultation with residents in the summer. The Council fails to highlight what these changes are.

The housing department also claims that “landscaped green space will be open to the public for the first time” In practice the playing fields were open to the public until about 5 years ago when the Council tried to secure the boundaries. At the time, they said this could only be a for a few months.

The usable green space, on the plans that have been published so far, show an area of useable amenity land which is similar in size to the small area which lies at the junction of Dijon Avenue and Lowfield Drive.

The Council has blundered if it is canvassing for support – at taxpayers’ expense – for a scheme which is subject to a planning application. There is a long-standing protocol that, where a local authority is both the landowner and the planning authority, then it must behave in an impartial way. That principle has been breached already. It is likely to increase the pressure for the proposal to be called in by central government for determination.

Perhaps even more extraordinary, was a claim made by the Tory Councillor responsible for housing on Friday who said that the houses would be built by the Council. It would be the “biggest housing development by the Council since 1988”

It emerged today that no such decision has been taken.

The media release which led to the story in the media – and apparently issued by the Council – was not published on their web site 

Indeed, with only 20% of the properties likely to be affordable, there would be little incentive for the Council to take on the burden of appointing professional staff to project manage what would only be a 3-year project.

Private house builders have been subject to the 20% rule for over a decade and could produce homes more quickly and economically.

You only have to look at the delays dogging Council building projects (Mansion House, Guildhall, York Central, Community Stadium) to see why any entry into the speculative housing building market would be viewed with alarm by taxpayers.

York Council to sell Bootham Row car parking spaces

New threat to sell off Council housing land

Land at Bootham Row to be sold

The York Council’s Executive is being recommended to sell off 5 car parking spaces at Bootham Row car park. The land (see map) also accommodates motorcycle parking.

The Council is hoping to raise £155,000 from a local developer who hopes to remodel 27 Bootham.

The car parking spaces generate over £7000 a year for taxpayers

Coming at a time when pressure on City centre car parks is being blamed for the accelerating decline in the City centre retail economy, the plan is bound to raise eyebrows. It is reminiscent of the plan, hatched in 2011 by the then Labour led Council administration, which proposed to sell off the nearby Union Terrace car park. That idea collapsed after being heavily criticised by both residents and traders.

Housing land sale

More alarming is the publication of a lofty document which seeks to justify a new “Asset Management Strategy”. It is due to be discussed by the Council’s Executive on 28th September.

The report claims that the last strategy, launched in 2011, has been a success.

Amongst the credulous statements that Councillors are being asked to believe, are claims that that the York Central and Castle Gateway sites “have been made more economically active” (In fact very little progress has been made on either project over the last 6 years).

The report goes on to claim that older people’s accommodation has been improved. Again, the reality is that the project is running 4 years behind schedule.

Sanderson House community centre

Most bizarre is a claim that leasing community centres to local organisations  “have allowed voluntary groups to flourish, increase activity, improve outcomes and attract external funding”. The reality, at least at the two community centres in the Westfield area, is that volunteers have been given a crushing burden to handle with minimal Council support.  Most ad hoc leisure events at the centres have stopped with most bookings now being from third parties (which the management committees have to accept simply to pay for running costs)

The Council has similarly jettisoned its commitment to many local sports facilities.

The report talks vaguely of joint use arrangement with other public-sector providers such as GPs.

It seems likely that the Council intends to target staff who work in neighbourhood buildings potentially repeating the disastrous policy – from a customer service perspective – of closing facilities like the Acomb Housing office and the Beckfield Lane recycling centre.

Derelict site behind Acomb Explore Library

The report says that 5 (unidentified) Housing department owned sites will either be sold or freed up for redevelopment.

The report pointedly fails to identify the location of these sites.

There are of course pieces of Council owned land which are crying out for development.

These include the land to the rear of the Acomb Library, which was schedule as an extension providing “one stop shop” facilities – with residential accommodation above – over 8 years ago.

We are still waiting to see some progress.

New elderly persons homes planned for Clifton plus changes for services for adults with learning disabilities

Burton Stone community centre to be demolished

New community facilities and 33 new homes for older people could be built in Clifton.

The homes include the city’s first available to buy for shared ownership on a council-built care scheme. This proposed £6.667 million scheme will meet increasing need for extra care for the city’s growing number of older residents and replaces an existing community centre.

The 29 new extra care apartments and four two-bedroomed bungalows would be built as an annexe to the Marjorie Waite Court extra care scheme. Up to ten homes could be sold on a shared equity basis, helping older homeowners – 80% of whom own their own home in York – to move to more appropriate accommodation.

It forms part of the council’s programme to increase high quality accommodation with care for rising population of older people, as agreed in June 2015.

The scheme’s tenants, local residents and groups using the Burton Stone Community Centre site were consulted on and their feedback has helped shape the proposal.

Besides using the land currently occupied by Burton Stone Community Centre to extend the extra care scheme, new community facilities will be built to meet the needs of local people, groups and Marjorie Waite Court tenants. Some of the existing users of the Burton Stone centre will move to new facilities in Burnholme, Tang Hall.

City of York Council’s Executive will also be asked to give their consent for the council to go out to the market to procure support providers that will deliver services for adults and young people with learning disabilities when they meet on Thursday 31 August.

At their meeting Executive will be asked for their consent to go out to tender for two schemes, a day base at the Burnholme health and wellbeing campus and a short breaks service, currently at Flaxman Avenue.

If they agree, Executive will be asked to delegate the award of the tenders to the corporate director of health, housing and adult social care in consultation with the executive member for health, housing and adult social care.

If approved, the day base will be part of the new Burnholme health and wellbeing campus, where building work is currently ongoing. The site, as a whole, will see over £35m of public and private sector investment and provide care, health, community and sports facilities as well as new housing and is expected to be ready in 2018.
(more…)

Secret land deal at “Lowfields Green”

The Council has revealed that it has done a deal to sell 0.74 acres of land to Yorspace at the Lowfield school site.

The land is located next to Tudor Road and is expected to accommodate a high-density development of 19 houses and flats. The communal living style model involves people purchasing shares in a “Mutual Home Ownership Society”.

A report, made public only after a decision had been taken says, “It is a high-density development, to reflect its sustainable objectives, and will also include a community building which can be used for events, as well as some shared outdoor communal areas and growing spaces. As part of the groups green objectives, they are aiming for around 1-1.5 parking spaces per house. The site will be constructed using a variety of environmentally friendly materials and processes, possibly including straw bale and solar”.

The report also says, “As part of the agreement they may also take on the management of the growing spaces and some green areas of the Lowfield site and will run them for the wider community’s benefit”.

The council is refusing to say how much the land will be sold for nor will it say what the market value of the land is.

It is clear that a substantial discount has been negotiated.

It appears that the Council is not stipulating that the plots should be reserved for use by  local people with a proven need for cheap accommodation (e.g. on the housing waiting list &/or key workers).

Yorspace plans

The Council has already changed its plans for the relocation of the football team which currently uses the Lowfields playing field.

In December, they were supposed to be relocated to Tadcaster Road. Last month the Council said they were considering fencing off Chesneys Field to accommodate them.

That announcement produced a barrage of opposition from the current users of Chesneys Field.

Residents opposed fencing the public open space by a ratio of 3:1 in a recent door to door survey.

The decision to sell off the land to Yorspace  was taken last week by the Councils Director of Health, Housing and Adult Social Care (Jon Stonehouse), at a private, behind closed doors, meeting.

There was no consultation with affected residents before the meeting was held.

Old Manor school buildings set to be demolished

York’s planning committee is being recommended to approve an application to demolish the old Manor School buildings on Low Poppleton Lane.

The planning application, which will be discussed at a meeting taking place on 17th August, also contains details of major changes to road junction arrangements in the area.

The changes are necessary to allow new access roads, to the former British Sugar site, to be constructed.

In turn, this will facilitate the erection of new housing in the area.

There have been relatively few objections to the plan although the Council is being recommended to provide mitigation measures to protect the well-being of the bats that live in the school building.

Some better news for those on the housing waiting list in York

Mean waiting times on the waiting list for those seeking to rent one and two bedroomed properties reduced last year.

In 2015/2016 the median waiting time for a property from the housing waiting list was 259 days

Last year (2016/2017) this had fallen to 222 days

Waiting times for 3 bedroomed properties increased.

Listed below by year are the median waiting times for a property by assessed bed need

2015/16 2016/17

· 1-bed home

277 162

· 2-bed home

255

237

· 3-bed home

226

371

· 4-bed home 321

326

By the end of April 2017 the numbers on the waiting list in York for different sizes of property were

  • 1038 applications for a 1 bedroom
  • 642 applications with a 2 bed need
  • 200 applications with a 3 bed need
  • 45 applications with a 4 bed need
  • 5 applications with a 5 bed need

Applicants seeking to rent properties from social landlords in the City should visit the following web site. https://www.northyorkshirehomechoice.org.uk/

Latest Local Plan forecasts 20% growth in size of York by 2032

Papers published for a meeting taking place on 13th July say that an additional 19,000 homes should be built in the City before 2032.

Of the target of 953 dwellings per year, around 80 per annum (10%) have been added in order to make housing more “affordable”.

The papers are coy about where the additional 35,000 residents will come from.

Previous drafts have identified immigration as the main source of new labour, although this seems to be in conflict with the present governments polices. Around 2000 inward migrants have arrived in the City in each of the last five years.

A map of the proposed land allocations can be viewed by clicking here

Proposed land allocations – click to access

Hopes that the identification of more building land at threatened MOD sites (Fulford Road and Strensall) would reduce the pressure to build on green fields sites, like the Lowfields playing fields, have been dashed. Officials are recommending that the additional 1392 homes that could be built there over the next 15 years will simply add to the target housing  completion rate (satisfying the increased annual building target of 953 homes per year).

Average housing building rates in York have been about 700 pa over the last 5 years, although last year over 1100 homes were completed. Most homes built in York over the last decade have been erected on what are known, to the planng world, as “windfall sites”; meaning they were not identified as housing development land in local plans.

House prices and building rates

There are currently 3758 planning permissions for homes which remain unimplemented.

The Local Plan remains vague about how growth of the order proposed can be accommodated without serious -and very costly – improvements in infrastructure (notably, transport and healthcare).

Westfield

The new proposals have little direct impact for the Westfield area. None of the land between the existing built u-p area and the northern by pass is slated for development.

However officials have changed the proposals for the development of the playing fields at Lowfields. They are incorporating the plans favoured by some Councillors which would see the number of dwellings built increased from 137 to 162.

There were 10 objections to development of the Lowfields playing field (including Sport England) while only 3 representations were made in support of the Councils plans.

Extract from Council report covering Lowfields devlopment