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.
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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

 

 

 

Local Plan – September start for more consultation as MOD land set to be reserved for 1392 homes

 Labour set to oppose building more homes in York

Labour’s Local Plan proposals 2013

York councillors are to be presented with an update on progress with technical work on the Local Plan when they meet next week.

A report will be considered by the Local Plan Working Group on Monday 10 July before it is taken to the Executive on Thursday 13 July.

Councillors will be asked to approve the production of a comprehensive draft plan over the summer, ready for public consultation in September.

This will lead towards the publication of a final plan early next year.

Since the last major update, work has been ongoing to assess the impact of the release of three Ministry of Defence (MOD) sites in York which are to be sold off.

Councillors will be advised the MOD land at Imphal and Queen Elizabeth Barracks could be suitable for future housing development, potentially providing 769 and 623 dwellings respectively. Labour have already said that they oppose providing additional homes on these sites preferring to build on Green Belt land (see left)

The third MOD site, Towthorpe Lines, is not deemed suitable for housing but could be considered for employment use instead.

The Local Plan Working Group and Executive will consider issues associated with how land might be provided in the future for both new housing and employment development as well as setting a long-term green belt boundary for York.

Housing numbers. click to enlarge

The council has already consulted on the local plan ‘preferred sites’.  This happened for a ten-week period in 2016.  Over 2,250 responses were received from individuals, housing developers and stakeholders.

The next step is to produce a full draft plan.  Councillors will be asked to approve this.

It is expected that further consultation take place in September.  Pre-publicity would start in August when details of the proposals would be sent to residents in a special, York-wide, edition of the ‘Our City’ council newspaper.

The results of the consultation will be shared with the working group and Executive in January before a final version of the Local Plan is prepared.  It is anticipated this would be subject to final formal consultation in February 2018 and could be submitted to government in spring 2018.

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Lowfields playing field development – self builders sought

Lowfields plans

People wanting to build their own home are invited to drop in to West Offices between 6pm and 8pm on Tuesday 11 July to find out about opportunities at what the Council styles as its “Lowfield Green” development.

The self build site is adjacent to the controversial playing field development which is being opposed by local residents. The self build site backs onto Tudor Road

The Council says that later in July, neighbours of the Lowfield site will be invited to attend a drop-in session at Gateway Community Centre, Front Street, Acomb (Tuesday 18th July between 4.30 pm and 7.00 pm) to see how the proposals have developed since the public engagement last year and in advance of the submission of a planning application later this summer.

There will also be a display of the Lowfield Green proposals at Acomb Explore from 18th July 2017 and the master plan drawing will also be available online.

The Lowfields Action Group is planning to oppose any move to build on the playing fields,. They believe that the Council has misjudged the protection which is afforded by national legislation for green spaces of this sort.

The Council says it wants to encourage self-build housing and in 2016, councillors agreed to include space for self-build plots on the southern part of the former Lowfield School site in Acomb.

This development will include new housing, housing for over 55’s and a residential care home.

This self build event will showcase self-build housing and the planned plots at Lowfield Green.

An application for outline planning permission for self-build homes on this land will be made later this year and the plots will become available in 2018.

Some 90 people who have expressed an interest in creating their own home have been invited to the event to discuss how the council can help, and others are also welcome to attend. Besides conversations with council officers, representatives from YorSpace, the community-led housing group, will be there as well to discuss individual plans, ideas and to listen to views on what interested residents would like to see on their development. YorSpace plans to construct 19 homes with communal space and shared gardens on land set aside for this purpose at Lowfield Green.