£2.67m investment in specialist York schools

Two of York’s specialist schools could benefit from a £2.67m investment if plans are approved by City of York Council’s Executive later this month (20 May).

The Executive will be asked to approve plans for capital works at Applefields Special School, which supports secondary aged students, with a wide range of special educational needs; and Danesgate which is home to York’s Pupil Referral Unit and supports young people with Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs.

The proposals recognise the continued rise in pupil numbers at Applefields over the last four years and a need to better support the needs of children and young people with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs at Danesgate.

Members will be asked to approve plans to approve works to adapt existing office and break out space into classrooms at Applefields, ready for the September 2021 intake. The proposals would enable the school to support the increasing number of young people with highly complex needs, such as those with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), autism, and those with the highest level of social and emotional need.  

Phase 2 of the project would see the creation of essential administrative space and, if approved, would be completed by September 2022. The total value of the works is approximately £765,000. Remodelling and reorganisation of the site at Danesgate is needed to reflect the changing needs of the children and young people using the centre, with increasing numbers of pupils having communication and interaction needs.

The proposals also recognise the rising number of children and young people who are unable to attend school with their peers due to mental health needs and an increasing need to have more bespoke provision for many students who display anxieties, including specific intervention and break out spaces.

The proposed capital works at Danesgate would see the reconfiguration of the current buildings, to create smaller classrooms and breakout spaces, enabling the centre to meet the varied needs of pupils. The total cost of the proposed works is £1.9m.

Cllr Keith Orrell, the council’s Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education, said:

We know that the number of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, including those with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs, across the city is continuing to increase. As a city committed to supporting all our residents, it’s important that we ensure that we are able to provide the right support to enable all our children and young people to fulfil their individual potential.

Delays in York Council investment programme

A report which is being discussed on Thursday reveals that the Council has fallen behind with several major investment projects.

 It means that funding is being slipped from 19/20 into future financial years.

The biggest embarrassment is the Community Stadium project which is between 8 and 1 year behind schedule depending on when you started counting.

A development for the homeless on James Street has also recently been revealed as lagging 12 months behind its target completion date (although it doesn’t rate a mention in the Council report).

Setting the scene for a major increase in investment (and consequent debt levels), the report makes some strange claims.

Centre of Excellence for Disabled children “opening in May?)

Foremost amongst them is a statement that the Centre of Excellence for the Disabled, currently being constructed on Ascot Way, will open for business in May of this year. Really?

Site for new football pavilion


We are assured that show homes at Lowfields will also be available in “late summer” while the waterlogged Ashfield football site – located off Tadcaster Road – will have a clubhouse open by September!

Perhaps more understandably, cautious officials now say that the Community Stadium will be opening to the public “during the year”. No more hostages to fortune then!

Call for government to invest in the East Coast Main Line to improve reliability

• The East Coast Main Line is a key strategic rail route, stretching more than 500 miles, from Inverness and Aberdeen, through key stops at Edinburgh, Newcastle and York to London

East Coast Main Line

Councillors are calling on the UK and Scottish governments to secure funding for Network Rail to improve reliability with significant economic benefits

The Consortium of East Coast Mainline Authorities (ECMA) is calling on the UK and Scottish governments to invest in the East Coast Main Line, after research conducted on behalf of ECMA identified over £60 million of economic benefits per year through punctuality and reliability improvements on the line.

A third of the UK population lives within 20 minutes of an East Coast Main Line station and together they deliver 41% of the UK’s GDP.  However, constraints on the line can lead to significant disruption and in 2018, 12 major incidents occurred costing the UK economy £46.28 million. Each major incident equates to a full loss of service per day and this unreliability is one of the contributing factors to the Public Performance Measure* (PPM) of the East Coast Main Line dropping below 80% for the first time in 10 years.

Localised and smaller incidents can also cause significant disruption across the rail network but if the number of delays on the line over 10 minutes were halved, this would deliver an additional £62.8 million per annum to the wider economy.

In June 2018, the Government announced £780 million of investment for the East Coast Main Line in Control Period 6 (2019-2024), which will reduce journey times on key flows and provide new direct links to some cities and towns. However, the majority of this work will be completed by 2021 with no current plans for further improvements or resources to fund them.

ECMA members are calling on the government to identify additional funding to help tackle issues of capacity and resilience on the line, with Network Rail indicating that they have the capacity to undertake further work to improve the East Coast Main Line from 2021, if they can secure additional funding. 

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council and Chair of ECMA, said:

“Investment in the East Coast Main Line will deliver economic benefits across the country from the Highlands to Hertfordshire and means customers benefit from better reliability and greater resilience.

“Currently, the line is vulnerable to major disruptions which is why ECMA is calling on the UK and Scottish governments to secure addition funding for Network Rail to deliver a more reliable rail network for customers.”

Cllr Andy DAgorne, Deputy Leader of City of York Council and Executive Member for Transport, said:

“York’s rail connectivity is a key asset to the city’s residents and businesses and a world-class transport hub which contributes significantly to our city’s economy. The ability to visit and do business with cities like London or Edinburgh in a day is a substantial benefit to the region which relies on this infrastructure being fit for purpose.

“It is vital that this much needed, sustainable transport network is given the care and investment it deserves to serve the populations up and down the country for years to come.”

In a letter sent to the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland, members of ECMA are calling on the governments to invest in the East Coast Main Line, and in particular:

  • Deliver the promised infrastructure improvements to allow the full delivery of the 2021 timetable
  • Secure additional funding for Network Rail to invest in East Coast Mail Line reliability improvements
  • Ring-fence Network Rail’s future funding for the East Coast Main Line improvements in Control Period 7 (2024-29)

York playgrounds to get overdue refurbishment

…but there is a catch

The York council plans a £250,000 make-over of playgrounds in York. Their plans will be discussed at a meeting next week. The initiative is welcome, but the timetable produced means that improvements in our parks will not be evident until late next year.

Many of York’s playgrounds are poorly maintained with litter, weeds and dog fouling common problems

Standards in many parks and playgrounds have declined in recent years. They have been an easy target for Council expenditure cuts. As a result, it has been left to volunteers to undertake minor refurbishment work while items of broken equipment have often remained unusable for months on end.

The Liberal Democrats – who are now part of the leadership of the Council – advocated for many years that at least one piece of equipment at each major playground should be renewed each year. This would have ensured that there was something novel to engage children’s interest on a regular basis while avoiding the whole-scale decline, and eventual expensive renewal, of complete play areas.  This approach seems set to be abandoned by the new Council leadership.

We agree with the report, which has been written by officials, when it says “Whilst the number and geographical spread of equipped playgrounds is therefore generally good, their play value is more varied. This reflects their age and sporadic local and national investment that has been available”.

The report promises an “audit” of all playgrounds with a view to identifying “urgent investment needs e.g. replacement swings, seats, surfacing repairs”. The budget for this work will be £150,000. The report lists the qualifying play areas but omits some such as the one  in Dickson Park on Tedder Road.

More controversial, is an allocation of £100,000 as a “challenge fund” for larger refurbishment schemes. One feature of these is that matching funding will be expected from parishes or social housing providers. In theory the fund will be available in non parished areas but the examples of fund raising quoted in the report (Poppleton, West Bank Park) refer to typical “Middle England” neighbourhoods where fund raising for new amenities is relatively easy.

It’s potentially bad news for areas like Westfield (the statistically poorest part of the City) which also has a high proportion of under 16’s in its population

The area has suffered badly as a result of recent Council decisions which have seen the removal of open spaces, sports facilities and the multi user games area at Kingsway West and Lowfields.

It seems that it may also be last in the queue for improved play facilities.

Council to spend £800,000 on rapid chargers for electric vehicles

Many transport investment projects – due to be completed in the last financial year – will now be slipped into the current year.

A council report says that “This high level of underspend was due to delays in progressing some of the larger schemes in the programme; additional DfT funding being received too late in the year to deliver the schemes; and delivery of some schemes under budget”.

In total over £8 million will be spent.

Traffic lights will be moderdenised

Traffic lights will be modernised

  • £1.6 million of this will go on public transport mainly involving bus stop improvements and modifications to reduce emissions.
  • £3.6 million will be spent on traffic management including £1.2 million on easing problems on the A19 near Fulford, £800,000 on “rapid vehicle chargers” and over £400,000 on renewing traffic signals
  • £1.2 million will be spent on pedestrian and cycle schemes with the largest proportion of this going on a new cycle/pedestrian crossing next to Scarborough Bridge
  • £300,000 is allocated to safety schemes including improvements near Hob Moor School (changes to signing & lining), at the Kingsway West/Tudor Road junction and at the Cornlands Road/Gale Lane junction

Following a successful bid to the Government’s Office of Low Emission Vehicles, the council has been awarded £800k funding for the installation of rapid charger hubs around the outer ring road and city centre areas over the next two years. The Council will also complete the installation of electric vehicle rapid charging points at ten businesses in York.

Council report lacks transparency!

Council report lacks transparency!

The Council says that the conversion of tour buses to electric drive was not progressed in 2015/16 due to delays in appointing a contractor to carry out the work. It is proposed to add the £476k grant to the 2016/17 programme to allow the conversion work to be progressed.

Existing "cycle network" click to access

Existing “cycle network” click to access

Although funding has been allocated for the installation of electronic “next bus” real time information screens at sub-urban bus stops it is unclear whether the busy stops in Acomb will finally get the facility.

A full list of the scheme due to be completed this year can be seen by clicking here.

Separately the Council is trying to sort out where it goes next with improvements to the cycle network. The Council currently has 141 separate cycles schemes in the pipeline for implementation.

We think this is too many and that they should concentrate resources on providing direct, off road, links on routes with the highest commuter demand. They are taking a step towards that approach at a meeting next week.

Under a newly prioritised list the most urgent schemes are now judged to be:

  • University Road/Field Lane (near University),
  • Monkgate roundabout,
  • York University internal links (Heslington East)
  • Tower Gardens access gates &
  • a cross City centre route (e.g. High Petergate / Low Petergate / Colliergate / Fossgate / Walmgate)
Extensions of the expensive orbital cycle path around the A1237 – controversially started near Monks Cross – will now have a low priority.