York’s green spaces; going, going…

It is sad to see so many green spaces in the City being gradually eroded.

The reality of planning decisions, taken by the Council over the last few years, are rapidly becoming clearer. The trend is particularly evident in west York where former school playing field have proved to be vulnerable.

It started with the development of the playing field at the former Our Lady’s school site on Windsor Garth. The “Hob Stone” estate took up the whole of the site with no open space retained.

Next was the controversial decision to build on the Lowfields playing field. The decision was made worse when over £400,000, intended to fund alternative sports pitches, was earmarked for a site near Bishopthorpe, which is some 3 miles from Lowfields.

Concrete now dominates the Lowfields school playing field

The Hob Moor playing field has been torn up and is now part of a building site
The Acomb Bowling club and adjacent Council owned land on Front Street is now also a building site

There are alternative brownfield (previously developed) sites in the City. Strangely the local MP over the weekend announced her opposition to building 2500 homes on the land to the rear of the station while planners have omitted the Strensall army camp from Local Development Plans.

There seems to be little reason why a development at the latter could not be restricted to the “built footprint” of the former army buildings. This would still leave large amounts of new public open space. That option is under consideration as part of the latest consultation on the Local Plan

But for west York the outlook remains bleak. The Council is still dilly dallying on proposals to replace the Multi User Games Area on Kingsway West. The existing one is no longer usable as it is no part of a buildng compound.

…and the newly elected Council, despite lofty talk of having a new “stray” in the City, has noticeably failed to put any flesh on the bones of the idea. Prompt action is needed to secure more public open space on the periphery of the City.

Currently there is little sign of any urgency, or even engagement, by the occupants of West Offices.

Have your say on proposed modifications to York’s Local Plan through 6-week consultation

From Monday 10 June, York residents, businesses and other interested groups will get the chance to comment on additional evidence and proposed modifications to the city’s Local Plan.

Planning inspectors have asked for the six-week consultation period before examining the plan at public hearing sessions later this year.

The consultation will ask for comments on the following additional evidence and modifications, including:

  • removing housing site allocations at Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Strensall and Land at Howard Road, Strensall),
  • formally revising the Objectively Assessed Housing Need (OAN) from 867 to 790 dwellings in York each year for the duration of the plan. 
  • amendments to the greenbelt boundary have also been proposed, in order to take into account recent changes such as planning decisions in York and the removal of the Strensall Barracks site.

To have your say, visit www.york.gov.uk/localplan. The consultation will end at midnight on Monday 22 July 2019.

Hard copies of all of the consultation documents will also be available in West Offices, Station Rise and York Explore Library. The main consultation documents will be available in all libraries and Explore Centres in York.

The removal of site allocations – totalling 550 dwellings – follows a recent visitor survey commissioned by City of York Council, supported by Natural England, which highlighted that there would be significant effects on the integrity of the Strensall Common, a protected site, if the proposed housing sites adjacent to the Common remain in the Local Plan. 

The reduction in the housing need figure reflects updated national projections for population and housing growth which forecast lower growth than was previously projected. The additional Green Belt Topic Paper Addendum provides further detail on why and where the proposed green belt boundary has been drawn.

The Planning Inspector has asked for the consultation as they consider these issues to be fundamental to what they are examining the soundness and legal compliance of the plan. This will give all interested parties the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes prior to the hearing sessions.

The Inspectors have directed that the consultation is open to the general public for a period of six weeks and has also advised direct consultation with the Ministry Of Defence, which owns the barracks, and Natural England.

The consultation will only look at these specific modifications and not other aspects of the plan such as the other proposed site allocations. All aspects of the plan will be examined by the Inspector during the subsequent hearing sessions. 

All the representations received during the consultation will be processed and sent to the planning inspectors, who have committed to holding the public hearing sessions as soon as possible after that.

You can read all correspondence with the Planning Inspectors at www.york.gov.uk/localplanexamination

York’s Local Plan

The Local Plan is a framework to guide and promote development, and to protect the quality of York’s unique historic, natural and built environment. The document sets strategic priorities for the whole city and forms the basis for planning decisions; it must be reviewed at regular intervals to be kept up to date.

York’s Local Plan was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in May 2018.  For more details on the process and progress to secure a Local Plan for York, visit https://www.york.gov.uk/localplan

Council election manifestos compared

6. Planning and Social Care

A draft Local Plan agreed for submission in 2011 would have seen 575 homes per annum built in the City.

10 year housing completions trend in York

Labours “Big City” approach alternative was floated in 2013.  It would have seen the City grow by 25%. Many of the houses would have been built in the Green Belt, which would have been damaged irreparably. The plan never reached the public inquiry stage.

During the last three years an average of 1131 additional homes have been provided in the City each year.

This compares to an average, over the last 10 years, of 652.

The latest Local Plan – still not adopted – envisages 790 homes a year being provided. This is still much higher than ONS projects say is necessary and would require a sustained growth in jobs, the scale of which has not been not seen since the Industrial Revolution.

Labours manifesto still advocates building in the Green Belt.

The number of York residents supported at home through care package is around 1800. About 650 residents are admitted to nursing or residential care each year. The figures are stable

Over the last 18 months the numbers of delayed discharges from hospital resulting from unavailable “care in the community” facilities has fluctuated between 4 and 11 patients.

There have been delays in the Councils elderly persons new accommodation strategy. Although some homes have closed, there has been little progress “on site” in building new facilities at Oakhaven, Lowfield, Haxby etc.

Local Plan update

York’s Local Plan is now one step closer to commencing hearing sessions led by the Planning Inspectorate.

This follows the submission of important evidence to the independent inspectors, who have been appointed by the Government to examine the plan.

This includes the modifications to remove housing site allocations (Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Strensall and Land at Howard Road, Strensall), which would remove 550 dwellings from the submitted plans housing supply. 

This follows a recent visitor survey commissioned by City of York Council, supported by Natural England, which highlighted that there would be significant effects on the integrity of the Strensall Common, a protected site, if the proposed housing sites adjacent to the Common remain in the Local Plan. 

A report detailing these recent modifications was approved by Executive at a meeting on Wednesday 7 March.

In addition to this, proposed minor modifications have also been submitted to formally revise the Objectively Assessed Housing Need (OAN) to 790 dwellings in York per annum. Minor amendments to the greenbelt boundary have also been proposed, in order to take into account recent changes such as planning decisions in York and the removal of the Strensall Barracks sites.

It is hoped that by submitting this evidence to the inspectors, progress can be made to take the Local Plan through the examination stages and determine whether it is sound.

Regular updates will be provided on the Local Plan submission webpage at: www.york.gov.uk/localplanexamination  

Poor research or something more sinister?

A few days ago, Labour issued a statement condemning the City of York Council for agreeing to sell off Bootham Park Hospital. Only problem was that the Council had never owned the hospital site. Decisions about its future rest with NHS property, a central government agency.

Labours 2014 plan to develop land on Moor Lane

Now Labour candidates in Dringhouses and Woodthorpe are trying to blame the local coalition for the proposal to build near to Askham Bog on Moor Lane.

It appears that the candidates – who in fairness appear to have little local experience – do not realise that it was a Labour controlled Council that first identified the site for development when they published their version of the Local Plan in 2014 (it is still available to be read “on line”).

The previous version of the Plan, agreed by the outgoing LibDem led council in 2011, had retained the site in the Green Belt.

An incoming Labour administration adopted a “Big City” approach to development and earmarked large areas of Green Belt for development. They wanted to grow the size of the City by 25%. This included building on the land at Moor Lane.

Later the plan was jettisoned when Labour lost control of the Council following a by election in the autumn of 2014.

Labour on social media Mar 2019

The latest version of the Local Plan – backed by the ruling LibDem/Tory coalition – protects the Moor Lane site from building.

Not withstanding this, developers are still trying to use the 2014 draft Local Plan as leverage to get planning permission for the site before the final revised  Plan is implemented  by central government.

It takes a particularly thick brass neck to accuse your opponents of responsibility for a mistake that your own side made.

NB. Labour have published their 2019 local election manifesto. In it they promise to build hundreds of new houses each year many of which will be in new “villages” on the outskirts of the City. The new “villages” will be located on what is now Green Belt land.

York Council got housing demand figures badly wrong

International migration forecast shows substantial reduction

The Council has finally released a consultants report into future house building requirements in the City. It is based on the latest 2016 population forecast produced by the Office of National Statistics

It shows a spectacular reduction on previous forecasts.

The report will be discussed by a Council working group next week, although the new figures have already been forwarded to planning inspectors.

In 2011 a LibDem Council had agreed an annual growth rate of 575 homes.

This was increased to a, wildly unsustainable, 1100 homes by an incoming Labour administration.

An incoming coalition administration in 2015 finally came up with a figure of 867 dwellings a year.

All have proved to be wildly inaccurate.

Unfortunately several green field sites have been lost already because of the muddle. The actual demand could have been catered for comfortably on brownfield (previously developed) sites

The new figures indicate that an additional 470 homes a year will be required in the period up to 2037. A high growth economy could increase this to 590 homes a year.

.. and that is the figure that some commentators have been advocating for the last 8 years and more.

Unfortunately old habits die hard, and the consultants say that, to deflate house prices (and values), a supply of 790 homes a year is required.

Forecast York housing growth figures Feb 2019

Local Plan hearings set to take place in the New Year

City of York Council has received confirmation from the two inspectors, who have been appointed to examine York’s Local Plan, that a series of public hearings could take place as early as February.

Six weeks notice will be given prior to the start of the hearings at www.york.gov.uk/localplanexamination

The council met its deadline of submitting the plan in May, following agreement to endorse the draft plan at a special Full Council meeting on 17 May.

It also means York has met the timescales previously agreed with the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Local Plan provides clear rules which determine what gets built, and where, in York over the next 15 years and beyond.

Regular updates will be provided on the Local Plan Submission webpage: www.york.gov.uk/localplanexamination

Councillor Keith Aspden, Executive Member for Economic Development, said: “I am pleased that the Planning Inspectors have agreed to our suggestion to hold early public hearings on York’s Local Plan, in order to discuss York’s housing need.”

“With the recent publication of ONS data, we are confident that our balanced approach to creating the Local Plan means that we remain on track to securing a plan that will deliver more housing in the city, whilst protecting York’s special character.”  (more…)

Huge reduction in York population forecast

Latest government figures forecast that the population in York will grow to 221,200 in 2031. This is a substantial drop in the forecast included in the Local Plan which provided for a population of 231,374.

The current population (2016 figures) is 206,900.

It means that over the next 15 years the natural demand for additional homes will be around 433 p.a. compared to the Local Plan assumption of 686 (2.2 people per property).

The Local Plan provides for 923 dwellings per year to be built although this assumed some “catching up” on the numbers not completed in recent years.

The rest is down to growth with highly ambitious job creation figures included in the Local Plan.

The Local Plan is due to be “examined in public” by an Inspector shortly.

However, the constantly changing background figures and government guidance, increasingly make planning a lottery.

The officer reprt on the latest changes can be read by clicking here

York Local Plan Infrastructure report published – if you can find it!

We reported last week that a behind closed doors decision had been taken to approve two key reports associated with the York Local Plan.  They were to have been submitted to central government last week to meet the important deadlines.

One report concerned the infrastructure delivery plan.  We said that this should have been available publicly before any decision was taken.

The decision notice (see below)  said that instead it would be published on the Council’s web site on Tuesday (29th).

A report has now appeared but not on the listed Council web page. It can be downloaded by clicking here  

It is an 80 page document which deserves some careful consideration.

One active local commentator has pointed out that, given the many years that have led up to the submission of the Local Plan documents, the consideration of this document now looks like an afterthought.

The Council has not yet commented on why proper notice of the decision meeting was not given in an open and transparent way.

“Behind closed doors” decision on transport, and other investment, needed for York Local Plan

The Council has sent off to central government its proposed new Local Plan. It brings to an end (potentially) 25 years of agonising about the future size of the City.The plan is a compromise on growth rates with over 850 additional homes scheduled to be built in each of the next 20 years.

One key implications of this “Big City” policy is the impact that it will have on the City’s infrastructure. Health, education, leisure and – crucially- transport systems will come under even greater pressure as the population grows.

The additional homes could wipe out any advantages being seen as a result of the small scale improvements currently programmed for the A1237.

Arterial roads could also reach grid lock unless there is substantial investment.

Hopes for an alternative network of  public transport routes also hang on key investment decisions with part of the resourcing needing to come from  developers.

All the stranger, therefore, that a report on what infrastructure improvements will be needed, and how they might be funded, was take at a private meeting yesterday. The papers on the Council web site give little clue to the assumptions contained in the plan. The Council says that more information may be published on 29th May.

Too late then for any critical input on what may yet prove to be the Achilles heel of the plan

Decision taken just hours before the Local Plan was submitted to central government