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

Key plan for York moves a step closer

The plan to protect York’s green belt and special character while providing the housing and employment the city needs will be considered by Councillors this week..

A report detailing responses to the latest public consultation on York’s draft Local Plan will go before the Local Plan Working Group tomorrow and the council’s Executive next Tuesday (8 May).

If Executive approves the proposals, the full council will vote on 17 May on whether to submit it to the government. This would see the plan submitted to the government within the timescales agreed with the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

York needs a Local Plan to support the city’s economic growth and shape how the city changes over the next 15 years and beyond. The publication draft outlines areas of the city which can be developed, as well as rules and principles which help achieve the vision of a ‘city with special qualities and distinctiveness that are recognised worldwide.’

Key features of the plan include:

  • Provision for around 20,000 homes over the next 20 years, with around 4000 more homes delivered through affordable housing schemes
  • Provision to create around 650 new jobs per annum
  • Policies to protect and enhance York’s heritage culture and ensure that any new developments are of the highest standards
  • Preserving York’s setting and character by banning inappropriate greenbelt development
  • Protecting the environment, including stopping developments which are subject to flood risk and ensuring sustainable design
  • Providing levels through reducing, reusing and recycling.


Under two weeks left to make your comments to government on York’s Local Plan

City of York Council is reminding residents to make final comments on the city’s Local Plan ahead of its submission to the government for examination.

The council is preparing to submit the plan – which determine how the city changes over the next 15 years and beyond – to the government in May.

The plan allocates the sites where new development should take place, taking into account factors like the green belt, the historical and natural environment, flood risk and access to public transport.

The six-week consultation on the ‘publication draft’ of the plan, which opened on 21 February, closes at midnight on Wednesday 4 April.

The council’s ‘publication draft’ is the result of extensive studies and consultation with residents, landowners, developers and statutory consultees like government agencies.  Comments made during this consultation will go direct to the government, to be considered by a Planning Inspector at an Examination in Public.

The council is stressing that this consultation is different because the Examination will only consider certain issues about the plan, and has produced guidance to help residents make comments which the Inspector can use.

The council has produced a special booklet to explain how to make your comments, and what information the government’s Planning Inspector will be able to consider. It was distributed to homes across the city in February, and is also available in libraries, at West Offices or online at www.york.gov.uk/localplan

You can see all the same information, how to respond and view the full Publication Draft and supporting documents:

All responses must be made by midnight on Wednesday 4th April 2018 to ensure they can be considered by the Government.

Housing hyperbole helps no one.

Call by MP for York Local Plan to be rejected was irresponsible and poorly researched

Claims by Rachel Maskell MP that people do not live in high-value, luxury apartments built in the City Centre, and that the homes were purchased as “an investment, or they are used just for holidays and race days or weekends”, don’t seem to be rooted in fact.

Maskell also claimed the push for more City centre accommodation is “an experiment in social cleansing”, relying entirely on anecdotal evidence to support her assertion.

She repeated her claims last week 

 Publicly available statistics confirm that,of the 1036 homes built in the first 6 months of the current financial year, 637 were aimed at students. Student needs reflect in both housing targets and outturns.  Most of the flats were built on Lawrence Street. They are hardly “luxurious” or “expensive” but they do not count as affordable housing (because it is tied accommodation)

Provision of specialist accommodation of this type reduces the pressure to convert family accommodation into student lets.

Between April 2017 and September 2017 planning permission was also granted for 892 new homes. These included large developments at The Barbican, Nestle, and Hungate. (Only 3 were for student accommodation)

The emerging Local Plan provides for 867 new homes to be built each year. This compares to an average of 686 completed over the last 5 years. At least 20% will be “affordable”.

Historic figures (see below) reveal that there has been a spurt in house building in the City over the last 3 years.  Before that, five years of recession took a toll on house building numbers.

The housing waiting list has stabilised at 1200 (excluding those seeking a transfer) with people waiting on average for 12 months for a new home. The number of homeless, presenting to the Council, is now around 100 a year (down from a 10-year peak of 258).

Lack of land clearly is not an issue impacting on the granting of planning permission for new developments in the City.

The Council might be criticised for not releasing funding to buy properties on the open market to increase the social rent pool. It had run a surplus of over £20 million on its housing account for over 6 years (although very recently it agreed to release some of the surplus to ease social housing demands).

In addition, the total amount of unspent payments in lieu of affordable housing that the council currently holds is £4.325m.

There are issues to be addressed. The apparent spike in “rough sleeping“ has previously been highlighted.

Over the last few months the Council has guaranteed a hostel bed for anyone found sleeping on the streets. It is an initiative that seems to have worked during the recent period of cold weather.

York desperately needs a Local Plan.

Funding the endless revisions has debilitated the Council’s budget with an estimate of £10 million already having been devoted to the process.

Arguing that the current proposals should be abandoned is both reckless and shortsighted.

Some revisions to the text might be expected, but the basic thrust of the document is right and, most importantly, deliverable.