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.

Make your comments to government on York’s Local Plan

  The Council is urging residents have one final say on  the Local Plan. Comments will go direct to a government appointed independent inspector. Those who wish to, may be invited to speak at an “examination in public”

The forms aren’t easy to fill in although it can  be done “on line“. Land owners and developers, who stand to make £millions if green field land is identified for development, will no doubt pay for professional help.

The average resident must do his or her best. But its definitely worth having your say.

Locally most attention will be on the plan to build on the Lowfields playing field. That is likely to attract strong opposition, not least because it conflicts with other policies in the Plan  For example Policy GI5 : Protection of Open Space and Playing Fields para 9.14 – 9.18; says,

Save Lowfields Playing Field

“Development proposals will not be permitted which would harm the character of, or lead to the loss of, open space of environmental and/or recreational importance”

On the other hand, the Council seems to have got the proposed boundaries of the Green Belt right at least on the west of the City

Over-development of the City would be a serious burden for subsequent generations.

The media release says,

York residents are being urged to take the opportunity to make final comments on the city’s Local Plan.

A six-week consultation starts today as the council prepares to submit the plan – which will drive York’s economic growth and determine how the city changes over the next 15 years and beyond – to the government for Examination.

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.

 You can find out how to make your comments, and what information the government’s Planning Inspector will be able to consider, in a special booklet being distributed to every household in the city.

The booklets will be delivered to every household in the city alongside – but not inside – another local publication.

If you haven’t received your household’s copy by Monday 26 February, please request one through localplan@york.gov.uk or call 01904 552255.

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 4 April 2018 to ensure they can be considered by the Government.

Just when you thought is was safe to go outside again

Local Plan consultation booklet set to hit doormats over next 10 days

 

York residents are being urged to look out for a special booklet landing on doormats over the next 10 days.

Its yet another “consultation” on the Local Plan.

There have already been at least 7 separate opportunities for residents to comment over the last 5 years. The most recent came latest summer. Not surprisingly the response rate to each consultation has gradually reduced and consultation fatigue has set in. The lack of response to objections  – mostly dismissed off hand by Council officials – means that the latest booklet may be ignored by many.

Yet in many ways it is the most important, as the comments will go to an independent inspector who will hold an “examination in public”. This is a kind of Public Inquiry.  It is the only chance that residents get to present their case to an experienced official who should balance arguments objectively.

The booklet explains how residents can tell the government what they like and dislike about the city’s proposed Local Plan – the document which determines how the city develops over the next 15 years and beyond.

The Council has spent over £12 million during the last 15 years on drafting the Local Plan. Despite this the Plan has yet to be adopted as policy.

The ‘York’s Local Plan – how to make your comments to government’ – booklets are being distributed ahead of a consultation running from Wednesday 21 February until midnight on Wednesday 4 April.

The city is required to have a Local Plan to support York’s economic growth and determine how the city changes, including where new homes and jobs are created.

Residents’ views from two recent city-wide consultations in 2016 and 2017 have helped to shape the final proposals. The council is stressing that this final consultation is different.

The results of this consultation will be submitted directly to the government ahead of an Examination by a planning inspector.

The booklets will be delivered to every household in the city alongside – but not inside – another local publication.

If you haven’t received your household’s copy by Monday 26 February, please request one through localplan@york.gov.uk or call 01904 552255.

More gloom as latest York Draft Local Plan unveiled

Transport gridlock a possibility, as City set to grow in size by over 20%

Yet another set of proposed changes to the Council Draft Local Plan have been published by the York Council. If accepted at a meeting taking place next week the number of extra homes to be built in the Area could increase from an estimated 867 dwelling a year to as many as 1070.

Officials blame inconsistent national population projections for the indecision.

Developers eyeing stables on Tadcaster Road

If accepted, they higher figures could mean more Green Belt land being developed in the Metcalf Lane, Wigginton Road and Elvington Lane areas. The racecourse stables land on Tadcaster Road is once again under threat while developers want to build a whopping 1575 dwelling at Galtres Farm near Huntington

The York Central (brownfield) figures could also increase from 1500 to between 1700 and 2500 units, with more offices also planned for the site.

The main impact of any increase in  house building, and associated economic development, will be on the Cities, already creaking, transport systems. Increases in traffic congestion levels could be as much as 25% on some roads.

The 20% increase in the City’s population – over just 20 years – has never been effectively explained or challenged by Councillors. The effect that such high growth rates will have, on the character of the City, is considerable.

Many fewer people have responded to the Councils latest consultation than previous exercises.

Residents now have “consultation overload” and are fed up with raising the same issues time and time again without receiving any convincing response from the authorities.

Lowfields – Plan to build on sports pitches

A prime example is the campaign to conserve the playing field and sports pitches at Lowfields. 80% of respondents oppose the Councils plan to develop the field, yet their views are being ignored.

The stage is now held by vested interests.

Land owner, developers and their agents are squabbling over the available cake. Large profits depend on the outcome of the Local Plan deliberations

There will be a final period of is=consultation shortly. The results of the consultation will then be placed before an independent inspector at an “Examination in Public”.

That will give ordinary residents an opportunity to air their views in what should be an impartial forum.

 

Councils traffic projections Jan 2018

Local Plan – Tory Minister criticises Tory delays in submitting plan

Tories have been mired in Local Plan controversy

A government Minister is threatening to take over the preparation of the Local Plan for York.

Good luck with that then.

Millions of pounds have already been spent on  research projects and consultation. The last thing a northern City needs is the dead hand of London government interfering at the last minute.

York had a perfectly good draft Local Plan ready to submit for final approval in February 2011. Then a new administration was elected and new Council Leader James Alexander unveiled his “Big City” proposal which would have seen York increase in size by 25%.

Large areas of Green Belt land would have been developed

Few wanted that, so, not surprisingly, 4 years later his high growth based Local Plan was ditched before it even made it to a public enquiry.

Residents protest against Labour’s Local Plan in 2013

The latest plan – which still has elements of controversy – was almost ready when central government announced that it was closing two barracks in the York area. That potentially released a large amount of additional building land into the pool. The Council could not ignore that change and has spent 12 months agonising about how to react to the news.

Tory housing numbers plan 2015 election manifesto

If they had ignored the change, then objectors would have rubbished the plan for being incomplete.

Yes maybe the Council  should have moved along a little quicker but final consultation on the latest plan ended on 31st October so there is nothing to stop an “Examination in Public” now being scheduled.

Far from speeding up the process, it is more than likely that any intervention by central government will result in further delays.

The Council has now said that it will follow this timetable

Timetable for delivery:

Sep / Oct 2017             Consultation over pre-publication draft of Local Plan

Jan 2018                      Publish results of Local Plan, which go to the Local Plan Working Group and the council’s Executive

Feb-March 2018          Consultation on final version of the Local Plan

May 2018                     Submission to Secretary of State

York Liberal Democrats have responded to Minister’s Local Plan statement

Today, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced that he will be starting the formal intervention process in our Local Plan.

The Liberal Democrats do not share the same views expressed by the Secretary of State; that York has ‘failed to cooperate’ on its duty to provide local development schemes. 

In reality, we have been working tirelessly over the last few years to create a Local Plan that is right for the City of York, a plan that provides the homes and opportunities we need to grow our city, whilst protecting its unique heritage. 

Unfortunately, as we approached the final stages of setting our Local Plan, the Ministry of Justice announced the closure of three barracks in the City.  As a result, we re-consulted on the Local Plan and set back the process by 6 months, in order to absolutely ensure the people of York had the opportunity to have their say.

It is essential to the future development of York that our Local Plan is determined by local people, not forced upon us by central government.  The Conservatives and the Cities MPs should stand up for York and not allow Government to dictate the future of our City.  The Liberal Democrats will continue to oppose outside interference and deliver a local plan for the City.

York Local Plan- another consultation!

Just when you thought that the Council had finally decided on a Local Plan that would take York into the 2030’s, the authority has launched another public consultation.

The last consultation  took place in the spring.

The Council says that”homes  in the city will receive a special edition of the Our City publication over the next two weeks, which explains the plan and how to have your say.

The full version of the Local Plan pre-publication draft – and comment forms which can be sent freepost –  is available to view online at www.york.gov.uk/localplan,  in all the city’s libraries and the council’s reception at west offices.

Residents are also invited to one of eight special consultation events, while additional information will also be available at all ward committees which meet during the consultation period.

You can also get involved via twitter @CityofYork or facebook.com/cityofyork, using the hashtag #YorkLocalPlan

There wil be a public consultation event on Monday 16 October at Acomb Explore Library, Acomb (3-7.30pm)

Additional information will also be provided at the ward committee meeting (Dringhouses & Woodthorpe joint with Westfield) – Tuesday 26 September  York & District Indoor Bowls Club, 302 Thanet Road, Dringhouses, York, YO24 2NW 6.30-8pm)

The published plans still involve development of the Lowfields playing field, so it is important that residents record their objections to any proposals that they disagree with

There is expected to be an “examination in public” by an independent inspector early next year.

Land use leaflet

So are York house prices “going through the roof”

The media re reporting today that there has been a substantial increase in house prices in York over the last year. Well has there?

Actual sales figures confirm that only recently did house price levels recover to match those seen pre-recession in 2007.

House prices were level for 6 years before trending up from 2015.

This year median prices have been volatile but recently trended downwards. The median price for a flat in the City is now £168,000 but good properties are still available for under £150,000.

Retirement flats are available from around £80,000 . You can get a 2 bed terraced property needing restoration for £110,000

Houses are taking around 90 days on average to sell, with 2 and 3 bedroomed properties till the most sought after.

Labour politicians say with one breath that we need a Local Plan – the latest draft would see around 850 additional homes built each year – but then delay the adoption of the plan by “calling it in” for further discussion.

Few will have forgot that, when Labour took control of the Council in May 2011, one of the first things they did was halt the implementation of a Local Plan which was on the brink of adoption.

6 years later and the prevarication continues.

So, we need less exaggeration from the headline writers and more commitment from the politicians if we are to have a working Local Plan and with it controls on City development.

That remains a worthy and urgent objective

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.

(more…)

Council snubs Lowfields residents

Lowfields plans

Lowfields plans

The York Council is being recommended at a meeting being held on 7th December to go ahead with the development of the playing fields on the former school site in Lowfields. There are no major changes from the layout presented for public consultation in September, although the Council says that steps will be taken to stop vehicles short cutting through the new Dijon Avenue to Tudor Road access route.

There has been broad support from respondents for the Elderly Persons Home, bungalows and apartments which will be provided on the east (Green Lane) side of the site.  These will be located on the “footprint” of the former school buildings.

Otherwise the Council has ignored or suppressed the results of public opinion surveys undertaken on the future of the playing fields. 

However, the latest scheme would, in addition to the 52 older person’s units, see as many as 110 houses shoe-horned onto the sports field including 17 self-build and “community build” plots. This would make the development one of the densest in sub – urban York.  A large number of independent builders would be involved meaning that the development timetable could be fragmented over a period of 5 years or more (building work would be scheduled to start in Autumn 2018).

The plans still involve the relocation of the GP surgery from its present site on Cornlands Road.  A relocation of the recently refurbished Acomb Police depot from its purpose built Acomb Road premises is also planned.

Both would mean much more traffic entering and leaving the area.

The uncompromising stance of the Council comes at a time when sites for over 1600 additional homes have recently been identified on redundant MOD land in the City. This news caused the Council to put back its “Local Plan” preparation by 6 months. In turn this means that the objections registered on the sports field development will not be considered before next week’s meeting.

The Council’s move appears to be dictated by the need to generate £4.5 million from the sale of the site. The York Council’s financial position is precarious following decisions to fund a new £12 million sports centre at Monks Cross and a £4.7million “health and well-being” project on the Burnholme school site.

If approved on Wednesday, the proposals will still have to gain planning permission.

There are strong legislative safeguards for playing fields (of which there is a shortage on the west of the City).

The Council leadership will therefore have a far from easy ride if they persist in trying to develop the Lowfields sports fields without broad public support.

Residents are organising a petition opposing the development of the sports field