Breaking News – York Council abandons Traveller and Showman’s site proposals


The York Council is withdrawing its proposals to establish traveller sites at Dunnington and on Malton Road.

The Council is, therefore, still looking for sites for 59 pitches.

It has also confirmed that it will not allocate land on Wetherby Road (near Knapton) for use as a Travelling Showman’s Site.

It is still looking for a suitable  Showman’s site but has reduced the requirement to 8 plots of which two would be accommodated by expanding an existing site at Elvington.

Details of the changes can be read by clicking here  (Para 8)

Concerns still remain for the sites in question as their inclusion for development, in the first Draft of the Local Plan, has brought into question whether they will be retained in the formal “Green Belt” when it is adopted.

As the Council’s web site papers seem to be inaccessible at the moment a copy of the relevant report can be downloaded by clicking here

Local Plan – Developers jumping the gun?

Freedom of Information revelation

The Council has admitted in a response to a Freedom of Information request that it is discussing building on green field sites on the outskirts of York before a new Local Plan has been agreed (or even discussed publicly)

Some of the sites are in the current Green Belt which is protected by a parliamentary directive.

Civil Service sports ground Boroughbridge Road, York

Civil Service sports ground Boroughbridge Road, York

Some applications are proceeding with undignified haste:

Application at Brecks Lane Strensall      (now granted planning permission)

Scoping opinion for Monks Cross North

The council has admitted giving pre application advice for the following sites:

Land at New Lane Huntington

Land at Church Balk Dunnington

Former Civil Service Sports Ground, Boroughbridge RoadMillfield Lane –“currently invalid”

The Council now charges for pre planning application “advice”. It says that it does not reveal which sites it is giving “advice” on.

This means that residents and other interested parties are effectively precluded for the process and will only become involved when there is a “done deal”.

The York Councils approach to establishing a new “Local Plan” is little short of disgraceful. Residents who made a record number of objections to Labour’s plan have been kept in the dark about the process for nearly  9 months.

Meetings have been scheduled in April at which the views of landowners are expected to be published.

No timetable for dealing with residents objections has been set.

York Local Plan – confusion grows

No sooner had the agenda for York’s Council meeting – to be held next Thursday – been published, than meetings to discuss the Local Plan have appeared in the Council’s diary of events.

The Council agenda had included several questions critical of the delays, and lack of clear milestones, in the preparation of the Local Plan

Yesterday we reported that the Forward Programme of decisions – a legal requirement for all major issues – did not include any reference to an update of the Local Plan.

Residents protest against Local Plan

Residents protest against Local Plan

So far, residents have not even had an opportunity to speak out about Labour’s plan – announced a year ago – to increase the size of the City.

Now a mysterious “special” meeting of the Councils “Cabinet” has been scheduled for Wednesday 23rd April. The Councils web site has been amended today to say that;

During the consultation additional information on sites was submitted by landowners and developers.  Before making any final decision on sites to be included in the Local Plan, the Council would like to understand the public views on this additional information. Reports relating to this will be considered at the Local Plan Working Group and a special cabinet in late April and this will be followed by public consultation”.

Whether landowner’s comments will do anything to reassure residents about the Councils expansion plans remains to be seen.

The Council has still not published the 4000+ objections made by residents to the original plan.

Any new information is due to be considered by the (all party)  “Local Plan Working Group”, a meeting of which has now been scheduled for Tuesday 22nd April. As this is the day before the Cabinet meeting, it is unlikely that the working groups views – much less any views expressed by residents – would be reported to a meeting which is taking place the next day.

Legally the Cabinet cannot take any decisions on “key” matters – like the Local Plan – without giving 4 months notice in their Forward Programme.

They have still not published a timetable of milestone dates which will lead up to the inevitable Public Inquiry into their plans, which is now unlikely to take place before next year.

Local Plan and York immigration numbers

Cllr Laing was challenged at the last Council meeting to justify her claim that 22,000 additional homes were required to house existing York families.

A few weeks ago she published numbers which suggested that there were around 1000 more births in the City, than deaths, each year.

Year Births Deaths Dif Housing Rqmt (2.2   people per dwelling) Housing   completions
2003 3021 2381 640 291 525
2004 3270 2236 1034 470 1160
2005 3311 2292 1019 463 906
2006 3247 2247 1000 455 798
2007 3255 2240 1015 461 523
2008 3565 2320 1245 566 451
2009 3495 2408 1087 494 507
2010 3404 2303 1101 500 514
2011 3461 2416 1045 475 321
2012 3481 2378 1103 501 482
Total 33510 23221 10289 4677 6187
Ave 3351 2322 1029 468 619
Census 2001 -2011 Ave 1691 769
Forecast growth pa to 2026 (16 years)Base 2010 197K

2026 216.8K

Total population increase 19,800

(source Council Local Plan/ONS)

1238 563
Additional homes required to meet natural population growth in perod to 2026 9000

This would have produced a net requirement for around 500 additional homes per year.

This is very much in line with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures which show the City to have grown in population size by 1% pa over the last decade.

The ONS forecast is similar for the next 2 decades, confirming that the Council, in its Local Plan, needs to allocate land for around 12,000 additional homes over the next 25 years.

This would allow for some inward migration given the need to attract people with the right skills to sustain the buoyant York economy.

The Councillor was unable – or reluctant – at the meeting to explain who would occupy the other 10,000 homes that Labour hopes to build.  While admitting that the figures were not influenced by the numbers of the housing waiting list, Cllr Laing – who has responsibility for housing policy in the City – said that it was Cllr Merrett who made the decisions on building numbers!

So, although they are desperate not to admit it publicly, Labour plan to accommodate the largest number of inward migrants to the City since Eric Bloodaxe sailed into view on the river Ouse.

When will residents get their chance to express their views to the Councils Local Plan working group?

That also attracted a stonewall response from Cllr Merrett. “Officers are currently analysing and summarising all of the responses received”.  Residents will be able to address the committee when proposed changes to the draft plan are debated.

This is the clearest indication yet that Labour plan to backtrack on some of their plans.

Every planning permission granted over the last 6 months, for sites mentioned in the Draft Local Plan, has produced many more housing units than forecast.

There is no reason why green belt sites should be developed, a sentiment that 89% of residents responding to our survey agree with.

Hob Moor development to go ahead?

Derelict school site next to Hob Moor

Derelict school site next to Hob Moor

Apparently Council officials are recommending that the 56 home development at the Our Lady’s school site be given the “go ahead”.

This despite a large number of objections and the proposal being in conflict with the Councils own rules on development densities.

The number of homes being proposed is almost twice the number agreed by the same planning department when they published the draft Local Plan earlier in the year.

It will be interesting to see how they manage to justify that particular policy somersault!

The planning application will be decided at the Planning-Committee meeting on 21 November 2013, at 4.30pm at West Offices, Station Rise, York.

The committee will visit the site at 12:45 pm on the Tuesday (17th November) before the meeting to familiarise themselves with the proposal and residents are also invited to attend.

Residents have the right to speak at the meeting. If you wish to speak, you must register this by telephoning (01904) 552062, and ask for Laura Bootland before 5:00pm on the last working day before the Committee meeting.

The proposal has been mired in controversy since a Labour cabinet member (Clr Merrett) publicly endorsed the scheme shortly after the planning application had been submitted, but before residents had been given the opportunity to comment.

Housing growth in York – who will occupy?

Most additional homes constructed in York over the next 25 years will be occupied by inward migrants.


Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge

Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge

The latest birth rate figures confirm that less than 10,000 homes are required over the next 25 years to meet the expected natural increase in the City’s population.

Labour however plans to build 22,000 (over the next 15 years) most of which will go to people not currently living in the City.

Yesterday developers announced a plan to build 1500 homes at Huntington on a green field location

The Council’s leadership have shot themselves in the foot claiming that with births exceeding deaths in the City new homes will be occupied by existing York residents.

That is clearly not the case.

Who would occupy 22,000 additional homes click to enlarge

Who would occupy 22,000 additional homes click to enlarge

Indeed average housing building rates, over the last 10 years, have more than equalled the natural growth in the City’s population.

The increase in population over the last decade has mainly been caused by higher life expectancy, although the population did get a boost as a result of the (unrepeatable) growth in Higher Education provision in the City.

The census returns indicate an average annual increase in the City’s population of 1691 during the last decade.

There is a housing problem in the City but it stems from high rent levels in the private sector. Even after taking into account housing benefit (rent rebates), renting a home in York is relatively expensive.

Potential owner occupiers can still buy 2 bedroomed homes from £120,000.

That should lead the Council to give the top priority to providing more Council and Housing Association rented homes in the City.

NB. The Council have now accepted that their quoted housing waiting list numbers have been wildly exaggerated for the last 2 years.

House completion numbers

Medical breakthrough will encourage retrospective births in York

Twitter exchange click to enlarge

Twitter exchange click to enlarge

Cllr Tracey Laing has told residents that she can’t afford to buy a home in York.

With several 2 bedroomed properties available at around £120,000, one wonders just how much more a £24,000 a year “Cabinet” member needs to earn to get on the housing ladder?

Or indeed how “cheap” a house has to be before it becomes “affordable”.

But the biggest eyebrow raiser will be the comment that 22,000 extra homes are required over the next 15 years because of “increased birth rates”.

No evidence was presented by the Council, before the Local Plan consultation started, to justify such a claim. They should publish a trajectory showing how many of the new homes will be occupied by “local people”.

There was a hike in birth rates 3 years ago but it is falling again. York has a lower birth rate than the rest of the region anyway.

For the 22,000 homes to be occupied by the children of existing York residents, an amazing advance in medical science would be required.

Increased procreation will need to be backdated to 1995.

The Council argued that it needed nearly 5000 homes to meet waiting list demands.

Birth rates click to enlarge

Birth rates click to enlarge

A few weeks ago it downgraded that requirement to 2200, taking 2400 people off the housing list at one fell swoop.

It also claimed that the homes would house workers in new industries which would grow in the City.

Clearly that level of economic growth isn’t going to be sustained, but – if it was – then vast majority of the houses would be occupied by inward migrants.

The representations made by York residents haven’t yet been considered by the Council. We understand that they intend to “redact” responses to obscure the identities of the authors.

Irrespective, that is, of whether the authors wish to remain anonymous.

It is already clear that some Labour hard liners are going to ignore electors, paving the way for a major showdown at the Public Inquiry next year and at the 2015 local elections.

Local Plan: 14,000 objections to city wide consultation

Green Belt campaign logo

Thousands of residents and businesses along with other organisations have responded to City of York Council‘s extensive city wide consultation which will help shape the development of York’s future Local Plan.

The figures and initial feedback are outlined in a report to be taken to the Local Plan Working Group on Monday 4 November, available to view click here

The papers list petitions received and these include objections to the development of Acomb Moor as well as opposition to development of land between Wetherby Road and Knapton.

Statutory bodies have criticised the proposal to increase the size of the City with English Heritage saying that they would harm the special character of York while Leeds University says that the growth figures are wrong.

The North Yorkshire County Council is critical, while the Highways Agency records concerns about the impact the plan would have on transport systems.

However most of the individual objections are still being analyzed by Council officials.

Even the Council Leadership have acknowledged that the number of objections are the largest ever received in response to a Council proposal.

York Labour Councillors reveal cunning plan?

Site capacity for new homes - draft Local Plan. click to enlarge

Site capacity for new homes – draft Local Plan. click to enlarge

Labour Councillor Dave Merrett seems to have overstepped accepted guidelines when welcoming a planning application for the Our Lady’s school site.

He was quoted in the local paper as supporting a plan to build 56 homes on the site – almost double the number allocated in the Local Plan that Cllr Merrett approved in the spring.

If approved at the meeting on 21st November, the proposal would mean that the green space, school nature reserve and children’s playground will all be lost.

Normally executive Councillors avoid commenting publicly on planning applications once they have been submitted. They allow normal consultation with residents to take place before a cross party planning committee meeting decides on the merits of each proposal.

A public intervention by an executive Councillor could be deemed to be putting undue pressure on the planning officers who work in his department and who will author reports recommending approval or rejection of an application.

Officials are understood to have said already that the density on the development – at 82 homes per hectare based on the existing built footprint- is in excess of what would normally be permitted in a sub-urban location.

Meanwhile the Council Leader is also interfering in the planning processes.

Following on from his public opposition to converting unused shops into residential accommodation, he told the last Council meeting, when questioned about the higher number of housing units coming forward on brownfield sites that,

sessions site

sessions site

“the important distinction between the positions of the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservatives it has to be said, is that the other parties believe those living in central wards should have housing built on any spare piece of land anywhere near them and outer wards should continue to enjoy protection against any development anywhere near them”.

“The truth is housing should be built in both central and outer areas where it can be shown to contribute to tackling the city’s housing crisis at the same time as protecting residents’ local amenity”.

In fact over recent months it is central area sites that are seeing high densities proposed with Our Lady’s school only the latest in a long line which includes the former Press offices in Walmgate, the Burnholme club and several dozen others.

The Council Leader may, however, be confused about what constitutes “central wards”.

NB. The Planning committee will consider next week a proposal to build 59 homes on the former Sessions site on Huntington Road. Of these 20% will be “affordable”

The density of the proposed development is just over 32 dwellings per hectare, and would be more densely developed than the surrounding residential areas. However this figure appears to be in conflict with the figures shown in the draft Local Plan.

The draft Local plan showed only 17 homes being built on this (0.47 hectare) site

York Local Plan – Save the Green Belt campaign gets another boost

The Council are now saying that they hope to have read all the representations made by residents about the draft Local Plan by the end of October.

How long it will be, before meetings start to take place at which residents will have the chance to challenge Labour’s Plan assumptions, is anyone’s guess.

Residents protest against Local Plan

Residents protest against Local Plan

However the Plan’s assumptions about the number of homes that could be built on brownfield sites continue to be eroded.

The latest planning application – for the Brecks Lane site at Strensall – is for 104 homes. That compares to an assumed capacity for the site, listed in the draft Local Plan, of 82.

Last week we learned that the British Sugar site will accommodate 1300 homes. The Local Plan forecast only 998.

In addition, around 20 planning applications for new homes have been submitted to the Council over the last 4 months, for sites where either zero residential units had been assumed in the Local Plan or where the number now planned is over 20% higher than the Local Plan estimate.

These include proposals for The Press office building in Walmgate, the Burnholme Club site and Our Lady’s school on Windsor Garth.

They do not include new “windfall” sites like the Bonding Warehouse, Ashbourne House, the Yearsley Pub not to mention Oliver House where we now understand that negotiations about the buildings future have recommenced (some 18 months after it became empty).

It is now clear that there is sufficient brownfield (previously developed) land to satisfy York’s reasonable housing needs for the foreseeable future.

What is also clear is that Labours Local Plan is discredited. They will have to re-write large sections of it.

The sooner that they start the better.