Tender issued for extra care housing at Lowfield Green

City of York Council says it is seeking a specialist to build and operate a new development at Lowfield Green. The council is planning a new independent living scheme with extra care. People who live there will have on-site support and, when and where it is needed, carers will be available to visit the residents in their own homes.

It is over 10 years since a similar proposal to construct a older persons village on the site of the former Lowfields school buildings was first discussed.

Planned Lowfields Care Village 2010

Since then, the Council has been hopelessly indecisive about how such an ambition might be fulfilled.

It remains to be seen whether any social landlords will have the ability to fund older persons accommodation as the effects of the pandemic remain unclear.

There is an area reserved for housing with extra care on the site. This will be in addition to Lowfield Green’s 18 apartments for people aged over 55 and its 26 bungalows.

The tender is proposing a development with a minimum of 40 one- and two-bedroom apartments where residents can access on-site 24-hour care if needed.

The Council says that the delivery of the scheme must be by a Registered Social Landlord (RSL). and that “a number have already expressed an interest in the opportunity”. The care provider will be registered with the Carer Quality Commission (CQC) as ‘Support in Your Own Home’ and graded as ‘Good’ or above.

The tender document is now live, and developers and operators are invited to consider and apply to construct and operate an extra care housing development.

For more detail, please go to www.yortender.co.uk and search for tender reference: DN518540. The closing date for selection questionnaire (SQ) submissions is 22 February 2021 at 12 noon.

Haxby Hall care home plans

Haxby Hall

The Council will receive an update report next week on its Older Persons’ Accommodation Programme. It has confirmed its plans to privatise the running of Haxby Hall elderly persons home.

The council is being asked to approve land transactions and lease agreements to enable Yorkare Homes Limited to redevelop and upgrade Haxby Hall. When complete, this will help meet the need for good quality care in high quality care homes across the city.

Yorkare’s plans to extend and improve the accommodation at Haxby Hall will ensure uninterrupted care for the residents. Under the plans, residents will be able to stay in the home whilst work progresses on the site.  The plans will also ensure continued employment for the Hall’s staff by transferring their employment from the council to the operator.

Yorkare are an ‘outstanding’ CQC-rated operator and they aim to extend this popular care home and create over 60 new bedrooms, equipped with en-suite facilities for improved privacy.

To deliver this higher quality of care and ensure minimal disruption to residents, two neighbouring properties have been acquired to provide access to the rear of the site. The council’s Executive is being asked to agree to a long lease for the site, for which Yorkare will pay the council £450,000.

A period of consultation will take place with local residents, community groups and organisations before planning permission is sought.

Separately the Council has said that  “The executive will be asked to agree to procure an extra care developer and operator to develop a mixed tenure extra care development on the Lowfields site previously identified for a care home”. The meeting will take place on 19th March 2020.

Council briefing minutes cast new light on care homes fiasco

The minutes of a private briefing session for senior Labour Councillors (James Alexander and Tracey Simpson Laing)  confirm that they knew in April 2013 that the Care Village project at Lowfields was doomed.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Cllr Simpson Laing told officers that the Lowfields site could sell (for housing) for more than valuers had estimated.

Cllr Alexander’s solution was to borrow more but the note says

borrowing ££ from Economic Infrastructure Fund/new homes bonus (?) to plug gaps – I struggled to follow and got lost!”

Councillors seemed keen to deflect criticism onto the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for the projects escalating costs.

The information has come to light via the Council’s new “open data” web site.

A large amount of information has been published there in response to Freedom of Information requests on the failed £1 million project.

All the background documents can be found by clicking here

Major revelations as Lowfields care village plans set for review later today

Leading Labour Councillors knew 12 months ago that project was “unaffordable”

 Minutes of the Council EPH project board meetings are beginning to emerge into the public light. They reveal that the Councils requirements for the Lowfields care village and a similar facility at Burnholme School were described by Council officials as “gold plated”.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

A review meeting of the decision is set to start at 5:00pm today in the Councils West Offices.

As long ago as April 2014 negotiations with the only two remaining bidders for the project had revealed a £17 million gap in funding.

6 weeks later one of the bidders had dropped out, apparently leaving the board with no option but to abandon the project and find another way of dealing with the demand for care places.

At that time, closing all the Councils care homes and buying in all provision from the private sector was the tabled alternative.

The minutes reveal that both Leader James Alexander and Cllr Cunningham (Cross) were briefed that the project was failing. Despite this Cllr Cunningham maintained, in response to Council questions, that negotiations were still ongoing and claimed that procurement rules prevent other Councillors being updated.

In April 2014 the Council were still describing the two site project in glowing terms,

“It will deliver facilities that are light years ahead of our current care homes and ‘raise the bar’ of care provision in the city. The provider should have no difficulty in attracting self-funders into such facilities”.

“The project’s engagement of residents, relatives, staff, older people, voluntary sector partners, and other key stakeholders, in the vision and design of the care home modernisation programme was hailed at the time, and is a blueprint for our current re-wiring approach”.

“The timing of this decision is crucial too coming, as it does, at a point when we are about to publically launch a ‘re-wiring public services programme’ founded on transforming services and doing things differently, based on co-production with our staff, Trade Unions, York’s residents and other key stakeholders. Given the significant public consultation and co-production involved in getting the EPH project this far, if we were to back-track now our credibility would be questioned

 By February of 2015, the Council was describing the project as outdated with more modest localised facilities said to be an “exciting opportunity“.

The April meeting concluded with the warning “there is still a considerable risk of the procurement falling over (because of affordability issues, the Burnholme site issues, etc.”

A developing sense of crisis is evident in the June 2014 board minutes with a July meeting arranged to formally wrap up the care village option. It would be over 6 months before theist decision was made public.

Opposition Councillors are calling for the minutes of all the project board meetings to be made public.

It still likely that the project floundered as a result of the Burnholme school requirement being added to an already expensive project. In 2012 the Lowfields scheme had been declared financially viable following a “soft marketing” exercise.

It emerged that in 2013 officials had talked of fudging the financial aspects of the project

There is a lot more to come out about this scandal which has already cost taxpayers around £500,000 in abortive costs with promised annual savings of £500,000 a year also jeopardised.

Lib Dems to “call-in” Labour’s Lowfields Care Village U-turn for further scrutiny

Liberal Democrats say Labour run City of York Council should consult local residents on the future of the Lowfields site in Acomb.

Lowfields school site  derelict for 4 years

Lowfields school site derelict for 4 years

A new Care Village was due to be built on the site, but last month it was confirmed that the multi-million pound scheme had collapsed. A new plan for housing on the former school site was backed by the Labour Cabinet last night. However, Lib Dems are calling-in the proposals for review saying local residents should be consulted and a range of proposals put forward.

The Lib Dems are also asking for further information on why Labour’s original projects at Lowfield and Burnholme collapsed, how much the overall scheme has cost to date, and a full explanation for an internal report which said that the council could consider “fudging” the financial case for the project.

Cllr Ann Reid, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, criticised Labour’s handling of the care homes project at last night’s Cabinet:

“To have spent four years developing proposals that have come to nothing defies belief. At various meetings the Labour Cabinet Member has said that progress was being made, but this was clearly not the case.

“Unfortunately, it has become symptomatic of this Labour administration that no details are provided (in the report) as to how residents’ money has been spent. The lack of accountability on such a large and important project is astonishing. We need transparency on the project and a full explanation of what has gone wrong.”

Cllr Andrew Waller, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Westfield, commented:

“Local residents have generally welcomed the proposals to use the former Lowfield School site for a Care Village. However, despite the embarrassing collapse of this project, Labour has given very few details on what went wrong or why housing is now their preferred option for the site.

“We are calling for answers and a proper consultation with local residents. A full range of options should then be presented, including whether a different provider could deliver a Care Village at Lowfields.”

Liberal Democrat Councillors Keith Aspden, Carol Runciman and Andrew Waller are calling in the Labour Cabinet’s decision from last night for the following reasons:

The report from Cabinet should provide:

  1.  A full assessment of the reasons for the failure of the EPH project, the decision-making timeline, and a detailed analysis of the costs incurred.
  2.  A comprehensive explanation for why the Lowfield Care Village proposal has been abandoned.
  3.  A commitment to investigate and publish a report on the governance and management of the overall project, including the suggestion that finances be “fudged”.
  4.  A commitment to carry out a full consultation with local residents on the future of the Lowfields site (including the playing fields).
  5.  Following this, a commitment to present to members a range of options (with business cases) for the future of the site including an assessment of whether a different provider could deliver a Care Village at Lowfields.

Further details of Labour’s plans can be found here: http://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=733&MId=8334

Lowfields Care Village – Dithering and evasion continues

As the months stretch into years, the responsible Cabinet member (Cunningham- Cross) was asked at the last Council meeting when she now thought that the care village – which was agreed in 2010 as the preferred use for the Lowfields School site – would actually be occupied.

Lowfields care village 2011 plans - now 3 years behind schedule

Lowfields care village 2011 plans – now 3 years behind schedule

“As it is now nearly 18 months since the Council started to seek partners to provide and run the Low fields Care Village, when was the “competitive dialogue” phase concluded, why did it take so long, and when does the Cabinet Member now expect work on site to start and the first homes to be occupied?”

The answer was evasive and failed to acknowledge that the failed project was one of the reasons why social care costs in the City are soaring out of control.

“This is an extremely complex and ambitious project and the competitive dialogue phase has not yet concluded. As it is still ongoing it is not possible to answer the other questions raised”.

The truth of the matter is that in 2011 and 2012 the project became mired in internal Labour party wrangling involving the local government unions which had funded its 2011 election campaign (and who wanted the council to run any new facilities).  

The Council realised over 2 years ago that an independent operator was needed but were then unable to make the investment and running costs stack up.

The project has been in limbo ever since.

We suspect that nothing will happen now until after the local elections in May, after which we would expect the project to be revived but with the private sector taking a major role.

It’s another example of inexperience and over ambition leading to the wrong answer for taxpayers.

It can be added to the Community Stadium project and the reuse of the Guildhall as examples of an administration making, what should be, straight forward decisions unnecessarily complex.

Brief history (click)

1. 2011 homes consultation

2. 2012 future of school site

3. 2013 Lowfields care village slips to 2016

4. Secrecy descends on school site plans

Footpaths in Carrick Gardens to be resurfaced starting on 15th December

Carrick Gardens resurfacing plan click to enlarge

Carrick Gardens resurfacing plan click to enlarge

Work on Tudor Road completed as confusion continues over future of Lowfields car village plans.

The Council will start work week commencing 15th  December 2014 to reconstruct the footway shown on the plan right.  This scheme is programmed to take 3 weeks, weather permitting.

The work consists of fully excavating the footway and reconstructing from the ground up in tarmac.  Road kerbs are to be replaced at vehicle crossings.

The contractor will be working between 8:00am and 4:00pm Monday to Thursday, and 8:00am to 12:30pm on Fridays.

Tudor Road footpaths resurfaced

Tudor Road footpaths resurfaced

Meanwhile the Tudor Road footpaths, leading to the rear entrance to the Lowfields school site, have been resurfaced (left).

Mystery still surrounds the continuing delays on work starting on the Lowfields  Retirement Village which was supposed to have been fully operational earlier in the year.

The Cabinet member with responsibility for the project is to be questioned again at the Council meeting on 11th December. Previously she has said that confidential negotiations with potential providers were “ongoing”.

After 18 months these must by now have been concluded one way or another?

The project is currently running 3 years behind schedule



York Council project failures

Calls for system overhaul

With yet another major York Council project falling behind schedule, and hopelessly over budget, there are growing calls for a review of project management processes in the City.

Poppleton Bar Roadworks delays

Poppleton Bar Roadworks delays

The latest budget overrun is reported on the A1237 Haxby – Wigginton cycle path. As well as major delays the project will now cost over £1.3 million compared to a budget of £700,000.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said,

“It is time re-introduce regular project updates to the Councils monitoring committees.

Any significant delay – or cost overrun – of more than 10%  must trigger a formal report in future.

We’d also like to see more openness in reporting with regular updates being posted on the Council’s web site”

As well as the cycle path, projects which would be subject to review include:

The Press are reporting that the Green Council Group Leader has now decided that there are questions about the Lendal Bridge trial which do need to be answered publicly. Despite voting last week against an Inquiry, he is apparently now saying that the Council’s Chief Executive should be asked to account for the mistakes at a “governance” committee meeting.

NB. The Lendal Bridge situation is also likely to be discussed at the Council meeting which is scheduled to be held on 11th December.

Lowfield Care Village delays rapped by residents.

Artists impression of new "care village"

Artists impression of new “care village”

Survey results highlight a lack of communication by Council

A door to door survey undertaken in the Lowfields and Tudor Road area over the last few weeks has found growing dissatisfaction with York Council consultation arrangements.

Residents say that they have heard little from the Council about the delays to the retirement village which was to have been built on the former Lowfields school site.

Originally expected open last year, work on the village has yet to start as the Council struggles to find partners and funding for the project.

A few weeks ago one section of the Council proposed building on all of the school playing field – the original intention had been to restrict building to the school ”footprint”.

The enlarged proposal was opposed by planners but concerns remain that the idea might be revived.

63% of respondent to the survey though that part of Lowfields playing field could be retained as a nature reserve. 29% opposed the idea while 8% were undecided.

Respondents also said:

  • The development should be aimed at providing homes for older people
  • Part of the playing fields should be retained as community amenity space
  • The playing fields should not be built on and should be secured after nightfall (There has been no casual access to the site for over 3 years).

Lowfields older peoples village to get dementia care support

Artists impression of new "care village"

Artists impression of new “care village”

Dementia Care specialist, Dementia Care Matters, is to help provide high quality care to those suffering from the condition in York.


Dementia Care Matters will advise the council on the operating model for its two new specialist dementia care Elderly Person’s Homes at Lowfield and Burnholme, as well as supporting and training existing care home staff to ensure they can deliver specialist care in the new homes.