Local residents in Lowfields are objecting to plans to remove the railings which protect their garden boundaries.
The plan by the Council to replace the railings was first revleaed on tyhis site at the weekend.
According to their Facebook site, the Lowfields Residents Action Group is leading a campaign to get the Council to consult neighbours on their plans.
Their main concerns are about the appearance of a new fence, its impact on the natural environment, damage to existing landscaping and the money which would be wasted if the existing railings – which are in good condition – were junked.
Separately the Council has announced today that it will commence construction work on the site in two weeks time.
It is writing to residents telling them about a consultation meeting which is taking place next week and which will involve the Wates building contractors
The Residents Group has responded saying, “We think this is pretty short notice for a consultation event.
The letter includes an evasive reference to “Yorspace” who we understand are still struggling to find funding for their communal living site.
It also pointedly doesn’t admit that the Council have failed to find a developer for their proposed elderly persons care home.
Nothing more either, on the public buildings (Health Centre and Police station) which seem less and less likely now to happen.
This means that there is no chance of building work on the whole site being finished within 2 years”.
This application contains a large number of details changes to the Lowfield plans. Some were submitted as long ago as August but have not been subject to local consultation. Many are minor in nature or will have little impact on the existing local community. Some are more far reaching including a proposal to remove the existing perimeter metal railings and replace with a wooden boarded fence.. Leaving aside the additional costs involved in such a proposal, the railings are valued by some neighbouring house owners as they offer good security. They also allow wild animals such as hedgehogs to move freely around the neighbourhood. We think that individual neighbours should have been consulted on these changes.
According to a notice published earlier today, the York Council has received no suitable tenders for the provision of a care home at its Lowfieldssite.
The Council has already invested heavily in providing infrastructure, including roads, at the site. They promised a 30-month building timetable inresponse to concerns expressed by residents in 2016 who feared that the nuisance caused by building works could drag on for a decade.
The failure to find a development partner for the care home, together with delays on the communal housing section, means that there is no end in sight for the development work.
The delay noticesays, ” This item has been withdrawn because, following a tender process, officers have been unable to appoint a developer. Officers need to consult the market and consider the options before the Executive can make a decision”.
According to the Councils Elderly Care programme, which was last discussed in 2018, work on building the care home was due to start next month. Officials at that they said that they were confident on getting a good deal for the site following “soft market” testing.
Now a delay on the start of building work on the home of over 12 months seems inevitable.
There have been similar delays at Oakhaven on York Road where work is now over 3 years behind schedule.
Delays also dog the Haxby Hall redevelopment site on the other side of the City.
Despite the delays in providing new care homes, existing facilities have been closed. Some like Willow House next to the Bar walls remain empty.
Ironically, the original plan to provide a, mainly private sector funded, care village on the site of the Lowfield’s school had been developed in 2010 to the point where work was scheduled to start. The scheme was shelved by the incoming Labour Council and 9 years later there is little to show but some “roads to nowhere” and large spoil heaps.
The site is now has little security. It is attracting children who want to play on the dangerous spoil heaps.
The football pitches have long gone so alternative children’s play facilities are non existent.
Even the Kingsway multi user games area has been turned into a building compound for another development..
The Council is to adopt a pseudonym when it tries to sell any new homes that it builds in York. The decision comes in the wake of research which suggests that many potential buyers regard the Council as a provider of cheap, lower specification homes.
So, the Council will in future market itself as “Shape Homes York”. The revelation comes in a report being considered later this week
The Council’s poor image on housing is easy to understand given the litter and weed infested state of many Council estates. Unnecessary cuts to maintenance regimes have led to a fall in tenants’ satisfaction. This has affected the Councils image more generally.
The report also reveals what is claimed to be a new approach to design and public consultation on the sites that it will develop over the next few years. Around 600 new homes are planned.
Major mistakes were made at Lowfields where bogus promises of a new health centre and police station were included in marketing material. It later turned out that neither was likely to materialise while a proposed elderly persns home has been delayed. Residents became even more hostile towards the council when it was revealed that “replacement” sports pitches (those at Lowfield are being built on) would be provided at a site located some 3 miles away and lacking a public transport link.
The Council plans developments at Askham Bar, Burnholme, Duncombe Barracks, the former Manor School, the former Clifton Without School, and the former Woolnough House sites.
The brownfield (and unused) Askham bar car park site is being slipped down the priority list to allow for early work at Ordnance Lane and Hospital Fields Road.
The Council expects around 40% of the properties it builds to be “affordable”. They will be cross subsidised by market sales by the new “Shape Homes” front organisation. The Council has set up a new department to manage the programme and has recruited a large number of additional administrative staff. The overall cost of the programme is £154 million.
The Council has also published adesign manualwhich they claim indicates how its new homes will look. It includes some high efficiency homes which will have low running costs (Passivhaus)
As the, currently stalled, Lowfield development has revealed, Council propaganda rarely these days accords with reality.
In setting up its own housing building operation, we think that the Council may be overextending itself.
It is still trying to bring to a conclusion the £42 million Community Stadium project, it announced last week that £20 million would be spent on redeveloping a business club at the Guildhall while the first tranche of work on the £1 billion York Central site is due to start later in the year.
& all that from a local authority which doesn’t even have a permanent Chief Executive working for it at present.
The cost of the pavilion is controversial because it is being partly funded from monies generated by building on playing fields at Lowfield.
More modest changing facilities would have allowed the surplus to be used to provide an all-weather games area to replace both the facilities lost at Lowfields and also the Kingsway West children’s games area which the Council demolished earlier in the summer.
The Council has still not made any public announcement about the replacement games area which could be located on Thanet Road.
More details of the York Council’s controversial decision to sell land to the Yorspace community housing group are emerging. In response to a Freedom of Information request the Council has provided a copy of the independent valuation that it obtained for the land at Lowfields.
The valuation states that the site may be sold to a
community housing group for £300,000 which “represents a 20% discount on market
value”. However, the valuation report is based on the construction of 10 semi-detached
homes on the land.
The Yorspace proposal envisages a 19 unit, high density, development.
So the scale of the taxpayer subsidy remains obscure. The
only way to test the financial assumptions would be to market the site, comparing
offers for social housing with a commercial alternative.
While Section 123 of the
Local Government Act 1972 does allow Local Authorities to sell, in certain
circumstances, land at below market value and without seeking competitive bids,
that discretion is not unfettered.
The Council constitution requires a reason for such a sale
to be minuted. There is no such reason given in the record of the officer
decision taken on 18th January 2019
The record of the meeting says, “The Mutual Home Ownership Society housing model they use
is designed as such that they will be economically accessible to lower income
families and the affordability of the homes is maintained in perpetuity”.
The council has not, so far,
chosen to include, in the terms of the proposed sale, a requirement that
occupiers MUST be lower income families and/or that they should currently be
registered on the home choice/housing waiting list..
As the development has NOT been
classified as “affordable housing” in the Local Plan, the Council must legally provide
a specific reason for giving preferential treatment to a particular group.
The reason might be, for example,
to create local jobs, to provide accessible leisure facilities, to provide
homes for those on the waiting list or whatever.
However, an auditable rationale is
a legal requirement.
The sale to Yorspace has not been completed yet but is expected
next month. A further report to a council committee on the scheme is expected on
Meanwhile it has emerged that no progress has been made in selling any “self-build“ plots at Lowfield
The Council says that marketing material for the plots is being prepared by the Community and Self-Build Officer, in conjunction withCustom Build Homes, who are the sale agent for the plots.
event was held last year, and it is planned that another event will be held at
the start of the marketing launch”.
Plots will be
promoted through the council, the Custom Build Homes website and Rightmove.
Plots will go on sale this Autumn.
The buyers must have started construction work within 12
months of purchase and have completed all works within 2 years”.
The cost of constructing a new “pavilion” at the football pitches near London Bridge has been questioned. It is claimed that the cost of providing 13 pitches plus changing rooms near London Bridge will be £1.5 million.
This compares to the £600,000 cost of providing of a modern changing room & clubhouse recently for the Hamilton Panthers team on Little Knavesmire.
The York Council has been asked to contribute £850,000 to the Bishopthorpe scheme with the rest coming mainly from the Football Foundation and fundraising.
Most of the £850,000 is being abstracted from the Westfield Ward.
Officials claim it is a substitute for the pitches lost at Lowfield which are now being built on.
NB. There has still been no progress on replacing the children’s all weather sports area which was a valued amenity in the Kingsway West area. The Council took the games area over as a building compound over 3 months ago, promising that alternative facilities would be provided.
The promised replacement isn’t event mentioned in the Council’s 4 monthly forward programme of upcoming decisions
The Westfield Councillors are right to insist on more information being provided on building works in the area, when they meet tomorrow (Wednesday)
However, they will be meeting only a few metres away from the spoil heaps and site compound which has been constructed on the Council owned land to the rear of the Library.
Some explanation for the decision to allow the contractors to use this Council owned site will be expected. It is an issue that is not likely to go away.
Some residents still hope that Council will offer some sort of compensation for the problems that have been caused by the use of the compound
Elsewhere, the Lowfields development saga continues.
There has still not been any explanation about how the York Council came to mislead residents about the inclusion of a “police station” and health centre/GP surgery in the original consultation plans.
Both these promises turned out to be bogus. It is unclear what will happen to what, otherwise, will be unused plots on the east of the site.
On Ascot Way, access arrangements, for the heavy plant needed to complete the demolition of Windsor House, remain unclear. It seems that access for the plant will be via Kingsway West and Ascot Way It is clear that the roads are too narrow in the area to avoid major damage to adjacent verges and paths. A “one way” system has been suggested but not confirmed.
There are real concerns that the bus route will be obstructed by the likely congestion
The original hope had been that more parking lay-bys would have been provided by now.
…..and the problem of the promised replacement for the all weather games area seems to be no closer to resolution. The existing MUGA has already been converted into a building compound.
There is no word about the proposed alternative site on the Thanet Road Sports Area although officials were asked to follow this up 3 months ago.
Residents will no doubt be hoping that some answers emerge from the meeting
The York Council courted controversy 2 years ago when it announced that the “replacement” football pitches – for those lost to the Lowfields development – would be provided on a site lying between Tadcaster Road and Bishopthorpe.
The site is nearly 3 miles from Lowfield and does not have a direct public transport link.
In December 2017, the Councils Executive approved a £400,000 contribution from the Lowfields budget towards the Bishopthorpe plan. The project will provide a new home for the Bishopthorpe White Rose Football Club.
The new pitches must be ready before the new homes, being built at Lowfields, are occupied. Work on building the homes is due to start in August with road and some other infrastructure already in place.
Now a report to a meeting taking place next week reveals that the Council is to make a substantially greater contribution to the pitch project than has hitherto been admitted.
The Council will now, additionally, contribute £110,000 from Section 106 developer payments intended to provide alternative open space.
A further £300,000 will come from a “Lowfields developer contribution”. (The Council is, of course, the developer at Lowfields).
In total, therefore, the Council plans to spend around £850,000 on the scheme which, although it includes a clubhouse, now looks to be a very expensive way of providing 3 football pitches.
The Bishopthorpe football club itself will contribute £80,000, with the balance of £1/2 million coming from the Football Foundation.
Residents are bound to be angry about this latest example of
There is land available much nearer Lowfields which would benefit from open space investment. There is, for example, under-used land located between the built-up area and the ring road off Askham Lane.
…But this seems to have been overlooked as the local authority continues to snub the Westfield area.
NB. It also appears that Council officials have made no progress in finding an alternative location for the Kingsway games area. That facility is now being used as a building compound. The Council agreed 3 months ago to seek an alternative site on a nearby sports area and was to have opened negotiations with the current occupiers. Little progress seems to have been made
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
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.