More delays at Lowfields

The Yorkshire Water’s work on Tudor Road, which is intended to provide services to the Lowfields development, continues to make slow progress.

Tudor Road site entrance has been blocked for 2 months

Tudor Road and the public footpath were blocked for a couple of weeks from 15th June. Work on the main carriageway continued until early July. It was expected that delivery lorries to the Lowfields development site – which had been using Dijon Avenue – would then return to using the authorised Tudor Road entrance.

The Dijon Avenue site entrance is being heavily used

That hasn’t proved to be the case with lorries still trundling down Dijon Avenue each day. It seems the 2 month duration will pass before there is any relief.

Little Tudor Road communal housing site is now covered by a spoil heap

Meanwhile the section of the site reserved for the Yorspace communal housing scheme has been taken over by Wates builders. They have established a spoil heap there and are also storing other materials on the site. Apparently the cooperative still haven’t actually completed the purchase of the land and it remains unclear whether the promised homes will ever actually get built.

Communal housing site – foreground – remains derelict

Scepticism over York Council house prices at Lowfields

Average house prices in Dijon Avenue – next to the new “Lowfields Green development – are around £191,000. A 3 bedroomed semi is estimated to be worth between £188,000 and £208,000 according to the Zoopla web site. Prices are similar in nearby Lowfields Drive.

The announcement that the new “Clover” three bed, 94 sq. mtr, semi would cost £295,000 raised many eyebrows. With average salaries of £26,000 a year in York, that means a working couple would be able to borrow a maximum of £234,000 with repayments set at £1109 per month. They would also need a deposit of £60,000.

So we can safely say that the houses aren’t aimed at first time buyers.

Shape homes are offering a “shared ownership” option on some smaller properties. Two 2-bedroomed semi-detached houses (The Burdock) are for sale for between 25%-75% of the whole sale price of £225,000 (for example, a 30% share would cost £67,500). The Council have already completed deals elsewhere in the City for about 30 shared ownership homes. In most of those cases the prospective occupant identified a propriety that was available on the open market and asked the Council to buy half. The occupiers then pay part mortgage and part rent.

Finally seven “social rent” properties will be available.  Two are 2-bedroomed semi-detached houses and there are five 2-bedroomed semi-detached bungalows. Rent levels for the properties have not been revealed, although they will be much less than the £800 pm commercial rents being asked for similar properties in the area. Applicants will need to be on the housing waiting list although it is possible that preference will be given to Council tenants seeking to downsize from larger properties (freeing them, in turn, for family occupation).

Old Bowling Green semi

By way of comparison, a new 3 bed semi on the prestigious Old Bowling Green site on Front Street is listed for sale at £310,000  It has 90 sq. metres of floorspace and is arguably better located than the houses at “Lowfields Green”. Building work on the site will also conclude shortly.

Quite how the £295,000 price for the Lowfields semi has been arrived at was not made clear in the business case figures published by the Council.

It can only serve to stoke house price inflation at a time when many are feeling the pressures arising from the health crisis.

Some cross subsidy of the rented units was expected across the whole site.But that doesn’t explain the £50,000 premium apparently now being sought.

The Council may also point to high standards of thermal efficiency, but it would take over 100 years to repay the extra “up-front” costs through energy bill savings.

New homes at Lowfields on sale from Monday

The Council will start the sale of homes at Lowfields on Monday.

They say that the first phase is of “30 high quality, low energy, spacious homes” which will be ready for their new residents to move in “early in 2021”. 

Of this phase, 18 are available for outright sale at market rates and six of the homes are for sale through a shared ownership scheme.

Seven homes will be allocated for social rent.

More details on the Save Lowfields Playing Field Facebook page. (click)

First homes released for sale at Lowfield Green: The Burdock 2-bed semi

Lowfields – new homes not ready for occupation until next year

This Lowfields site will include 140 mixed tenure homes of which 56 will be affordable homes. The contractor has been on site since December 2019 and the Council says that it is “progressing well” with significant progress on “infrastructure work along with substructures”.

However the first 34 homes are now not due to be completed until early in 2021.

The Council decided to develop the site itself at a meeting held in July 2018

It later formed a company called Shape homes and said it would recruit staff to work with it. The latest financial report suggest that this had not progressed by the end of the financial year with over £1.2 million of the available budget slipping into the current year.

The Council also failed to invest £1.9 million of the budget that it set aside for the repair and modernisation of existing homes.

Football pitches

Meanwhile the football pitch project on Sim Balk Lane has stalled. The pitches were nominally supposed to replace those lost at Lowfields as a result of development, albeit they are 3 miles away. The land near London Bridge became waterlogged over the winter and is only now beginning to grass over.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is New-football-pitches-Sim-Balk-Lane-4-4th-Aug-2019-858x1024.jpg

The biggest problem though is the expensive “pavilion” which incorporates changing rooms.

A report to a meeting being held today says, “The construction of the pavilion / changing rooms has been put on hold due to the Covid-19 restrictions and it is not known when the work will be able to restart. The final procurement for the access road has also been put on hold”.

We wish that project well, but would have preferred to see some of the £850,000 cost (to taxpayers) invested in outdoor sports/leisure facilities in the Westfield area.

Huge £1.8 million overspend by Council on James House project

The conversion of James House from offices to 57 self-contained apartments for temporary homeless accommodation was completed on 14th April 2020, fifteen months behind schedule.

The Council says, “For homeless households the self-contained apartments will offer safe, secure and comfortable accommodation before permanent housing can be found for them. James House was open to residents in June 2020”.

The Council now admits that, as well as being 15 months behind schedule, the final costs are currently £1.782m above the agreed budget of £12.4m.

The council says that they have appointed independent experts to review the programming, delay, and quantity surveying aspects of the project.

Taking a pride in local neighbourhoods

As “normality” returns to our streets we are looking to the authorities to demonstrate that they have a plan which will see an increase in social pride in local neighbourhoods.

The Councils much hyped “health hubs” are winding down as the premises they occupy – such as libraries – are made ready for a return to their normal uses.

The longer established neighbourhood hubs have yet to reopen although the extended summer holidays mean that demand for their services is greater than ever. Informal meeting places would provide a welcome relief from social isolation particularly for those who have endured lock-down on their own. They are also a potential valuable resource for families during the extended school break.

Many of the venues for these hubs remain closed with no published plans for them to reopen when social distancing rules allow.

Perhaps surprisingly the York Council has yet to address other tensions which are likely to increase as more people are out and about. There is no room on the agenda for community safety at today’s first COVID “Board” meeting. Yet anti social behaviour is already increasing in some estates as lock-down is eased.

Still too much fly tipping despite amenity sites having reopened
Pleased to see that the unused telephone kiosk at the Foxwood shops has finally been removed. Hopefully the Council will get this prominent empty bungalow repaired and re–let quickly now
Still too much self inflicted grief. Graffiti on local junction boxes needs to be cleaned off
Grass has now established itself on the area near the new Osprey Close land drain.
Still waiting for hardcore to be put down on the path to ensure that it remains useable in wet weather
Continuing battle to get road repaired. It appears that the funding delegated to ward has not been utilised. Carriageway surfaces are likely to disintegrate when icy weather arrives.
Some good news with the cul de sac on Kingsway West now swept of detritus.
Ongoing problems reported on the “Save Lowfields Playing Field” Facebook page. Main issues relate to early morning noise, dust and further damage to verges in the Dijon Avenue area. (The latter thought to be connected with BT “Open World” works).

Building sites causing problems for residents across the City

It isn’t just the Lowfields building site which is causing concerns for local residents. People living near a site on Windmill Lane – ironically also being built on playing fields – have also raised concerns about work going on during unauthorised hours.

All planning permissions list the permitted hours of work and these usually exclude Sundays while weekday working may be limited to 8:00am – 6:00pm.

Windmill Lane residents say that workers were on site from 7:30am on Sunday. There are also issues with heavy plant trying to access the site via unauthorised routes and well as concerns about wildlife conservation.

The problems will sound familiar to residents in the Lowfields area where more details of the Tudor Road closure- effective from 13th June  – have been published.

Tudor Road entrance to Lowfields building site

 “Normal working hours will be Monday to Saturday 8am to 5pm. It would only be in exceptional circumstances or in case of emergencies that we would work any later or on Sunday’s. It is highly unlikely that there would be any overnight work.”

“For the first 2 weeks the road will be closed entirely in both directions but pedestrian access will be maintained. Vehicular access will be available for residents and deliveries in Tudor Road up to the point of where our works will be.”

“Access to the garages between 77 and 87 Tudor Road will not be obstructed as they are not directly in our working area. Any customers who will be impacted have been contacted by Barhale and will be consulted whilst the scheme is taking place to tray and minimise disruption.”

“Access will still be available to the homes near Gale lane from the Gale Lane side of Tudor Road. The works will only be in the vicinity of 59 to 69 Tudor Road.”

Dijon Avenue access to building site

“Equipment that will be used will include a 20 tonne excavator, 9 tonne dumper, hydraulic breaker, compaction and cutting equipment.”

“The compound will have a generator on site and will usually be off overnight. However, if there is wet and inclement weather it may be required to dry the teams clothing.”

HGVs seen accessing building site via Dijon Ave

Local Councillors say they’re pressing for improvements for pedestrians and cyclists in the area.

Local residents in Dijon Avenue are, however,  already seeing large vehicles using the street even though the authorised access for Tudor Road is still currently open.

More problems at Lowfield building site

Residents have complained bitterly on the “Save Lowfields Playing Field” Facebook page as contractors Wates step up their activities. The main complaints concern noise and dust although the parking of plant on public highways has also been an issue.

Promised repairs to verges have not been completed.

Council has written to local residents

It appears that more disruption is in prospect as a two week closure of the Tudor Road entrance to the site is due to start on Saturday 13th June. Apparently a full closure of Tudor Road will be in place for two weeks during which time a sewer will be diverted from the school site.

Tudor Road will be closed for at least two weeks in June

From Monday 29th June for one week there will be a partial road closure with one lane closed and the road controlled by traffic lights. The closure will affect access particularly to 100-108 Tudor Road. The bus service will be diverted although First York haven’t yet confirmed their diverted route.

During this period heavy plant and deliveries will revert to using the Dijon Avenue access to the site.

The Council has let down the people of Lowfield very badly on this project. They should not be building on playing fields. Any development of the former built footprint of the school, should have been scheduled for completion over a maximum of 24 months.

 Now timescales are stretching out with no progress being made on the health centre, “police station”, elderly persons accommodation, self-build, communal living plots or even in providing the promised additional off street parking spaces for Dijon Avenue residents. .

Dijon Avenue site access will be used during Tudor Road sewer works

Progress is being made on providing football pitches and a luxurious clubhouse near Sim Balk Lane – mainly funded by contributions from the Lowfields development.

There seems to be no prospect of the open space and playgrounds being provided at Lowfields unless and until the whole of the development is completed.

Verge damage has not been repaired

That could be 5 years or more away.

The health crisis will affect the housing market in ways that can only be guessed at. It seems possible that the Council may end up being unable to sell the bulk of the 140 homes that it is currently building. Their decision to set up an “in house” sales team already looks suspect (and expensive)

Altogether an ill judged, poorly managed project which reflects no credit on the City of York Council

Coronavirus York updates – 8th April 2020

Advice for cyclists

Some good advice taken from the Minsterfm web site. https://www.minsterfm.com/news/local/3078679/coronavirus—wednesday-8th-april-live-local-updates/

One family group of cyclists was seen wobbling down the A1237 today. Parallel routes are safer! 

NORTH YORKSHIRE POLICE ISSUES ADVICE TO NOVICE CYCLISTS

bicycle crop

Police are sharing safety advice for cyclists as more people take to two wheels for their form of daily exercise.

Despite quieter roads, police are warning cyclists they still need to take safety seriously, as well as observing new rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Government measures allow “one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household”.

The government goes on to say: “When doing this you must minimise the time you are out of your home and stay at least two metres away from anyone else that isn’t from your household.”

Major Collision Investigation Sergeant Kirsten Aldridge said:

“While North Yorkshire roads are quieter, there are still lots of things cyclists need to be mindful of.

“Firstly, quieter roads have led to some drivers dramatically exceeding the speed limit. While we’re trying to enforce this as widely as possible, it puts cyclists and pedestrians at significant risk.

“Secondly, the government measures make it clear that cyclists need to practice social distancing and should only ride alone or with people from the same household. Please remember that, as our officers are out on patrol ensuring people follow these rules.

“Finally, we’d remind drivers that they should always expect the unexpected around each corner, especially at the moment, and pass cyclists at a minimum distance of 1.5 metres when it is safe to do so.”

North Yorkshire Police has also noticed that many new cyclists are taking to the road, including families with children who have started cycling as their one-a-day form of exercise.

The force is sharing the following seven safety tips with novices:

    • Plan your journey in advance and advise someone of where you are going and when you intend to return, especially if you are cycling in a remote location.
    • If you are riding as a family with young children, consider riding routes with dedicated cycle paths to ensure the safety of young children and pedestrians. Please remember that if you are cycling on the roads that vehicles such as HGVs, are still regularly travelling routes in order to move much-needed supplies. Large vehicles might scare and unbalance young children on bicycles when overtaking them.
    • Ensure that your bicycle is road-worthy. If it has been unused for a while, ensure that the mechanisms such as brakes and gears are working and that tyres are pumped up before starting any ride. Brake failure can cause a serious collision.
    • Think about your positioning in the road and whether you can be seen by other road users. Wearing reflective clothing and ensuring that your bike is fitted with lights and/ or reflective discs helps with visibility. Assuming a position towards the centre of the lane where possible maximises the rider’s line of vision and means that other road users have a clear view of you.
    • If you are riding with protection around your face ensure that this does not restrict your head movement and that you are able to look around freely without restriction so that safety checks can be carried out.
    • If you’re riding with your family, help motorists overtake you with the safe distance of 1.5 metres, promoted by our Close Pass campaign, by filtering down to single file.
    • Effectively communicate with other road users, by using hand signals when turning left or right. Try to make eye contact with other road users and pedestrians to ensure that they have seen you.

Sgt Aldridge added: “As long as people follow the government’s rules about how they exercise and observe social distancing while they do it, we want to give people the knowledge they need to ride safely.

“North Yorkshire is a beautiful county with a strong cycling scene and 6,000 miles of roads. That’s plenty of road for everyone if all road users stick to the law, take sensible precautions and look out for one another.”

Takeaway deliveries in west York on Google Maps

Google maps https://www.google.com/maps/ is now listing takeaways that do home deliveries.

Download the app from https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/google-maps/id585027354

In west York they list Buongiorno (tel. 07985 797754), Bengal Lounge (tel. 01904 796666), Taverna Yamas (tel. 07960 920979), Woodthorpe Spice (tel. 01904 700070), Salsa Pizza (01904 788888), Pizza Hut (01904 606222), Tea on the Green (01904 789380) and several others. 

Not sure how up to date it is. 

More deaths from coronavirus at York Hospital

A total of 19 patients with confirmed coronavirus have now died at York Hospital, following a further three fatalities.

Grass cutting and weed control

This service continues.

The Council are maintaining the public highway, which includes highway verges and pavements to keep them in a safe and accessible condition, because:

 • If the grass gets too long it will grow onto pavements causing slip/trip hazards and cause sight line issues at junctions

• if weeds grow on pavements they will become unsafe to walk on

• it will cause longer term damage to pavement surfaces, causing the breakup of the surface

• If we don’t keep the weeds under control at the beginning of the year this will put greater pressures on the service for the whole year.

 All frontline staff, whether gardening or street cleaning are working alone to ensure social distancing.

NB. Please also keep boundary hedges/tree cut trimmed back from public footpaths

Food deliveries

The Council says that  “Staff and volunteers of our community hubs and in the customer centre are continuing to work incredibly hard to support residents who need it. We have attached a document (who we are helping) which sets out who is deemed to be ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ and the types of support we are offering them and others in communities across the city.

 The extremely clinically vulnerable above are supported by food parcels from community hubs.Government guidance on this group and how to protect and work with them  Click 

 In terms of wider support for residents who have asked for help with food:

 Those who are generally able and financially secure but who are not able to shop are given a list of food delivery businesses and/or link them to the COVID-19 Mutual Aid facebook groups *

  • Older or disabled residents who need help with shopping and are financially secure are referred to specialist voluntary organisations such as Age UK, Good Gym
  • The medically shielded are delivered the Government-provided food which the council supplements especially for those with special dietary needs eg diabetics or coeliacs
  • People eligible for Food Bank vouchers are sent a delivery from the food bank where appropriate
  • People struggling for other reasons ie anxiety, caring responsibilities, mobility etc are delivered a Council-sourced food box put together at the hubs.

 In addition, parents of children eligible for Free School Meals are given vouchers.

 As well as this support volunteers are helping to check on people’s wellbeing by calling individuals to check they are ok and also chat to them for a while to help them feel they aren’t alone.

 Vulnerable people who can ask City of York Council for help on COVID19help@york.gov.uk or 01904 551550.Anyone can ask for help from COVID19help@york.gov.uk   if they don’t currently get help from CYC or the NHS, or have any help from family or friends”.

*NB. The Council have still not published a list of shops undertaking home deliveries despite many requests.

Morrisons

Morrisons now providing an “essentials” telephone ordering/doorstep delivery service for the vulnerable

Yorwaste

Yorwaste has become the latest employer to deploy theuir workfioece in support of street level public services.

Business grants

The Council started to make payments to local businesses on Monday. They will be working over Easter to complete the process. They are also making checks to weed out any fraudulent claims.

We have started making payments, with several million pounds worth of grants processed today. This is an entirely new process and we have a duty to quality assure every payment and protect York businesses grants from potential fraud. We have had 2,500 applications so far and need to run each one through the government’s anti-fraud software before we can process payments; this is to verify bank account details of organisations which have never had a financial relationship with us before. We’ve started contacting businesses as part of that process and appreciate your patience with us whilst we carry this out. Please remember we will only ask you to verify your details and would never ask you to make payments.

Support for children and young people

Kooth (www.kooth.com) is commissioned by TEWV to offer mental health and well -being support to young people in York and North Yorkshire aged 11-18 years. The service provides young people with:

  • An opportunity to access support services anonymously
  • Access to BACP accredited counsellors via online chat
  • Access on to online articles and magazines written by counsellors
  • An opportunity for young people to write their own articles and to share their story
  • Young people can set their own personal goals and are supported by the counsellors online
  • Young people can access the support service from any internet device, 365 days a year.

 Contacts

  • If you have significant concern regarding a vulnerable pupil please contact MASH: 01904 551900, out of hours: 0845 0349417
  • If parents have questions regarding childcare, i.e. OOSC/PVI please direct them to: FIS@york.gov.uk

House building

 To The Council says it is working to avoid delays to the council’s ambitious housing projects which might incur costs or slow the delivery of much-needed homes.

 Lowfield Green

Following a 48-hour pause on construction at Lowfield Green (to complete a thorough risk assessment) a new site working procedure has been drawn up which allows construction of the 140 new homes to continue. The new way of working also keeps building contractor Wates’s employees and their self-employed contractors safely on site.

 Ordnance Lane

Momentum around resident engagement has kept going! A workshop for residents on intergenerational living moved online to involve 19 residents and officers. It used a combination of pre-recorded presentations and a live panel with local residents taking centre stage.

Action needed on verges and roads

The Council will be publishing its highways resurfacing programme for the next financial year shortly. There is now a major backlog of work in the area. It is not just potholes that need filling. Large areas of carriageway and several footpaths need patching or resurfacing.

The present Council promised to reconstruct all highways in the City, so it will be interesting to see the extent of next years programme.

School Street remains in poor condition.
Verge damage in Dijon Avenue

Problems with verge damage in the Dijon Avenue area have escalated since building work started on the Lowfield site

£500,000 grant for York communal housing group

The York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) was today asked to grant £1/2 million to the Yorspace communal housing group.  The group claimed that their £4 million scheme would create 50 jobs in the construction sector and would be built to uniquely high levels of sustainability.

A report to the decision meeting held today says “This project is a departure from what the Local Growth Fund has supported to date”

LEPs were set up to “support growth, create new jobs and businesses

Although Yorspace identify 50 new jobs in the construction sector and high insulation standards in the homes, these are far from unique outcomes.

The developer claims it will build “19 low carbon homes….constructed on the Lowfield Green site using biobased sustainable construction materials….sourced locally….and have low embodied carbon, create low energy healthy homes and produce zero waste“.  LEP officials observe that it is unclear what this actually means

The alternative of developing the land for Council housing would have produced the same outcomes. The Council has agreed that all its new build properties will be to “Passivhaus” environmental standards.

The LEPs independent appraiser identified a few weaknesses such as unclear aspects of  procurement, state aid and match funding.

Yorspace is a communal housing cooperative in which house occupiers buy a stake. Originally it was thought that the group would provide homes for the less well off but that seems to be less clear now. Their pitch now seems to be based on the use of ultra sustainable building materials

When the York Council offered to sell a plot for the 19 homes on the Lowfields site it did not impose conditions which would have required the units to be occupied by the less well off, by those on the housing waiting list or even to those currently living in York or North Yorkshire.

No groups such as “key workers” are targeted for the occupation of the units

The project has already been offered a cheap land deal at Lowfields by the York Council and hopes to attract £855,000 from Homes England. Yorspace and its partner the “Lowfield Green Housing Cooperative” currently have joint assets of around £5000. They recently ran a “crowd funding” appeal.

The LEP are clearly concerned that other house builders might regard any state subsidy as unfair. The report says,  “State Aid: The most appropriate applicant – Yorspace or the Lowfield Green Housing Co-operative – needs to be identified, then the State Aid position clarified in the light of this. This also needs to address potential objections from other housebuilders when any LEP grant is publicised”.

The LEP report concludes “In recommending provisional approval it is in recognition that this is an unusual but innovative project that needs further support and assistance and may in the end not be able to be funded”.

The York Council has not debated their approach to this latest application for a taxpayer funded subsidy.

LEP papers are published on their web site but are not easy to find. Meetings attract little advanced publicity.

The meeting report can be downloaded by clicking here

Grant application to LEP