Busy week for the York planning committee

Big planning decisions in York

York Central

York Central

The largest proposal concerns the land to the rear of the railway station. Known as “York Central” redevelopment of the area has been on the cards for nearly two decades. It has finally reached the planning application stage. The report recommends that the plans be forwarded to the Secretary of State for endorsement. The plans have attracted some opposition, but the economic and social welfare of the City depends on making some progress on the site now. Hopefully some of the ill judged ideas such as having only one-way traffic through the Marble Arch tunnel can be changed at a later stage.

Lowfields

‘dozer wrecks playing field

There is already a lot of local disquiet about the way that the Council are implementing their plans for this area. Many of the comments on the “Save Lowfields Playing Field” Facebook page are from disgruntled local residents who, even at this early stage, point to conflicts between lorries and parked cars, muddy roads and the ripping out of trees and hedges.

They are asking that the new parking spaces promised for Tudor Road be constructed before the existing parking lay-by is lost as an access road is constructed.

Yorspace proposed development plan, Lowfields

Further along the road, the Yorspace” application has been heavily criticised by local residents. The main concerns related to the lack of affordable units proposed on the site, the impact on the natural environment including inappropriate boundary treatments, security concerns relating to the adjacent public snicket access to little Tudor Road, the proposal to remove the railings which protect adjacent properties,  inadequate car parking provision  and the impact that overspill parking by residents, families and visitors could have on neighbouring streets and the height of the buildings.

Council officials have revealed that they have approved 5 outstanding conditions, for activities on the building site, despite several objections.

Lincoln Court

Lincoln Court.

The Council has made an embarrassing series of mistakes on the proposal to extend this independent living building. Even now they have published papers which imply (wrongly) that the new apartments  will be classified as “Extra Care” units. It has had plenty of time to clarify that issue.

There is some hope now that the future of the adjacent games area will be secured. Local Councillors are understood to have taken the initiative to discuss moving the facility to the local rugby club ground. If so, that would be a good solution to a problem which has also raised concerns from Sport England, and the resident’s association.

Other applications

All applications are recommended for approval

New chance to learn more about Council plans for Lowfields as meeting date announced

Following a false star last week, when an information drop in session was poorly attended because of inadequate publicity, a new date has been set.

A drop in will take place on Tuesday 5 March between 4:00pm and 7:00pm at the Gateway Centre on Front Street. Local residents are invited to attend.

The Lowfields Residents Action Group have also published the Councils responses to a series of questions that they posed about construction plans.

The response reveals that initially all construction traffic will enter via Dijon Avenue. This may also have implications for those residents living in Lowfields Drive and Gale Lane who may live on the access route.

The Action Group are appealing for help in distributing leaflets in the area warning residents about the impending building work.

York Council reply to residents concerns 15th February 2019

 

Lowfields – Residents produce newsletter

Local residents have published a newsletter which highlights emerging issues in the Lowfields area. The initiative comes after Council officials admitted that inadequate notice had been given of a “drop in” meeting that they held at the library last week.

There are several planning applications for the Lowfields site which are due to be considered over the next few weeks. Residents are being urged to make their views known.

There is scope to provide proper off street hard hard standing at the flats on little Green lane

The snicket link on little Tudor Road has not been swept regularly

There is concern about the impact of anti social behaviour in the area when the snicket linking little Tudor Road to Dijon Avenue is reopened.

Residents have also suggested that while plant is in the area, improved off street parking should be provided for those tenants living in flats next to the snicket.

Elsewhere there is pressure for alternative parking bays to be provided before the new access to the Lowfields site is constructed near number 106. Several off street parking spaces will be lost when the new road is constructed.

There is still no firm news on when the much promised, but never delivered, additional parking bays will be provided on Dijon Avenue. It appears that the Council has abandoned a plans to site them near the Green Lane junction.

Lowfields Residents Action Group newsletter Feb 2019

Lowfields Residents Action Group newsletter Feb 2019

 

 

Some good news as Council acts on dangerous plant found at Lowfields

Japanese Knotweed

A planning application, which would see a patch of Japanese Giant Knotweed removed from the Lowfields playing field, has been submitted.

Specialists will remove the invasive plant from a section on the west of the site.

The reason it can cause a threat is because it grows so rapidly. Each plant can grow up to an inch a day and has the ability to mature rapidly across a large surface area.

As it grows so quickly it can actually cause a lot of structural damage. It can cause damage to tarmac and concrete, increase erosion, damage retaining walls, damage building foundations and block drainage pipes.

The planning application can be found by clicking here. It is work that would need to be undertaken even if redevelopment were not to take place.

Location of Hogweed on Lowfields site plan

Lowfields and commune housing

The Lowfields Playing Field Action Group have recorded an objection to plans to build 19 “communal living” homes on the Lowfields site. Although the Action Group states that it has no “in principle” objection to the development of this part of the site (they are mainly concerned about the loss of the nearby sports field and green open space) they have highlighted several issues.

One of these was a “behind closed doors” decision – only just published by the Council – to sell off 0.7 acres of land, to the “Yorspace” developers, for only £300,000. That would mean a plot cost of around £15,000 – far below the market value. A typical housing plot is that part of the City is currently fetching in excess of £50,000.

The decision was taken by a Council officer.

The papers to support he decision are very thin on detail. The Council can only legally sell at below market value if it can demonstrate that a lower priced sale “will facilitate the improvement of economic, environmental or social well-being of the area“.

Apparently the official was convinced that the shared ownership model being proposed would ensure that a continuing supply of low cost housing would result from the development.

But will it?

The papers don’t suggest that those who will occupy the homes, are required to be registered on the housing waiting list. There is no maximum income level mentioned for shareholders. There doesn’t seem to be any requirement for the investors to be York citizens or even UK residents.

As the homes turn over, it is unclear how investors in later years will be selected.

Housing subsidies are a controversial area. A more straight forward option would simply to have built more Council houses on the site (The Council’s housing debt ceiling has recently been lifted by the government).

But this is clearly an area where full transparency is needed. This would ensure that innovative house funding and ownership models are encouraged, while safeguarding the taxpayer’s interests. Sadly it appears that no York Councillor has had the wit or wisdom to press for all the facts to be made public.

The Action Group has also highlighted concerns about parking provision, security and nature conservation issues on the plans which can be viewed by clicking here

Lowfields Action Group planning objection Feb 2019

 

Latest planning applications for the Westfield Ward

 Below are the latest planning applications received by the York Council for the Westfield ward.

Full details can be found by clicking the application reference

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63 Green Lane Acomb York YO24 3DJ

Conditions 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 & 14 of 17/00884/FUL.

Ref. No: AOD/19/00017 

—–

Lincoln Court Ascot Way York

Three storey extension to accommodate 15 new flats with associated alterations to internal layout of existing flats (creating 10 new flats in total), single storey front extension to form new main entrance, erection of plant room to side, reconfiguration of parking provision and associated landscaping works including new boundary fencing (revised scheme)

Ref. No: 19/00083/FULM 

—–

159 Westfield Place Acomb York YO24 3HN

Single storey side extension

Ref. No: 18/02948/FUL 

——

9A Hawkshead Close York YO24 2YF

Dormer to rear (revision to planning permission 17/02473/FUL).

Ref. No: 18/02792/FUL 

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Former Lowfield School Dijon Avenue York

Conditions 6 & 34 of 17/02428/FULM.

Ref. No: AOD/19/00001 

——

Former Lowfield School Dijon Avenue York

Condition 30 of 17/02428/FULM.

Ref. No: AOD/18/00368 

——

Yorspace proposed development plan, Lowfields

Former Lowfield School Dijon Avenue York

Erection of 5 apartments, 5 two bedroom housing units, 6 three bedroom housing units, 3 four bedroom housing units and a shared common house/amenity block and associated infrastructure to form community housing development

Ref. No: 18/02925/FULM 

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Representations can be made in favour of, or in objection to, any application via the Planning on line web site.  http://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/

The Council now no longer routinely consults neighbours by letter when an application is received

Haxby Hall elderly persons home plan hits buffers

Haxby Hall

The Haxby Hall home currently has a total capacity of 49 care beds. Within those 49 beds there is provision for approximately 35 residential care beds, eight beds for people living with dementia and up to six step down/short stay beds which are used interchangeably.

Services at the home are delivered by 51 staff (31.58 full time equivalents). When last inspected by the Care Quality Commission it was given a “good” rating 

It’s a year since the Council decided to pull out of Haxby Hall. The expectation was that a third party would take over the running of an enlarged, modernised home.

A feasibility study conducted in 2016 showed that a care home of up to 70 beds could be delivered on the site. One key issue for development was access to the site, which is constricted by the adjacent ambulance station. The plan for Haxby Hall was agreed by the Council on 7th December 2016.

A well attended supplier engagement event was held on 6 September 2017 to promote the opportunity and receive feedback on the proposal. Residents and their families were also consulted.

12 months later the proposal has been withdrawn from the Councils forward decision making programme. Difficulties in negotiating the new access are blamed for the project being shelved.

In January 2018 the then Director Martin Farren outlined the position

“The future of Haxby Hall is a key part of our Older Persons’ Accommodation Programme which looks to address the needs of York’s fast-growing older population by expanding and modernising care provision across the city.

“This report looks at options to safeguard the future of Haxby Hall older persons’ home and procure a provider who will deliver and operate improved, modern care facilities”.

The bids for the takeover were due to be received in September 2018. It was likely that residents would be decanted to other homes while work took place, with the new home scheduled to open in 2020.

No update has been given to any public meeting since then.

The latest delays follow problems at Oakhaven Elderly Persons home which has been empty for two years.

A facility scheduled to be provided at Burnholme is also understood to be delayed.

No detailed planning application has been submitted by the Council for the development of elderly persons facilities at the Lowfields site (although a, much more controversial, commercial housing development did get planning permission there a few months ago)

The Council is also pressing ahead with closing Windsor House which has specialised in providing support for those with dementia

All in all, we think that there is a need for some public reassurances about the timescales which now apply to the Councils Elderly Persons Strategy!

Another sports facility to close in Westfield?

Kingsway West all weather football pitch

Council officials are pressing for the neighbourhoods only Multi User Games Area (MUGA) to be permanently closed

The MUGA is located off Kingsway West and was provided at the same time as the Hob Moor school was rebuilt in 2004. It was hailed as one of the community facilities that the PFI funded new build school would unlock. It proved to be the only causal use facility provided on the campus, with other facilities like the nursery later closing.

Initially the MUGA was to have been located within the school perimeter fence. It would have been secured by caretaking staff when not in use. Following pressure from the PFI contractors the MUGA became a stand-alone facility accessible outside school hours.

It satisfied the demand for “kick about” facilities to the east of Gale Lane.

Initially it was successful with detached youth workers staging events there. However, the then Labour controlled Council shredded the youth service following budget cuts in 2013. The organised use of the MUGA ceased. Calls for the Ward Committee to fund events there failed to get off the ground.

An experiment in leaving the area open resulted in arson damage to the all-weather surface which was never repaired. The service access gate was also damaged and not reinstated by the Council.

It is now little used and often strewn with litter and detritus.

Council consultation card Sept 2018

Yet there is still a demand for play and sports facilities for use by children in the area. The nearest alternative is the Energise (Better) sports centre on Cornlands Road which is run on a commercial basis.

Typically the cost of hiring an all weather pitch for a match is around £50.

Now officials are consulting on replacing the MUGA with other structures. They suggest wooden climbing frames, tree planting and better lighting.

There is a demand for better play facilities in the area but not at the expense of existing sports facilities.

We have already seen the Our Lady’s sports field developed and more recently plans have been approved to build on the football pitch at Lowfields. The Hob Moor school playing field will be reduced in size and an application to build on the Acomb Bowling Green is being considered by the Council.

Officials promised that, as part of the Lowfields scheme, pitches on Chesney’s Field would be levelled and upgraded. But the football season* has started without any sign of improvement.

The Council acknowledge that there is already a deficiency in sports and green space provision in the Westfield area. The Councils own Local Plan identifies the existing shortfalls as 4.98 ha of outdoor sports facilities, 6.02 ha of children’s play and 2.86 ha of young persons facilities.

Life expectancy in the Westfield ward is lower than in other parts of York. This is partly put down to unhealthy lifestyles.

Council run consultation exercises were discredited by the Lowfields fiasco. Rather than asking people to record a vote in favour or in opposition to multiple options, the exercise depended on narrative responses.

These were easy to manipulate by official’s intent on justifying a particular outcome.

This must not happen again.

There is a demand for “off the streets” activities for young people. Facilities like the MUGA – if well maintained and promoted – can make a difference. The plans for the new children’s centre on Ascot Way could also unlock the potential for better play facilities for younger children.

But all age groups need to be catered for.

*NB. The Beagle FC beat Cawood 4-0 in their Chesney Field encounter on Saturday

York Council sports and open space need assessments

York Council’s investment programme slipping into crisis

Major delays on housing modernisation, Guildhall repairs and transport improvements

Executive report 30th Aug 2018

A report to a meeting taking place on Thursday suggests reducing this year’s capital investment programme by £33 million.

The slippage includes major tenant choice housing modernisation works as the Council has failed to appoint a contractor to carry on the programme. No explanation of the programme failure is offered. The delays could affect other works including those dealing with standing water under homes and upgrades to water mains. These issues have not been publicly reported to the Councillor who has Executive responsibility for housing

The Council does still hope to make a start on controversial building schemes at Newbury Avenue (Autumn 2018) and the £22.5 million Lowfields scheme (Spring 2019).

The report claims that £748,000 “approved by the Executive in December 2016 for Lowfield sports facilities” will be spent, thus perpetuating the myth that the new football pitches being provided near Bishopthorpe are in some way linked to the Lowfields redevelopment.

There are also delays on several major transport infrastructure schemes.

Improvements to the northern by-pass (basically bigger roundabouts) will slip into 2019/20 as will a start on the new York Central access road from Water End.

Guildhall “business case” March 2017

Work on refurbishing the Guildhall will also be delayed with nearly £10 million slipping as a start on site is not now expected before summer 2019. Reopening is unlikely before 2021.

The Guildhall remains closed to the public and is not used now even for Council meetings. Even an empty Guildhall costs taxpayers about £330 a day with much if it going on Business Rates, heating, energy and security. To that should be added the cost of hiring alternative premises for Council meetings and the additional repair costs that inevitably arise when an old building is left empty for an extended period of time.

The Community Stadium work is “progressing on timetable’. However, £5.8 million in contract  payments are being slipped from 2018/19 to 2019/20.

The Council still expects to invest around £124 million during the present financial year.

Lowfields – Residents hit back at Planning Councillors

The area to be built on has increased – and open space provision reduced – every time a new plan has been drawn up by officials

The Save Lowfields Playing Field Action Group have written to the Government Minister with responsibility for Planning asking him to “call in” the planning application to develop the sports field at Lowfields.

The proposal was approved by the Council’s Executive in July and two formal applications were debated by the same authorities planning committee last week. Two Councillors serve on both committees. They have been criticised for not declaring their interest.

There are procedures in place which seek to ensure that a Council is not judge and jury on planning applications for land that it owns. For many years there was a protocol in place which discouraged Councillors from taking places on both the Executive committee and the Planning committee. That safeguard seems to have been abandoned by the current administration.

What will come of this remains to be seen but is the latest in a series of controversial moves by the Council over this land.

A scheme for a care village gained widespread approval when it was tabled early in 2011. But the Council failed to implement the plan and the former school site lay abandoned for 7 years.  The expectation had been that only the “built footprint” of the school would be developed, but this changed when the then Tory leader of the Council, David Carr, appointed a “no win no fee” consultant to push through a large-scale redevelopment.

The consultant was only paid if he achieved milestones with his final payment depending on the planning application being successful. The large payments potentially involved  were revealed in a response to a Freedom of Information  request (ref: FT/5995) in February 2017. .

David Carr is also a member of the Planning Committee. He also did not declare an interest at last weeks meeting

Consultation results were manipulated by officials eager to demonstrate that the local community was in favour of the plans. This was done by lobbying supporters of one element of the scheme (communal housing).  They were encouraged to back the scheme by visiting the  Acomb Library and filling in comment forms or by doing so on line.

The Council didn’t ask residents which parts of the scheme they favoured and which they opposed.

A door to door survey by local Councillors revealed that residents supported the plans for the east of the site but wished to retain the sports pitch.

Residents cried “foul” when the Council wrote to local people to lobby for support within hours of submitting two planning applications in October 2017.

The Lowfields Residents Group submitted representations to the Planning Committee pointing to 11 reasons why outline planning permission for the development should not be granted.

None of the issues were addressed by Councillors or officials at the meeting.

One angry resident walked out of the planning meeting calling it “shameful”.

A video of the meeting can be viewed on You Tube via this link