More confusion over cycle path improvements

Part of the planning approva,l for the provision of sports pitches on land off Tadcaster Road/Sim Balk Lane, was that improvements had to be made to the cycle track link to the Park and Ride site. Users of the pitches would use parking spaces at the P & R site and then walk to the changing rooms. Details of the improvement works had to be agreed by the Council and published before building work started. This didn’t happen but, before the pitches can be used, improvements must be implemented.

A new application was published on the Councils “Planning on Line” web site a few weeks ago. It purported to give details of the way in which condition 14 of the original application would be fulfilled. However, no details of the proposals (understood to include some resurfacing work and better lighting) were included.

The application has some additional significance as a certificate of completion for the new pitches can’t be issued until the work is completed. Completion of the pitches is a planning condition attached to the Council’s housing development at Lowfield.

The condition said that homes there couldn’t be occupied until the replacement pitches were brought into use.

Not withstanding this, the Council announced in the media yesterday that the home s at Lowfields were being occupied. No attempt seems to have been made by the Councils housing arm (Shape Homes) to discharge the condition or have the planning permission amended.

The muddle is now subject to a formal complaint to the Councils planning enforcement team.

Meanwhile more bad news for cyclists. The cycle path which runs adjacent to the A64 slip road near the Pike Hills golf course remains blocked. Some mowing has taken place next to the dual carriageway but the slip road area has been ,missed.

We’re not sure whether this was just an oversight or whether a “demarcation dispute” is taking place between Highways Yorkshire and the York Council?

Either way, cyclists currently need PPE to negotiate the nettles, brambles and thistles which impede the path.

Football pitch provision hitch could hit Lowfields development

Delays in commisioning new football pitches near Sim Balk Lane could delay the occupation of houses at Lowfields. The pitches, part of a Bishopthorpe FC expansion project, were part funded by developer contributions from Lowfields.

The Council at the time argued that the pitches would replace those lost at Lowfields.

One of the conditions attached to the granting of the Lowfields development was that the homes there would not be occupied until the new pitches had been brought into use.

It has now emerged that completion of the Sim Balk Lane scheme is delayed.

Essential work to the adjacent cycle track, – which provides a link to a parking area – has not been started.

The work proposed includes widening and resurfacing of the path down to the underpass, resurfacing of damaged areas, installation of bulkhead lighting to the underside of the underpass and the repainting of the underpass walls. There will apparently also be a a proposal for a “community mural” provided by Sustrans.

The work will require approval by the Council and is unlikely to be completed until late in the year.

The developers say that they have already installed new bins as part of the project which has helped reduce the littering issue in that area.

The planning permission for Lowfields included the following condition.

34 No dwelling within the red line area highlighted on the attached plan (insert plan reference ) shall be occupied until three replacement football pitches of the same size as those on land subject to this planning application, have been created. The three pitches shall be on land ‘To The South East Of 235 Tadcaster Road’, subject planning permission Ref. No. 18/00251/FUL. The completed works shall include all levelling, drainage, ground preparation and grass seeding works
Reason:- To ensure that appropriate replacement playing pitch facilities are provided for those lost in association with the development and to secure compliance with paragraphs 73 and 74 of the NPPF.

Application ref 17/02429/OUTM

Separately the Council claimed earlier in the week that all available properties at Lowfields had been reserved by prospective purchasers.

Lowfields “public service building” future to be decided

The Council is set to allocate a plot on its Lowfields development for new residential facilities for people with learning difficulties.

The Councils “forward plan” summaries a proposal which would see “specialist accommodation built for 6 adults with a learning disability who have dementia and 6 other adults.

In addition to the 12 units, there will be up to 6 cluster flats for the first steps into independent living. The building of these units will enable a pathway through specialist supported accommodation for adults with a learning disability.

There will be staff on site 24/7.

The proposed site for this specialist accommodation is the Public Service Plot at Lowfield Green”.

The Councils Executive will be asked, at a meeting which is being held on on 24th June, to agree the specialist accommodation, the procurement of a housing provider to build the accommodation and a support provider to deliver the care and support element.

The public service building is located near to the Dijon Avenue entrance to the site

The public building was originally advertised as the location for a health centre and police station. After planning permission was granted, the Council jettisoned both of those proposed uses.

This is the original plan for the site published by the Council in 2017

The action group operating in the area is currently concerned about the dust and noise emanating from the site.

They are also anxious that the promised 3 year delivery timetable for the whole project will be extended with disruption continuing for several more years.

At least the plan to provide more specialist housing will remove one of the unknowns from the development plan.

Selby house price rise highest in country

Last year we were sceptical about whether the Council would sell semi’s on its Lowfield development for £295,000.

However, even in Selby – North Yorkshires traditional cheap housing location – prices are now rising by 23% a year.

The average house price nationally has reached £333,000.

So it looks like the Lowfields pricing strategy may not be far off the mark.

We expect the Council to publish an update on how many of the Lowfields homes have now found a purchaser?

Of course, for many, such prices are far beyond what is affordable.

While demand continues to exceed supply, so prices will rise.

Hopefully other, less controversial, developments will now get going. Progress on the Sugar Beet site and at the Barbican would be particularly welcome.

In the meantime, complaints continue to be raised about the impact of the Lowfields development on neighbours.

One, at least, is complaining that the dust raised on the site is affecting their health.

That is something that the Council and their contractors need to address.

Good news for key workers seeking a home

But media story on Council house sales was misleading

The York Council is offering first refusal to key workers on one of its housing development sites (see box).

They are right to do so.

The eight homes can be reserved by key workers who meet the Government criteria (the definition of which is drawn fairly wide) and who are eligible for the Help To Buy scheme.

The advertising blurb is misleading of course.

There will be no “abundant outside space” at Lowfields as the adjacent playing fields are also being built on. Such open space as is planned, is unlikely to be landscaped for several years as sections of the development, including public service buildings, elderly persons accommodation, communal housing, and playgrounds, have yet to leave the drawing board.

The development has however avoided some of the eccentricities seen elsewhere in the Council’s house building programme.

At Duncombe, and in Burnholme, car parking is restricted to fewer spaces than there are properties, with the Council urging people to use a “cargo bike” to get the weekly shop in!

The change in shopping habits, with more people now shopping on-line, hasn’t been recognised with no delivery lockers included in design specifications.

Similarly, at Lowfields ,the option for purchasers to have a living boundary hedge (rather than a close boarded fence) is still is not on offer.

Still success looks likely against the background of a very buoyant housing market in the city at present. Sales should provide the income necessary to cross subsidise the Council house building element of the programme.

What may irk the Council is misleading stories like the one that appeared in the commercial media on Friday which highlighted that “right to buy” (RTB) sales exceeded the provision of new Council houses last year.

That has been the position virtually every year for half a century with successive governments maintaining the RTB policy.

The only disagreement between the Tories and Labour has been on the level of discounts to be offered.

Against the background caused by the pandemic, there will in any event be some delays in building replacements.

It is only relatively recently, that central government even allowed local authorities to reinvest the sales income to provide replacement properties for rent. The Council started purchasing replacements on the open market as recently as 10 years ago, although even this was resisted by some York Councillors.

We don’t believe that local authorities should be restricted in how much of their RTB receipts they can use to provide replacement homes.

Within the last few days, the government has announced further changes. In future, 40% of right to buy income can be used to provide replacement homes while receipts must be spent within 5 years (rather than 3) .

 But the current Council deserves credit for getting the Council house building programme going again.

Providing good quality homes to rent with high insulation values, and hence lower running costs, is a significant step forward

Such progress should be recognised by the media, commentators, and pressure groups.

House sales buoyant in York but uncertain future

It seems that the unmet demand for new homes – which built up during lockdown – has resulted in high demand and rising prices in York. The City has been named as one of “the” places to live in a succession of media surveys and that is one of the reasons for some sections of the housing market – in some neighbourhoods – are seeing a lot of activity.

It is a market that the York Council may be eager to exploit. It has several new developments in the pipeline including the huge York Central site, Duncombe Barracks, Castle Mills, Lowfields and the Burnholme Hub.

The latter two illustrate some of the challenges.


Neighbours of the Lowfield Green site have never been happy with what they view as an overdevelopment. A sports field will be built on without any compensatory public open space being provided.

But it is the pace of development, which is one of the current major concerns.

An FOI response has revealed that the Yorspace communal housing group have still not completed the purchase of their allocated plot (located in the south east corner of the development).

The site was used as a location for a spoil heap for about six months and the subsequent removal of this remains the only work completed in the immediate area.

Residents were promised that – from start to completion – the project would take a maximum of 3 years. A long time to suffer the drone of nearby heavy plant and increased traffic, but nevertheless the promise provided light at the end of the tunnel for neighbours.

It is 18 months since the builders arrived. So far there has been no progress on providing any community facilities or the promised retirement home.

Prospective purchasers are likely to be discouraged by the prospect of living on a building site for several more years.

More information can be found on the residents action group Facebook page


See the source imageA similar situation could arise at Burnholme. As explained last week, a planning application for this development will be determined on Wednesday.

The background has changed over recent days with anti-social behaviour problems escalating at the nearby Derwenthorpe development and within the Burnholme Hub itself.

We understand that the library has been a recent target for vandals.

All in all, that suggests a rethink of security across the whole neighbourhood is needed.

Expecting new residents to park their cars at remote locations simply adds to the risks.

That was the week that was in pictures

Council misled Lowfield residents

Two virtually identical planning applications were dealt with by Council officials last week.

Both concerned details of the current development taking place at Lowfield.

Both related to “alterations to bedrooms, house types, elevations, roof mounted PV, masterplan revisions, finished floor levels and boundary treatments”

2019 proposal was withdrawn on Tuesday. The 2021 proposal was approved on Wednesday

The second application additionally extended the permitted hours of working to include Saturday afternoons.

The first application (originally submitted in 2019) was withdrawn on Tuesday.

On Wednesday the new application was approved by officials using delegated powers.

The applications had been described as “non material amendments”. Given that the applicant, and the planning authority, were both the York Council, this give rise to claims of unfairness.

It is unlikely that affected neighbours understood what was going on behind closed doors.

Apart from the Saturday working proposal, the biggest concern relates to the the boundary fencing arrangement. Most residents had originally expected that the existing railings – which are in good condition and date from the time that the site was a school – would be retained.

The Council then proposed to remove the railings and substitute a close boarded fence.

Many neighbours feared that the removal of the railings would damage their adjacent gardens.

Rubbish accumulates between different fence layers

The latest plan involves the retention of the railings with a close boarded fence also being erected on the development side.

Double (or triple) fencing has not been a success elsewhere.

Maintenance is difficult.

Close boarded fences are an obstacle for wildlife.

They also squander the opportunity to use natural hedging which has environmental benefits.

The double fencing idea is, of course, also more expensive. Those facing a £295,000 bill for a three bedroomed semi might well have preferred the option to have a discount (and a boundary hedge).

Sadly this is another example of poor public relations on a controversial development which is now hopelessly behind schedule.

The damage to roads and verges in the existing Lowfield area is appalling while the noise nuisance now seem likely to extend into more of the weekend.

The issues are known to local Councillors.

The Lowfields Facebook page can be accessed by clicking here

Lowfields virtual tour

The Council has issued a media release saying that prospective house buyers at the Lowfields development can now take a “virtual tour”

The Council has not commented on the more controversial elements lf the development including the impact that the buildings works are having on neighbouring properties and roads.

Nor has any information been released on when work will start on the the promised community facilities or about the future of the “communal housing” plot, which is located in the south east corner of the site.

Significant changes to Lowfields Plans

Planning applications (see below) have been submitted which would see changes made to the Lowfields development. Many are relatively minor although some may cause concern for neighbours

Working hours

Saturday working until 3:00pm will be allowed on parts of the site. A Council official has already agreed to these changes which will permit work to continue on internal works, external paving and brick laying.

Officials say that the proposal is in line with government relaxations in the wake of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

The concession lasts until 2nd June 2021.

Proposed boundary arrangements
York Council Email

The perimeter railings are now to be retained. This proposal will be welcomed by many. The railings are generally in good condition and offer enhanced security protection.

Likely to be less welcome is a plan to install a 1.8 meter high closed boarded fence immediately behind the railings. While this may improve privacy, such arrangements have not proved to be successful elsewhere (Hob Stone, Cornlands Road/Redder Rad snicket).

The are maintenance problems for both sets of fences. Progress for mammals like hedgehogs is obstructed by close boarded fences, while an opportunity for compensatory planting is missed.

Undergrowth inevitably builds up between the two layers which is difficult to control.

We will be writing to the planning authorities to say that the inner fence should be replaced with screen planting, which would be better for both wildlife and for the environment.

Boundary treatments
Other changes

A complete list of changes is reproduced below.

The ridge and eves heights on the houses are being reduced while photovoltaic cells are being installed to generate power.

There still has been no statement from the Council about the future of the site reserved for “public buildings” or of the Yorspace communal living plots.