York’s green spaces; going, going…

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

The Hob Moor playing field has been torn up and is now part of a building site
The Acomb Bowling club and adjacent Council owned land on Front Street is now also a building site

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.

Games area being ripped up by contractors

The demolition contractors for the Windsor House/Lincoln Court/Hob Moor school developments have taken over the Multi User Games Area (MUGA) on Kingsway West.

It in no longer accessible for local children.

Councillors have reportedly agreed to it being used as a building compound.

Sections of the fencing around the area have been removed to allow access to a new service road. The entrance used by children has been secured.

While the loss of the play area is not unexpected following a controversial planning decision a few months ago, the failure of the Council to provide updates on when a replacement facility will be provided (and where) is very disappointing. The location favoured by Sports Clubs and local residents, is on the Thanet Road All Weather Sports area near the junction of Gale Lane and Thanet Road.

At one point the Council promised funding for a new facility but all has gone quiet since the LibDems took control of the Council at the beginning of May.

The loss of the sports facility comes in the wake of similar erosion of facilities in the Westfield area with the Lowfields playing field now being developed as is the Acomb Bowling Club.

The Our Lady’s school field was developed about 3 years ago.

Support for the provision of more public open space – possibly in the form of new strays – on the outskirts of the City is growing.

New access road constructed across Hob Moor school playing field
MUGA entrance sealed
Access road into site compound

Costs up on Council’s Ascot Way development plans

It looks like there are more problems ahead, as the York Council tries to let contracts to establish a new Centre of Excellence for Disabled Children (CEDC) and a major expansion of the Lincoln Court  independent living building.

A year ago, the Council said that it would need to invest £4.3 million in the CEDC. They later revised their budgets and agreed to borrow an additional £330,000 to fund the centre.

Centre of Excellence layout proposals

A £4.7 million contract was awarded in February to Sewell’s. It was said to cover work at both Windsor House and Lincoln Court.

Now papers released yesterday suggest that there may be a significant increase in the costs for the project. Officials are expected to make a case for extra investment at a meeting taking place on 18th June.  A note in the Councils Forward Programme says, “A value engineered exercise has been undertaken and further funds are required to ensure there is an adequate contingency. This needs to be done within this timeframe in order to meet the requirements of external health funding”.

The meeting will take place after the local elections in May so it is anyone’s guess what will now happen to the project.

A cost drift has also occurred on the Lincoln Court side of the project. Earlier this month officials admitted that the cost had soared from £1.9 million to £4.8 million.

The Lincoln Court project is still mired in controversy. The planning approval is being referred to the Secretary of State for consideration for calling in. The move stems from objections from local sports organisations and residents who want to see the existing all-weather play area moved to Thanet Road. The play area would be lost under the Council’s current proposals.

There are also concerns about access arrangements for the buildings both during building works and afterwards. A case has been made for a private (pedestrian) access to be made available to the adjacent school car park. So far, the Council has turned a blind eye to the suggestion, reinforcing concerns about traffic congestion and parking problems on Ascot Way

Both the CEDC and Lincoln Court modernisation have attracted widespread local support. It is a change that lack of attention to detail and poor consultation arrangements seem to be hindering progress.

Lincoln Court let down

The planning committee last night approved the proposals for the extension of Lincoln Court.

Proposed new layout

They failed to include a timetable for the replacement of the all-weather games area which will be destroyed as part of their plan.

Successive Council officials and Tory Councillors claimed that the “MUGA” had not been used.

 That is simply not true. The area was popular for many years but fell into decline because of lack of maintenance with overgrown bushes providing a screen which encouraged anti-social behaviour.

That was down to poor management by the York Council.

Nevertheless providing an alternative at the Thanet Road site would have been a positive proposal. The Councils executive had seemed to take a step in that direction on Monday when they offered to support a new facility.

Council officials admitted last night that they had not even opened discussions with the rugby club which currently leases the Thanet Road site.

 So, what have they been doing for the last 6 months?

The issue will now be referred to the Secretary of State for decision. Residents will make representations in support of Sport England’s position which is that an alternative should be provided before the existing facility is lost.

Lincoln Court

 If this results in delays, then it will be on the heads of the Councillors who last night voted through a scheme which not only sells down the river the hopes of younger people in the Westfield area but also endorses a scheme which provides only a very small external garden space for the use of the elderly residents of Lincoln Court.

Car parking provision is inadequate while a confused traffic management model can only lead to more congestion in the estate with verges and footpaths likely to be damaged by large vehicles.

Lincoln Court update

The Councils Executive discussed the planned extension of the Lincoln Court independent living building yesterday. They agreed to progress the scheme and included a requirement for an alternative all weather games area to be provided in the ward.

It will be up to the planning committee at its meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) to include a condition requiring that the new facility is provided before the existing MUGA is demolished.

Windsor House is already being vandalised

It emerged at the meeting that 14 of the remaining 19 tenants have now accepted offers of alternative accommodation. When the remaining 5 will be offered, and accept, a suitable alternative remains in doubt. The adjacent Windsor House building, which is empty, is already suffering vandalism and there is a concern that the whole site could become a magnet for anti social behaviour.

Large delivery lorries are ruining roads in Lowfields. Similar concerns about Ascot Way

The Council is negotiating with the school to allow builders plant to access the site from the school side. There have been major problems getting large items of plant into the Lowfields site where roads are of a similar width to Ascot Way.

It has yet to be confirmed whether an (pedestrian) access will be retained from the school site when the redevelopment has been completed. This is considered to be essential to provide overflow parking capacity given that only 16 spaces are being provided on the Ascot Way frontage.

Large plant on Lowfields site. Working hours planning condition being breached?

Sadly members of the executive failed to probe why the new apartments have been described, in successive Planning Committee reports, as “extra care” units.

No doubt residents will get more clarification tomorrow

Lincoln Court modernisation set to double in cost.

Council admits it got costs wrong

Modernisation plans 2018

The estimated cost of modernising the independent living flats at Lincoln Court has increased from £1.9 million to £4.8 million. Council officials, in a report to an executive committee meeting next week, admit that they got their measurement figures wrong in a report published in March 2018.

A contract for £4.7 million had already been let for the Windsor House/Lincoln Court redevelopment 

The new scheme would include 15 new apartments which would meet disabled access standards. In total there would be 35 units on the site.

Although the report has not been approved, Council officials have already submitted a planning application for the scheme. The planning application is due to be determined on 20th March 2019.

It is currently blocked by an objection from Sport England.

Sport England objects to the loss of the all-weather games area on which the extension to Lincoln House will be constructed. They insist that a replacement is provided.

A local residents association supports Sport England’s position.

It has been suggested that a new games area could be provided nearby on the Thanet Road Sports Area.

Kingsway MUGA

The report seeks to address to sports area issue by saying “To note that in approving Option 1 a commitment is made for alternative recreational facilities following community consultation including Sport England within Westfield Ward in mitigation for the loss of the Multi Use Games Area. The alternative facilities provided are to be agreed by Executive and will be subject to a further report and budget approval”

That isn’t likely to cut any ice with residents who will want to know what it to be provided and when before any planning application is approved. (The last ploy by officials was that some outdoor gym equipment would be provided on Chesneys field)

The report also candidly accepts that the new scheme will reduce the amount of garden space available for Lincoln Court residents.

That will not be popular.

No attempt is made to address the lack of car parking provision or the effect on traffic congestion, on approach roads, that the expansion will have.

Altogether too little, too late from Council officials who have treated tenants and neighbours with little more than contempt over the last 12 months.

Sport England reaffirm their opposition to loss of Kingsway all weather play area

Could the Council fund an upgrade of the Thanet Road Sports area?

The future of the  all weather games (MUGA) provision in the Kingsway part of York remains unclear. Sport England – with the backing of local Netball and Football governing bodies – is insisting that, if the present facility is removed, then a similar provision must be made nearby.

In effect, Sport England have a veto over new developments if they involve the loss of sports fields. They can insist that a development application  is referred to the Secretary of Sate for a decision.

The Foxwood Residents Association has also voiced its concerns claiming that a fitness trail – planned by officials for Chesney’s Field  – would not meet the informal sports/leisure needs of the 8 – 13 age group.  Instead they urge that discussions take place with the Acorn Rugby Club aimed at funding improvements, and wider access, to the floodlit area that is already in place on the Thanet Road Sports area.

York Council officials are being particularly stubborn on this issue. It is putting at risk a plan to modernise the sheltered housing flats at Lincoln Court.

Some flexibility, urgency and imagination in addressing the issues now needs to be shown by both Councillors and officers at West Offices. 

Sport Englands representations can be read by clicking here

The  Residents Association comments can be read here

Planning updates – Lincoln Court and Lowfields

  • MUGA

    We understand that the Foxwood Residents Association have formally objected to the Councils plans to “replace” the children’s all-weather games area on Kingsway. The objection stems from the Councils proposal to build “fitness equipment” on Chesneys Field during the summer. The Association points out that no consultation has taken place over this proposal which could intensify the use of what is Public Open Space. When a similar idea was mooted 2 years ago, the preferred site for a fitness track was judged to be the Thanet Road Sports Area. The Association have suggested that the Council seek a partnership with the Acorn Rugby Club which could see a new 3G games area provided. Sport England have also objected to the Council’s plans

  • The Yorspace proposals for the Lowfields site have been criticised by the local Drainage Board. They are asking for further details of how surface water runoff will be handled. They point out the fact that – for the whole site –  water run off is likely to be more severe than occurs from the existing greenfield use. There are already some problems with flooding in the gardens of some properties in the Green Lane and Tudor Road area.
  • Separately the Lowfields Residents Group has objected to plans which would see the number of off street parking spaces reduced near 108 Tudor Road. They are also concerned about the traffic implications of building a new access road onto the Lowfields site

NB. The contract for “enabling works” at Lowfields was awarded to NMCN. It is valued at £260,000. The end date for the contract is 19th April 2019.

Lincoln Court and the MUGA – Sport England acts

Kingsway MUGA

Sport England have issued a formal objection to the Council’s latest plans for the Lincoln Court area. As a statutory consultee they can veto any proposals which involve the loss of sports facilities. In this case, the Councils plan to demolish the adjacent Multi User Games Area (MUGA) – without providing a replacement – has triggered the objection.

Sport England had expressed concerns about Councils plans prior to the Planning Committee meeting which took place in December. Their comments at that time were ignored by Councillors.

If the Council continues to turn a blind eye to the objection, then the planning application will have to be referred to the Secretary of State for determination.

Sport England make it clear, in their representation, that they believe an alternative games facility can be provided nearby. Residents have suggested the new school playing fields or the Thanet Road sports area as possible locations.

Several of the flats at Lincoln Court are now empty.

There is a growing concern that the building, and the adjacent Windsor House, may be empty for an extended period.

Similar Council owned buildings have been left to rot in recent years (Guildhall, Ashbank, Oakhaven, Castlegate, etc.) suggesting that the Councils property management processes need to be overhauled.

In the meantime the planning application remains open for residents to record any objections that they may have.  Email planning.comments@york.gov.uk quoting ref 19/00083/FULM

Lincoln Court – Council admits planning blunder

The sorry saga surrounding the Councils plans to modernise and extend the Lincoln Court independent living building on Ascot Way has taken a new twist.

A brand new planning application has been submitted. If approved, it will replace the ill fated and poorly judged proposal passed by the Planning Committee as recently as December. The new proposal is for a “three storey extension to accommodate 15 new flats with associated alterations to the internal layout of existing flats (creating 10 new flats in total), a single storey front extension to form a new main entrance, erection of a plant room to side, reconfiguration of parking provision and associated landscaping works including new boundary fencing”.

Planning report Dec 2018

That decision was criticised because it ignored a request by Sport England that a replacement all weather games facility be provided in the neighbourhood when the existing facility was developed. The extensions to Lincoln Court are partly to be built on the games area. Sport England made a specific request for a replacement with possible sites being identified by local residents on the new area of playing field being provided at the school or alternatively on the Thanet Road sports area.

Another mistake made by the committee was to require that the additional 10 flats being provided at Lincoln Court be extra care” units. They would have required 24/7 staffing support. Officials later privately confirmed that this was a mistake and that it had been intended to provide an additional 10 flats identical in function to those existing on the site.

The “extra care” argument had been used to justify providing only 16 parking spaces to service the planned 36 flats and the staff and visitors to the much larger new building (see extract from December report). There are currently 12 parking spaces allocated to Lincoln Court. Many of them are heavily used with visiting staff sometimes being force to park on adjacent roads.

The way that the Planning Committee handled the December application was subject to a formal complaint in December. A response from the Council is still awaited.

Unfortunately, the new planning application does not address the parking issue despite claims by officials that the ”extra care” units did not require a parking space and hence could justify providing only 16 spaces. There is an underused grassed area to the south of the site which could have matrix protection installed and which could then be used as overspill car parking.

More seriously, the Council continues to turn a blind eye to the concerns about lack of provision for younger people in the neighbourhood. We would expect the Sport England condition to be incorporated into any revised permission.

NB. No action is planned on escalating traffic congestion issues in the area. Problems on the narrow roads in the estate are being exacerbated by recent planning permissions for additional housing in the estate which only has one access route. The December plan attracted more criticism when it was revealed that the elderly residents would have to move out of their homes for over 12 months while the work took place