The York Council has started consultation on whether to recognise an “Acomb and Westfield Neighbourhood Forum”
A small group of residents, mainly living in the Front Street area, want to establish a “neighbourhood plan”. It would supplement the Councils own Local Plan which will be subject to a public hearing over the summer months.
Unfortunately, the area they hope to cover includes the whole of the Acomb and Westfield wards (approximately 10,000 homes). It would stretch from Foxwood to Boroughbridge Road, encompassing a disparate group of neighbourhoods with little obvious community of interest.
If agreed, it would be by far the largest such plan in the York area. In the main those plans that have been approved cover smaller villages. All have a shared commonality of interests.
Westfield is not short of groups which seek to influence Council policy.
There are several Residents Associations, a “planning panel” (which scrutinises planning applications), a “ward team” and a “ward committee” together with several “action groups” which tend to focus on stimulating, or preventing, specific developments.
Adding an additional tier of representation, although only a consultative body, would involve additional costs and could lead to confusion about roles and responsibilities.
When it comes down to it, Foxwood has little in common with Chapelfields or the Gladstone Street area.
It has even less shared interest with Ouse Acres and vice versa. Arguably Foxwood has more in common with the Woodthorpe area.
In our view, this proposal represents an unwelcome diversion and could take resources away from the key task of raising public service standards in the area. Residents Associations are bested suited – and of the right scale – to identify changes that need to be made in local neighbourhoods.
They deserve more Council support.
In most built up sub-urban areas, there is little scope for redevelopment anyway with the focus being to retain existing open spaces. There is an opportunity for more public open space on land lying between the existing development and the A1237 bypass. The proposed Neighbourhood Plan boundaries exclude this land from consideration.
Ward Councillors are already aware of the need to move the extra public open space issue forward.
There may be a case for a neighbourhood plan covering the Acomb village conservation area and its immediate environs.
The “forum” organisers would be wise to focus on a smaller area like this – where there may be a need for more clarity on its future – rather than try to “boil the, proverbial, ocean”.
In the meantime residents should email the Council to oppose this unnecessary proposal.