Looks like there will be more delays on the Lowfield project as the communal housing section of the scheme has failed to attract sufficient investors.
It could mean the project will take even longer to complete.
It is not clear whether the Council and Yorspace have exchanged contracts for the sale (at a discount value) of the land in question.
The Councils track record on asset use is being increasingly criticised on social media with a deals for the sale of Willow House and29 Castlegate (both empty for over 3 years) still not concluded
TheOakhavenbuilding in Acomb is also still unused.
Given the claims made by Council leaders about addressing housing need urgently, the dithering on these projects is difficult to justify.
The Council is providing little useful update information on their Lowfields overall development timetable.
. Westfield Ward Councillors have been asked to “call in” the proposal which would see the perimeter railings removed. The local Lowfields Action Group say they have had no response to their enquiries about the plan.
According to a notice published earlier today, the York Council has received no suitable tenders for the provision of a care home at its Lowfieldssite.
The Council has already invested heavily in providing infrastructure, including roads, at the site. They promised a 30-month building timetable inresponse to concerns expressed by residents in 2016 who feared that the nuisance caused by building works could drag on for a decade.
The failure to find a development partner for the care home, together with delays on the communal housing section, means that there is no end in sight for the development work.
The delay noticesays, ” This item has been withdrawn because, following a tender process, officers have been unable to appoint a developer. Officers need to consult the market and consider the options before the Executive can make a decision”.
According to the Councils Elderly Care programme, which was last discussed in 2018, work on building the care home was due to start next month. Officials at that they said that they were confident on getting a good deal for the site following “soft market” testing.
Now a delay on the start of building work on the home of over 12 months seems inevitable.
There have been similar delays at Oakhaven on York Road where work is now over 3 years behind schedule.
Delays also dog the Haxby Hall redevelopment site on the other side of the City.
Despite the delays in providing new care homes, existing facilities have been closed. Some like Willow House next to the Bar walls remain empty.
Ironically, the original plan to provide a, mainly private sector funded, care village on the site of the Lowfield’s school had been developed in 2010 to the point where work was scheduled to start. The scheme was shelved by the incoming Labour Council and 9 years later there is little to show but some “roads to nowhere” and large spoil heaps.
The site is now has little security. It is attracting children who want to play on the dangerous spoil heaps.
The football pitches have long gone so alternative children’s play facilities are non existent.
Even the Kingsway multi user games area has been turned into a building compound for another development..
The new Executive is expected to review the affordability of a £20 million scheme at the Guildhall which would see the creation of a “business club” there. If the project goes ahead, work will start in the autumn with reoccupation expected in 2021.
The estimated total value of the assets is put at between £30/40 million.
Little attempt has been made to secure short term lets for the properties which include prime sites like 29 Castlegate, the former youth advisory HQ.
Most of the properties have been exempt from paying business rates. Had they been occupied then Council taxpayers would have benefited from an additional £200,000 a year in income.
To this would be added rental income of around £400,000 a year or a substantial capital receipt.
The Castlegate property was to have been purchased by the York Conservation Trust with the York Civic Trust hoping to subsequently lease the building as part of its expansion plans for the adjacent Fairfax House.
The agreed purchase price of £430,000 was criticised at the time as being “too low” for a building in such a prime site.
Now the Council says that it was notified on 21st May that the Conservation Trust would not be purchasing the building. However, the York Civic Trust had been told the same at their AGM last year. The Council say that they are now “reviewing” the position.
No public reports have been made on asset utilisation issues at the York Council this year.
The Council is spending around £80,000 a year on maintaining
and securing the properties.
Only one of the properties has a temporary occupant (20 Piccadilly)
The table does not include underused assets like 19/21 Piccadilly (Spark)or land with a development potential. The latter includes land purchased in 2008 to accommodate an extension to Acomb Explore Library and which has been unused ever since.
The Council says that it has only one Council house, at Glen
Lodge, which has been empty for longer than 6 months.
The revelations have led to calls for a more proactive approach by the Council in the use of its assets. The new Council leadership has been advised to reintroduce a 6 monthly public report on empty property issues.
It may be that the time has come for the York Council to seek outside help in managing its huge commercial building portfolio
Work has stared on building a new 80 bed care home at the Burnholme site.
When completed, the Council will have the right to fill 25 of the beds
Work is also proceeding on renovating sports facilities on the Burnholme site. A new library complex has already opened.
The care home being built on the Fordlands Road site (by Octopus
Health care) will be completed in the summer of 2020. A site for another home
has been reserved in the new York Central development.
The progress being made on these sites contrasts with other projects
aimed at addressing the needs of the City’s increasing elderly population on the
west of the City.
Tenders are only now being sought for the long awaited elderly persons facility on the Lowfields site. Other specialist homes on the west of the City, such as Windsor House and Lincoln Court have already been cleared of their elderly occupants.
One embarrassment for the Council, is the elderly persons home at Oakhaven. Residents were controversially movedfrom this building 3 years ago.
Despite some temporary uses, the building has remained largely unused ever since.
The Council has not been able to say when work on a replacement will start.
The Council says that it will start building houses at Lowfield
this summer. Many will be “shared ownership” although there seems to have been
little research done on the size of the market – among those on the waiting
list – for this type of tenure.
There is, however, a lot of demand from older people – currently occupying large council and housing association houses – who want to “downsize” to bungalows or flats.
While we remain critical of the Councils plan to build on the playing field at Lowfield, it also now seems that they may have got the mix of home types wrong.
There should have been more bungalows.
The issue of the Yorspace” communal housing development – which is not classified as “affordable” – has also still not been resolved.
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!
The enthusiasm shown by the York Council in moving elderly people out of their homes is being questioned.
Some empty Elderly Persons Homes have yet to be reused
We highlighted the neglected state of Willow House last month. It has been empty for over a year.
..but this pales to insignificance when you consider what has happened at Oakhaven on York Road.
Residents moved out of the building 3 years ago.
In 2015 the Council announced that a new facility would be built there as part of a plan to provide 525 new elderly persons places “before the end of 2018”. Work at Oakhaven was timetabled to be complete with the new facility ready for occupation by May 2018. We said at the time “Given the Council’s shambolic record on project management, we doubt if we will see any improvements much before the end of the decade”.
More than a year agothe Council said that a new facility would not open until “2019 at the earliest”.
There is still no sign of work starting.
Oakhaven site plans published earlier in the year
In February the Councils preferred operator for a new facility Ashley House – who had been appointed in March 2017 – consulted on a proposed design but nothing more was heard about the plans.
No redevelopment timetable has been published by the Council and an update report doesn’t even figure in the Councils forward plan which cover the period up to the end of March. There will be an item on the November Executive agendabut this refers only to Lincoln Court and Glen Lodge
There has been some short term use of the buildings to house potentially homelesspeople but these are now well catered for by a new building at James Street
In the meantime, the delays will mean more pressure on hospital beds as managers struggle during the winter period to find suitable accommodation into which recovering older people can be transferred.
Last year, care company Ashley House won a contract from the City of York Council to design, build and operate an “extra care” sheltered housing complex at the site of the old Oakhaven care home on Acomb Road.
No planning application for the project – which is running over a year behind schedule – has yet been submitted but according to the Councils web site initial plans are being unveiled this week.
Drawings will be on display at Acomb Explore Library on Front Street from Thursday March 1 to Thursday, March 8.
A public event is also being on Thursday, March 1 from 4pm to 7pm at York Medical Group, 199 Acomb Road, York.
The site has been hit by controversy in recent years with the adjacent police station being threatened with closure. It was initially thought that that site would also be incorporated into the new development.
In addition, the nearby Carlton Tavern pub narrowly avoided an attempt to replace it with a new care home. That controversy is still ongoing.
The expectation for residents will be that a holistic plan for the whole neighbourhood will emerge quickly.
Oakhaven was closed by City of York Council in late 2015, as part of its plan to close authority-run homes which it says are out-of-date, and not up to modern standards.
The new “state-of-the-art” development will provide 56 apartments for older people, and will include a lounge and dining room serving hot meals.
The Council are saying that the opening of the replacement for the Oakhaven care home on York Road will be delayed until the end of 2019 “at the earliest”.
The existing home was closed in 2015 and most recently was used as a homeless hostel.
Bed availability trends
A Council reportreveals that there will still be a shortfall in residential care places for the elderly of 654 by 2020. This is slightly down on the inherited shortfall of 701.
“Extra Care” facilities – like those planned for Oakhaven – should reduce the excess of demand over supply from 330 to 9 by 2020.
The number of care beds available has remained fairly level over recent years while the number of delayed discharges from hospital (so called “bed blocking”) remains high as the winter approaches.
The report blames the Councils “partner” for the delays at Oakhaven.
“The delivery of this scheme is running later than originally planned as this procurement was launched later than anticipated due to lengthier examination of the procurement and legal options associated with the plan.
Further delays have occurred as Ashley House develop their design.
At present, we would expect completion of the building, subject to grant of planning permission, in Q3 2019 at the earliest”.
On the Lowfields Plans the report says,
“Plans for the development of a care home, health hub, homes (including bungalows and apartments for the over 55s) and public open space at Lowfield Green, in their final draft form, were the subject of further public engagement in July.
Engagement has shown support for the proposed development.
Lowfields school site is overgrown
However, there is strong objection to the development from the Save Lowfields Playing Field Action Group.
We will be ready to submit the planning application for this proposed development in September 2017.
Later in the autumn Executive will be asked to decide if we are to build the new homes ourselves or sell the land so that another developer can do so”.
NB. Opposition to the development at Lowfields centres around the houses planned for the playing field. The elderly persons accommodation proposals enjoy broad support as they are to be built on the “footprint” of the old school buildings.
Coincidentally, the owners of the nearby Carlton Tavern public house have today announced its closure. They are understood to have sold the site to “Crown Care” who will develop a similar care facility.
The Oakhaven proposals are tied up with controversial plans to develop the Lowfields school site.
At Lowfields, government officials have said that they may not be able to intervene to stop the sale and development of the playing fields “if they have not been used for over 10 years”.
York Council officials claim that Lowfields/High School pupils last used the sports field in September 1997. In reality it was much later than that.
Meanwhile there is considerable confusion about whether the North Yorkshire police can afford to move their Acomb Police Station onto the Lowfields site, while the NHS has confirmed that no funding has been made available for the promised health centre which was also to have been built there.
A communal housing group has meanwhile announced two “public meetings” to discuss their plans for a small section of the Lowfields Site. Yorspace was allocated a site near little Tudor Road by the Councils Executive although the financial terms of any deal are not yet known. Their allocated site is not on the school playing field as such, although they apparently lobbied for the whole of the school campus to be developed (bringing them into potential conflict with the “Save Lowfields Playing Field” action group which was formed in the autumn) .
The meetings are being held on:
11 March – Foxwood Community Centre, Cranfield Pl, York YO24 3HY, 3pm
15 March – Chill Cafe, 8a Front St, Acomb, York YO24 3BJ, 7pm