Mixed reactions to this year’s Christmas market

The Christmas Market was quite busy today with many visitors strolling around the Parliament Street area.

Parliament Street

The stalls in St Sampson’s Square were popular as were the large numbers of buskers in the area.

St Sampson’s Square
Ugly security barriers may dent the Christmas atmosphere
It seems that the old Post Office on Lendal may be turned into a Restaurant

Some regulars have commented that the Christmas market needs to spread out more.

There will be no stalls at the Judges Lodgings this year as a planning application covering their siting has been withdrawn by the building owners.

We think there is scope to expand the stalls onto areas like Duncombe Place. The area near the Minster would be ideal for a Christmas themed event.

Better Parliament Street cycle parking info from Council

…..but two months too late and what happened to consultation?

The following information has been provided by the Council in response to complaints about lack of consultation about the removal of cycle parking from Parliament Street. It would have been better if the information had been published a couple of months ago rather than the day after the racks disappeared!!

“The old individual cycle racks are being removed this week and will be replaced with ones on rails. Any bikes which have been left locked to a rack will be removed to the Council’s secure store.

What is happening? – The old individual cycle racks are being replaced with ones on rails where the racks are spaced wider apart that the current ones (1200mm as opposed to 800mm).  As construction of the cabins for the Christmas Market will start later this week (02/12/19) the new racks will be temporarily relocated to the following locations:

  • Davygate – outside Debenhams
  • Davygate – outside the former French Connection shop
  • Davygate – outside the former Halifax Bank
  • Church Street – at the side of St Sampson’s Church
  • Church Street – outside The Works
  • St Andrewgate – at the Kings Square end
  • Piccadilly – outside Lloyds Bank
  • Parliament Street – outside Barclays Bank
  • Walkway at the rear of All Saints Church
  • Lendal as soon as the skips associated with the Guildhall works are removed

When are the old racks being removed? – The racks are being removed on the 29th October.  Notices were placed on the affected racks a week in advance to forewarn users of their imminent removal.  Any cycles which have been left locked to a rack will be removed to the Council’s secure store.  Anyone wishing to reclaim a cycle should contact network.management@york.gov.uk to arrange collection.

Why is this work being done? – Following last year’s Christmas Market concerns were raised by the city centre safety advisory group about the relatively few accesses / exits from the central area and the narrowness of these accesses.  In order to enable the cabins to be better laid out and to increase the number and width of the accesses / exits it has been agreed that the cycle parking will be temporarily removed for the duration of the large events which take place on Parliament Street including the Christmas Market and Food & Drink Festival. 

The racks will be relocated to the above locations during the event and then reinstalled on Parliament Street as soon as possible after the event. At this stage it is not envisaged that the cycle parking will need to be relocated during the Yorkshire Fringe Festival or smaller markets.  In previous years several of the racks were unavailable during large events because cabins or marquees were installed immediately next to them therefore cycle parking capacity was reduced. 

By relocating the racks elsewhere in the city centre there should be no net loss of capacity during these busy events.

City centre economy facing a challenge

City centre traders are likely to be looking with concern at the numbers of people who are visiting the City centre. New footfall figures have been published.

The figures suggest that visitor numbers to the City may have plateaued.

Parliament Street less busy this year?

Long periods of hot weather haven’t, in the past, been good for York with some tourists preferring to visit coastal areas.

This years weather has been mixed.

Special attractions like the Rose Theatre, although generally successful, are not sold out while interest in events like the current “Great Yorkshire Fringe” are at best comparable with last year.

During June several York streets saw a 10% drop in visitor numbers in 2019 compared to the same month in 2018.

Early figures for July in Parliament Street suggest a 4% drop in visitor numbers during July.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the number of empty shops on Coney Street, that area has seen visitor numbers drop from 812,808 in June 2017 to 713,762 in June of this year.

There is no shortage of excellent Festivals in York while the work of the BID has seen several parts of the city centre tidied up.

The most important time for many City centre traders is the period between now and Christmas.

Lets hope that the City continues to be “best day out” in the region

Gradual decline in visitor numbers to Parliament Street.
Smaller shopping streets are doing better with visitor numbers to Stonegate stable and numbers in Micklegate increasing.

High winds bring renewed calls for better tree maintenance

Large, unbalanced, trees need to be checked for safety

At least  one large tree has been blown over by the high winds today. It is reported to be blocking a road near Elvington.

The  incident has produced a renewed call for the Council to lop some of its older highway trees.

Tree detritus has been falling on passers by in Wetherby Road

Residents in streets like Wetherby Road and (little) Green Lane have previously called on the Council to lop – or maybe pollard – overgrown trees. They have had little response.

Trees in Wetherby Road were shedding small branches yesterday.

Some trees in Ridgeway have been pruned this week

Contractors were undertaking minor works nearby in Ridgeway but larger trees were being left.

In due course high sided vehicles are likely to impact overgrowing branches.

Trees on Parliament Street have been pollarded

The council has pollarded trees on Parliament Street. They will grown back quickly, but to a scale in line with the function of the street.

Some ward committees have allocated funds for lopping work but non of it appears to have been spent to reduce the hazards caused by large,old trees.

Any work must be competed before the start of the bird nesting season.

Temporary repairs on Parliament Street

Parliament Street

City of York Council will carry out temporary repairs of broken and uneven paving slabs/flags on Parliament Street from next week.

Over the years, the paving has become worn and damaged. One of the main reasons for this is because the trees on Parliament Street are taking a huge amount of water from the underlying clay, which is shrinking the clay underneath the paved areas. As a result an entire new section of pavement from the area near the old fountain to Mark’s and Spencer is required.

The council listened to businesses and retailers in June, when works were originally due to be carried out, and postponed these during the busy summer months.

Following further assessment of the highway, the paving has deteriorated even more – to a level which now requires immediate repairs ahead of the busy Christmas period. This is in order ensure the area is safe for pedestrians.

The temporary measures will include taking up broken and uneven paving slabs/flags and laying two new layers of tarmac surface.

The temporary repairs will start week commencing the 1 October and be completed by the 2 November.

This is not a permanent solution and plans to resurface the full area are in development.

Businesses and retailers were hand delivered letters outlining the works on Thursday 27 September.

City of York Council will be carrying out the works and will be responsible for public safety and for providing access while the work is ongoing.

Works are scheduled to take place between 7am and 4pm Monday to Friday.  However some out of hours working will be required (early morning and weekends) to reconstruct access to retailers premises to reduce the impact of this work to businesses in the area.

As with any construction work there is likely to be a certain amount of disruption and inconvenience, but the council will be doing everything reasonably possible to keep this to a minimum.

Ritual hand wringing over future of St Sampsons Square toilets

St Sampsons Square 40 years ago

Councillors are being called to a special meeting to discuss the future of both  the St Samsons Square (former) toilets and the “Fountain” on Parliament Street.

A proposal to demolish the disabled toilet block  – last used 8 years ago and replaced by facilities at nearby Silver Street – has been called in for further consideration. Surprisingly one of the reasons given for the objection is the lack of alternative disabled facilities.

The Council says, ” Its removal will enable the square to be better used offering increased space for the temporary cultural, recreational and retail events that happen in the city. The water and drain connections will remain to allow toilet facilities to be provided for such events if needed”.

NB The former St Sampsons Square underground  toilets were just about the least accessible facilities in the north of England! They were replaced 25 years ago by the unlamented “splash palace” at the other end of Parliament Street.

Redundant St Sampsons Square toilet block

Green party Councillors also now seem to be wanting to distance themselves from their budget plan to erect advertising hoardings on Parliament Street. They describe – with some justification – the existing (water-less) fountain as a key meeting point.

Extensive repairs would be required to bring the fountain – which was the preferred choice of residents who took part in a public consultation poll 25 years ago – back into use. Other options for use the space would also incur costs.

A council report says,

“A permanent replacement will need to be considered by key stakeholders including the Civic Trust, York Business Improvement District, Make it York and will need to be sufficiently iconic that it may well require planning permission”.

It is unclear what, if any, public consultation will take place over the future of the site.

The same meeting will consider how to implement new government rules on houses in “multiple occupation”

 

 

Parliament Street fountain’s days are numbered

Parliament Street fountain

It looks like the Council are set on removing the fountain from Parliament Street. It was provided over 25 years ago following a poll of York residents who were asked what features they wanted to see in the remodelled street.

Now the Council says that it is beyond repair and gets in the way of other activities.

In other words, it reduces the amount of commercial events that can take place there.

St Sampson’s Square 30 years ago

A report to a meeting in April will also consider the future of the – long disused – underground toilets which are located in St Sampsons Square.

In both cases is is unclear what alternative use the spaces would be put to.

Make it York” caused  a storm a couple of years ago when they targeted the fountain for removal.

Repair works to Parliament Street ahead of festive season

City of York Council is carrying out essential repair works to Parliament Street this Sunday (12 November) ahead of the busy festive season.

All shops and businesses will be open as usual while the work takes place from Pavement down to Shambles Market.

The council is acting to remove the growing risk of slips and trips by temporarily replacing 300 square metres of flagstones with tarmac, before relaying the flagstones early next year.

Laying the temporary tarmac surface now, and delaying the more disruptive and lengthier flag relaying work, means the area can be safe and welcoming to the large number of city-centre visitors over the festive season

Parliament Street fountain – decision date set

Parliament Street fountainThe fate of the fountain on Parliament Street will be decided by the York Council’s Executive when it meets on 24th September. 

Although the new Executive now includes a representative from both the Labour and Green groups, it is anticipated that a more balanced all party meeting of a “scrutiny committee” will also consider the same issue a week earlier.

The future of the fountain was brought into question when the Quango “Make it York” announced that it would be demolished.

The statement was widely criticised as there had been no prior consultation with residents or most Councillors.

Another petition is being collected concerning the nearby site where children’s rides are traditionally located at Christmas. It is expected that it will attract sufficient signatures to force the Council to publicly debate the issue and consider reinstating the Carousel at its traditional location.

Make it York, Parliament Street & the Carousel

Anyone wishing to sign a petition asking the York Council and “Make it York” to ensure that traditional children’s Christmas rides remain available in the Parliament Street area should click here

Members of the public ride a carousel adjacent to the 'St Nicholas Fair' Christmas market in the city centre of York, Northern England on December 3, 2014. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF        (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Members of the public ride a carousel adjacent to the ‘St Nicholas Fair’ Christmas market in the city centre of York, Northern England on December 3, 2014. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

The petition asks the York Council and MIY to:

Take action to ensure that any major changes initiated by “Make it York” or other Quangos operating in the City are subject to consultation with residents. In particular we petition that the traditional children’s rides, provided during the period leading up to Christmas, be retained on either Parliament Street or St. Sampson’s Square, unless an alternative location, which is both acceptable to the operators and equally accessible for users, can be found.

Background

“Make it York”, a company wholly owned by the Council but run by an independent Board of Directors, has announced that the  children’s rides traditionally provided during the St. Nicholas Fair period leading up to Christmas, will not be allocated a pitch in the Parliament Street area this year.

This ban includes the iconic Carousel ride.

The space may be used to accommodate a licensed bar.

No consultation with residents or most Councillors has taken place, no effective public scrutiny process for “Make it York” decisions has been introduced nor have any performance measures – for the public events that it may organise – been published.

York Council taxpayers need to be involved in the decision making processes for organisations that they help to fund including “Make it York”, the “York Museums Trust” & the York Libraries and Archives Mutual Company.

The petition should also be available on the Council’s web site shortly