In a report to a meeting taking place next week, officials are claiming that a planning application for the upgrade of the Lincoln Court independent living home on Ascot Way, “has been submitted”.
This will come as news to the residents living in the building who are eagerly awaiting details of the final design for the modernised site and the construction timetable.
There is no such application displayed on the Councils “planning portal“
So far only the demolition of the adjacent Windsor House building and subsequent construction of a centre for disabled children has reached the planning application stage. That application was submitted on 29th June.
It is a matter of some concern as residents will want to see an integrated timetable for both developments which ensures that work on the whole of the site is completed quickly.
They will also want to see the Newbury Avenue development completed before work starts on Ascot Way.
Both developments will put considerable pressure on parts of Kingsway West which offers the only access route into the area.
Kingsway West is a cul de sac and already suffers from congestion caused by poor parking provision on the area near the Ascot Way junction.
Below are the latest planning applications received by the York Council for the Westfield ward.
Full details can be found by clicking the application reference
24 Kingsway West York YO24 4QA
Erection of single storey extension extending 3.375 metres beyond the rear wall of the original house, with a height to the eaves of 2.260 metres and a total height of 3.470 metres.
Ref. No: 18/01604/LHE
84 Gale Lane York YO24 3AA
Erection of summer house (retrospective)
Ref. No: 17/03010/FUL
Representations can be made in favour of, or in objection to, any application via the Planning on line web site. http://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/
The Council now no longer routinely consults neighbours by letter when an application is received
Planning appeal decision goes against developers
An independent inspector has ruled that the building has historic interest and the proposal would damage protected trees.
The inspector also refused to award costs against the Council
The residents group opposing plans to build on the Lowfields sports pitches have warned Planning Committee Councillors that they should not take part in Thursday’s debate on the plans, if they have previously expressed a view on the development.
The Council is the landowner, developer and planning authority for the application. Any Councillor who had previously been present at any discussions about the future of the land, and the scale of any development, could be considered to have “pre-judged” the application.
Their impartiality would be in question, and could lead to any recommendation being invalidated.
The group say that any decision should be referred for consideration by an independent inspector.
Meanwhile, the residents group have lobbied Councillors setting out the reasons why they believe only the brownfield side of the site should be built on (see below).
The Planning Committee meeting takes place on Thursday 16th August starting at 4:30pm. It will be “web cast” (click to view)
Does Spark matter?
Officials are proposing to turn a blind eye to the failure of the operators of the Spark container village to implement planning conditions.
Instead a report to a planning meeting next week recommends that retrospective planning permission be given to ignore previously imposed conditions.
Even the burgeoning academic city elite have managed only a handful of comments in favour of Sparks application.
The development currently majors on alcohol-based businesses, omits promised wooden screening, includes a “graphic” on its Piccadilly frontage which is intrusive (at least) and has no proper disabled access.
The operators say they can’t afford to implement the previously granted permission – but are operating the business anyway. They publicly describe the business as very successful
Should we care?
There are several reasons why this approach will create dangerous precedents.
- The Council is the owner of the site and is Spark’s landlord. If the enterprise fails, then the Council (taxpayers) will be out of pocket. Officials and councillors on the planning committee cannot inure themselves from this unfortunate fact. Their impartiality is compromised.
- It was the developers themselves that offered to clad the outside of the containers on the Piccadilly frontage to make them less intrusive. It is inconceivable that they did not understand the costs of such an exercise and include it in their business plans
- Failure by the Council to insist on proper disabled access being available from day one of operation is a dereliction of duty and lets down an important, vulnerable section of the local community. If the operators of any other commercial shopping development in the City, not on a Council owned site, had tried that on, then they would likely have received an enforcement notice the next day.
- “Can’t afford to implement the planning conditions” is not a reason to change them. Other developers will quote this precedent if retrospective planning permission is granted.
The planning official’s analysis of the application is disappointing. It agonises about the impact that the buildings and the street art have on the Red Lion (Listed Grade II) and St Deny’s church (Listed Grade I). Officials make the subjective judgement that the development “causes less than substantial harm to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area”. The impact of the development, acknowledged by officials as “a far more utilitarian development which expresses the structure and appears somewhat cluttered”, extends far beyond the Piccadilly area.
The report claims that “commercial units in Spark have been occupied in accordance with the approved scheme and the social space / business hub is used by various local groups and organisations”. In reality, several of the (non-alcohol related) units are empty.
Officials claim that the development meets one of the Councils own objectives. “To support strong, vibrant and healthy communities”.
How stimulating a drinking culture helps create a “healthy” community is not explained.
So, should Spark continue?
As its already in place and has a lease until May 2020, the assumption must be that it will stay. The mistake was made when the Council leased the land for such a use in the first place (November 2016).
This was compounded by a poorly thought through planning permission.
The Planning committee should insist that an enforcement notice is issued immediately requiring the disabled access lift to be installed within the next few days. A temporary closure notice should be issued if this isn’t done.
The committee should also insist that the “art” and lettering on the Piccadilly frontage is removed and that the visible container sides are painted in neutral colours.
Notwithstanding this, there are questions that the council as the landlord for the site needs to answer. It should be open about the current amount of public investment that is at risk.
By now the Councils should have received a significant amount in rent and rates. It should say how much?
Controversial Lowfields Planning application being heard next week
Council officials are recommending that the whole of the Lowfields school and sports pitch site be redeveloped. The planning application will be determined next week, even though objections to the Local Plan have not yet been considered by the independent inspector.
There are two proposals.
The first is an outline planning application for the whole site (click) This still includes the highly unlikely Police station (the Police have no plans to move from their current York Road base) and a “health centre” although none of the NHS/GP budget holders have allocated funding for such a project. The application outlines where the Council hopes 96 houses, 26 bungalows, 18 apartments and an 80 bedroomed care home will be located. 6 self-build and 19 “community build” dwellings are also included near the southern boundary of the site.
The second application is the detailed (i.e. final) planning application for the 142 “open market” dwellings (click). Strangely this detailed application is scheduled to be considered before the outline application!. The Council says that 20% of these will be “affordable”. It is these housing plans which are likely to be most controversial as they are the ones being being built on the sports pitch.
A brief history
When the Lowfields school closed some 10 years ago, the Council gave an assurance that only the “built footprint” of the former school buildings would be redeveloped. The green space would be protected. The site was slated to be retirement village – the west York equivalent of Hartrigg Oaks. Plans were produced, and the scheme would have proceeded had there not been change in control of the Council in 2011.
The incoming Labour administration wanted the village to be predominantly public (rather than private ) sector. They raised the possibility of building on the football pitch in 2012 but nothing came of the idea. Four years wrangling later and it was accepted that the development would need private investment.
York went to the local election polls in May 2015. No party said it intended to build on the playing field
The suggestion that the green space would be lost came in December 2016 when the then new Tory housing executive member persuaded his colleagues that selling off the land for private development would provide the money (approximately £4.5 Million) for other projects including facilities in Burnholme.
They later rowed back from setting up a “development company” and instead plan to manage the development themselves
The Council claimed that “landscaped green space will be open to the public for the first time” In practice the playing fields were open to the public until about 5 years ago when the Council tried to secure the boundaries. At the time, they said this could only be a for a few months.
A Lowfields Action Group was formed to oppose the emerging proposals. They established a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LowfieldsActionGroup/
- 2011 – The Lowfields care village was subject to formal consulted on in 2011. The proposal was widely praised throughout the City
- 2016 – Local Westfield Ward Councillors conducted a door to door survey in October 2016 which revealed that residents top priorities for the site were an elderly persons home, flats for “downsizers” and bungalows. They also wanted a nature reserve and the retention of the football pitches
- 2017 – In October 2017 the Lowfields Action Group published an alternative proposal for the Lowfields site. This was fed into the Local Plan process.
Its over 9 months since the deadline for comments on the planning application passed.
None of the comments made by residents in response to the many earlier iterations are being reported to the Planning Committee next week.
These is a growing suspicion that the Council – as the owner of the site and with a major vested financial liability – is not being even handed with all interested parties.
Unless they adopt a different approach, pressure to have the application “called in” will grow
Councillors will today be asked to approve design plans for the York Central site. The area behind the station has been ripe for redevelopment for nearly 2 decades now as the demands of the rail industry have reduced.
York central is a large and hugely expensive site to develop but has the advantage of being close to intercity transport links and a City centre which boasts a full range of amenities.
The design guide springs from a comprehensive public consultation process which managed in the end to avoid the obvious dangers of raising unaffordable expectations.
The design guide rightly concentrates on the impact that a dense, and relatively tall, development will have on the rest of the City. It passes that test and goes on to tell a convincing story about street and layout potential. It may be a little short on iconic USPs although the idea of an old steam train running through the site will appeal to many.
But perhaps the approach does tend to be “all things to all men”.
It talks of a large increase in office space at a time when the City has full employment and some empty office units. A report implies that the York Council might underwrite some of the new floorspace space. But the Council is already doing so at the Community Stadium site while the £12 million white elephant business centre at the Guildhall had still to find tenants.
The main issue may prove to be access and transport.
Even footpath links between the Carlton St area and the City centre look – for most of the evening – to be longer than currently is possible. The one-way system to benefit cyclists through the Leeman Road tunnel has also (rightly) been vilified.
The development partners will have to find funding for a discrete pedestrian/cycle bridge over the railway line – a solution which might also address other permeability issues and might even provide an alternative route for the Railway Museums “Disney” train which currently obstructs general traffic routes in the City centre.
The design guide refers to parking space provision at “up to 1 space” per house (0.45 spaces per flat). This suggest that many cars will be parked “off-site”. The Council will need to be clear whether this would be at a peripheral on-site location or at a sub-urban park and ride site (with its security implications).
The design guide fails to address other transport needs such as recharging/refuelling points for electric/hydrogen buses. Indeed, the guide is weak on public transport infrastructure requirements generally.
In the main though, the guide does address the main planning issues and is a welcome step forward for the project.
Whether the actual planning applications can be faithful to the concept, and remain affordable, may become clearer later in the year.
It appears that the Sports Council (Sport England) has been duped into withdrawing their objection to building on the Lowfields football pitches. They have told the planning department that the recent decision to provide pitches 3 miles way on Tadcaster Road meets their objection.
They had apparently been told by Council. officials that the Woodthorpe Wanderers team – who play at Lowfields- had agreed to play on the new pitches.
However it was revealed at a planning committee meeting two weeks ago that the pitches will be solely used by a team from Bishopthorpe.
The Lowfield Action Group have written to the Sports Council pointing out this anomaly https://www.facebook.com/LowfieldsActionGroup/
It now seems likely that the Council Leadership will try to bounce the planning application through the committee before the Local Plan Inquiry starts – robbing objectors of their right to make their case to an independent inspector.
The application may go to a meeting scheduled to take place on 16th August.
In the meantime.the Police have indicated that they will not be building a replacement station on the site while the NHS have also indicated that funding is not available for the new GP surgery shown on the Councils plans.
The debt laden and controversial “Spark” container village has now applied for permission not to implement the site screening which was a condition of approval in 2017.
At that time, several objectors had described the old shipping containers as an eyesore. Most saw the plan as inappropriate for a sensitive City centre location and the expectation was that the site would be better developed on a permanent basis.
The site is owned by the York Council introducing a potential conflict of interest when consideration of the planning applications.
There was a strong view expressed that, if temporary planning permission was granted, then the buildings and scaffolding should be painted in a neutral colour. This would minimise the impact that the development would have on the neighbourhood.
In the event, the developers surprised everyone by offering to clad the structure in wood panelling.
The Planning Committee can only judge and determine the plans that are placed before them. The cladding did mitigate some of the concerns about visual impact. The committee (wrongly in our view) then granted a temporary planning permission for 3 years.
It would be over a year before the permission was implemented with the developers ignoring several of the conditions including the needs of disabled users.
The containers haven’t been painted in a neutral colour.
A quasi graffiti mortgage has been added to the Piccadilly frontage.
The York Council has been slow to take enforcement action on the planning contraventions. Not surprisingly other developers are crying “foul”. They say that special treatment arises out of the Council ownership conflict (over £50,000 of taxpayer’s money is currently at risk on the project). The remedy for that lies in enforcing the lease conditions for the land.
In the meantime, the media, social and otherwise, will once again no doubt be mobilised to support the change to the planning permission.
Hopefully the planning committee will develop a backbone and ensure that there is a level playing field for all who wish to trade in the City,