Beauty in the eye of the bank manager

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.

Planning permission screening 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.

Spark April 2018

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.

Spark letter – can’t afford screening 2018

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,

Carlton Tavern round two

An appeal by Crown Care against the refusal of planning permission to build a care home on the site of the Carlton Tavern  has been announced.

The appeal is to be decided on the basis of an exchange of written statements by the parties and a site visit by an Inspector

Any representations must be received by the Planning Inspectorate by 6th July 2018; late representations will
normally not be considered.

Victory for common sense as ugly visitor centre building is abandoned

We reported with incredulity in October 2016 that the plans were set to get the go ahead

Plans to construct a visitor centre next to Clifford’s Tower have been dropped.

The English Heritage plan attracted major opposition from a wide range of organisations and people in the City.

One independent Councillor (Jonny Haynes) even challenged the proposal though the courts.

Now the new head of English Heritage in the north of England is being reported in the media as saying that the plan has been scrapped.

Generally the other proposals for Clifford’s Tower sponsored by EH were welcomed. These included improvements to internal accessibility and repairs to the buildings fabric. In principle, many acknowledged that a visitor centre would enhance the experience for the tourist but the location of the building, immediately adjacent to the iconic mound, was considered by many to be overly intrusive.

The building’s design was described as a combination of  a 1960’s public toilet and the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut in the Valley of the Kings 

The decision offers the opportunity to provide something more appropriate as the Castle Car park area is remodelled over the next few years.

The Clifford’s Tower controversy was one of several lapses of judgement by the York planning committee in recent years. They also nodded through a plan to establish an Arts Barge bar near Skeldergate Bridge despite concerns about alcohol and river safety.

However, in most peoples minds, that will pale when compared to the major blunder made in giving planning permission to  “Container Village” currently blighting the appearance  of Parliament Street.

Castle/Piccadilly round 3

Economic impact assessment on City Centre economy missing

After a delay of 18 years, the Council are to make another attempt to get planning permission for a redevelopment of the Castle/Piccadilly area (Castle Gateway).

It is long overdue.

The City centre has changed a lot since the last planning application failed at a public Inquiry.

Two decades ago it seemed that the City centre economy would continue to depend on the retail sector to provide its main attraction. There were hopes that “anchor” large stores provided in the Piccadilly area would sustain the retail economy in the face of competition from out of town stores and the, then just emerging, trend to shop “on line”.

But that option has all but disappeared. Larger shops in the City centre are finding conditions difficult with the once premier destination – Coney Street – now containing several long term empty units.

The Council has therefore rightly published plans for the Castle area which do not relay principally on retail development.

Instead, yesterday, a much-leaked report majors on City centre living space, a possible Castle Museum extension and some independent shopping units.  There is no place for the hoped-for airspeed museum which could have occupied the ground floor of the 17/21 Piccadilly possibly as part of a restaurant use – a possible missed opportunity given the need to stimulate visits to the Elvington airfield museum.

The Castle car park will close with the design team saying that the resultant green space will provide an entertainment space for 365 days a year (revealing a touchingly optimistic view of climate change).

There may be a similar level of wishful thinking in proposing to build apartments and a £10 million multi story car park with 400 spaces on the flood plain on St Georges field, although the plans to allow public swimming in the Foss Basin may provide a prescient transport option for occupants when water levels are high.

The officers report says, “any funding gap in delivering the full ambition of the masterplan can be responded to through scaling back the proposals, identifying external funding sources, or the council providing capital funding through the budget setting process

The estimated total costs of the project – which are the costs of delivering the entire public realm, infrastructure, and the new MSCP – is £30m. The potential gross surplus income from the council owned residential and commercial development opportunities is £22.5m”.

So where next?

There are several good ideas in the Council’s published plan which deserve to be developed further. The first step should be to publish a candid impact statement indicating how other City centre businesses will be affected.

The number of public parking spaces available is crucial. The Castle car park is York’s best used despite the surface being badly rutted. It produces over £1.2 million in revenue for the Council. To this should be added an income stream from the Castle Mills car park (recently closed). The Piccadilly car park has been less well used since the advance space availability signs stopped working 4 years ago.

Adequate car parking capacity is vital for the retail economy and visitor attractions (which are open outside park and ride hours). People don’t expect to have to carry heavy luggage or shopping for long distances.  Walking distances are important. The proposed 4 story car park at St Georges field would be a 716 metre walk to the end of Parliament Street. By comparison the distance from Piccadilly is 95 metres, from the Castle car park is 275 metres and from Castle Mills 461 metres.

The is always a danger in publishing idealised artist impressions of new developments. They invariably portray a mature green environment on a sunny summers day. The reality on a wet, November evening may be markedly less attractive.

The Council must now do two things before it proceeds any further

  1. It must produce a realistic (best case/worst case) economic impact assessment &
  2. It must abandon any thought of being the developer for the commercial elements of the scheme. It has already been shown to be inept both at the Guildhall (project abandoned, £12 million of taxpayers money at risk) and the Monks Cross stadium development (public subsidy increased from zero in 2010 to at least £13 million today) Let the professionals get on with it.

Otherwise it is a worthy attempt to reconcile wildly differing opinions on a site which is crying out for redevelopment.

Layout plans

Fracking – move to increase protection for York agreed

Planning Inspectorate accepts principle of planning zone

 

The North Yorkshire authorities have welcomed the Planning Inspector’s indicative response to key policies relating to fracking in the region.

The Inspector, Elizabeth Ord, was considering evidence for proposals from the ‘Joint Authorities’ (City of York Council, North Yorkshire County Council and North Yorks Moors National Park Authority) during the public examination of the joint minerals and waste plan for the region.

The Joint Authorities had been asked to provide additional evidence to support policies which cover:

· A separation distance of 500m between above-surface fracking proposals and anyone’s home. Any proposals for such development within 500m would only be permitted where it is robustly evidenced that there would be no unacceptable impacts.

· Legal protection for parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, scheduled monuments, registered battlefield, listed historic parks and gardens, and the historic setting of York. This would exclude a number of areas around the city from fracking. These include the strays, river corridors, green areas and village and rural settings.

Following today’s evidence, the Inspector is satisfied with the policy relating to areas of beauty, parks and the setting of York. The Inspector has also indicated that she is satisfied with the Joint Authorities’ position regarding protecting certain areas from fracking to protect the special characteristics and heritage of York and with regard to the 500m zone, she has indicated she is provisionally satisfied that this is sound, but has indicated she will give further consideration to representations on this point from the UK gas and oil industry who have objected to this restriction in strong terms.

The Inspector’s indicative view is encouraging and a step towards achieving a heightened level of policy protection from fracking, for the special characteristics of this part of the Yorkshire landscape, the heritage of York and the residents within the plan area. (more…)

More gloom as latest York Draft Local Plan unveiled

Transport gridlock a possibility, as City set to grow in size by over 20%

Yet another set of proposed changes to the Council Draft Local Plan have been published by the York Council. If accepted at a meeting taking place next week the number of extra homes to be built in the Area could increase from an estimated 867 dwelling a year to as many as 1070.

Officials blame inconsistent national population projections for the indecision.

Developers eyeing stables on Tadcaster Road

If accepted, they higher figures could mean more Green Belt land being developed in the Metcalf Lane, Wigginton Road and Elvington Lane areas. The racecourse stables land on Tadcaster Road is once again under threat while developers want to build a whopping 1575 dwelling at Galtres Farm near Huntington

The York Central (brownfield) figures could also increase from 1500 to between 1700 and 2500 units, with more offices also planned for the site.

The main impact of any increase in  house building, and associated economic development, will be on the Cities, already creaking, transport systems. Increases in traffic congestion levels could be as much as 25% on some roads.

The 20% increase in the City’s population – over just 20 years – has never been effectively explained or challenged by Councillors. The effect that such high growth rates will have, on the character of the City, is considerable.

Many fewer people have responded to the Councils latest consultation than previous exercises.

Residents now have “consultation overload” and are fed up with raising the same issues time and time again without receiving any convincing response from the authorities.

Lowfields – Plan to build on sports pitches

A prime example is the campaign to conserve the playing field and sports pitches at Lowfields. 80% of respondents oppose the Councils plan to develop the field, yet their views are being ignored.

The stage is now held by vested interests.

Land owner, developers and their agents are squabbling over the available cake. Large profits depend on the outcome of the Local Plan deliberations

There will be a final period of is=consultation shortly. The results of the consultation will then be placed before an independent inspector at an “Examination in Public”.

That will give ordinary residents an opportunity to air their views in what should be an impartial forum.

 

Councils traffic projections Jan 2018

New flats set to get go ahead

Clifford Street

Officials are recommending that 14 Clifford Street be converted for restaurant use into flats. There will also be two new offices provided in the building.

The plan has generally been welcomed although a nearby nightclub has expressed concerns that the flat dwellers may be subject to a noise nuisance.

Elsewhere officials are recommending that the owners of 25 and 26 Barbican Road be allowed to convert the houses into a block containing 12 apartments.

Carlton Tavern decision

Planning permission, to demolish the Carlton Tavern and use the site for an elderly persons home, was refused last night.

In effect the Planning Committee reversed a decision taken a couple of months ago when the Chair had to use his casting vote to determine the issue.

This prompted threats of a Judicial review of the process.

The applicants now have a right of appeal against the latest decision, so it is likely to be several months before the fate of the building is finally clear.

Carlton Tavern – planning rerun recommendations published

Officials are recommending that permission be given for the Carlton Tavern pub to be demolished and replaced with a care home.

A planning committee meeting taking place on 13th December will vote again on the issue following threats of a legal challenge to a decision to approve the proposal taken at its October meeting.

At that time the committee chair had to use his casting vote to determine the application.

The officer report now clarifies their interpretation of national and European guidance.

Over 150 objections to the plan have been recorded.

Planning applications – Gremlins on Council planning portal

It looks like last weekends update of the Council “planning portal” has gone badly wrong. The site should list all planning applications received (validated) by the Council during the preceding week.

Since the weekend (when the site was down for “maintenance”) the applications for the weeks commencing 13th and 20th November have disappeared. Some have reappeared on the current weeks list (27th Nov).

Taking the Westfield Ward as an example the site suggests that no applications have been “validated” since 7th November.

The issue is important because residents wishing to object (or support) particular planning applications have only a limited time to record their views. That time is being eroded.

The matter has been raised with senior Councillors and officials at the Council but the Authority has yet to make a statement about what has gone wrong and what is being done to remedy the failure.