Multi User Games Area – late development

Sport England have sent a late representation to the Councils’ planning committee reaffirming their views on the future of the MUGA on Kingsway West.

They say that they HAVE NOT agreed to it being demolished.

Council officials, in a report to the committee,  had given the impression that a holding objection had been withdrawn.


Now Sport England have unequivocally said that, if the existing MUGA is demolished, then a replacement facility must be provided nearby.

Such a facility must be available before the existing MUGA is demolished  and must be available for public use.

The planning committee is meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 4:30pm


Council aims to make £3 million profit by building and selling houses on Lowfields playing fields

Lowfields playing field development – decisions expected on Thursday

Lowfields Green – Controversial development to be debated on Thursday

Despite no planning permission having been granted for the proposed development of the playing fields at Lowfields, the York Councils Executive will debate on Thursday how construction work will be funded.

We have already commented on the bizarre claim that a new football pitch, being established near Bishopthorpe, will in some way compensate for the loss of pitches at Lowfields.

December 2016 report extract

Another report on the Executive agenda addresses how the Council can fund its Lowfields plan. It intends to use a new Housing Development Company (HDC) to undertake the work.

The report refers to a previous meeting in December 2016 (right)  when the decision was taken to sell off the site for £4.5 million. At that time the Executive also decided to ask for reports on how health facilities, a police depot and football facilities could be provided. Of these, only the report on football pitches has been forthcoming.

The new report claims that in July 2017 “66% of people who provided feedback gave support the plans”. The report fails to mention that the Council consultation didn’t offer the opportunity for residents to object to the development of the playing field. Most of the favourable comments – as they are with the current planning application – came from people living outside the area who were lobbied to support the “communal build” section of the development (which will not be located on the playing field).

The report makes other contentious claims.

It says using the Councils HDC will reduce the time that builders will be on site.  The Council has no control over how long self-builders, the community builders, the Health centre, the care home and police builders will be on site. None of these uses is included in the detailed planning application.

The Councils claim of a 30-month development period is therefore highly optimistic.

They hope to start building towards the end of 2018.

The report also lauds the “6,434 sq. metres of public open space” being provided.

Currently there is 33,150 metres of usable green space on the site. The new design includes a, so called, “pocket park” which is little more than a wide grass verge while the usable part of the “village green“ is little bigger that the existing green space at the junction of Lowfields Drive and Dijon Avenue

However, the main concern for most taxpayers will be the plan to borrow an additional £9 million to fund building work. The Council already has a total debt of over £357m (including £139m historic council housing debt).

Around 13% of residents Council Tax payments are used to pay interest charges. This is set to increase to 14% next year.

The development (houses and infrastructure) will cost £25 million.

The Council hopes to sell houses for £28 million, making a £3 million profit.

Residents group publishes alternative plan for Lowfields school development

Action Group sets up Facebook page

Residents alternative to Council plans

The Save Lowfields Playing Fields Action Group has stepped up its activities following the decision of the York  Council to submit a planning application aimed at developing the local playing field.

The application was made two weeks before the current consultation, on the Draft Local Plan, was due to conclude.

The Action Group have submitted an alternative development plan in response to the Local Plan consultation. It shows that the playing field could be conserved while still allowing 200 hundred new homes and flats to be accommodated on the site of the school buildings.

Details of the alternative – and the groups objection to the Councils planning application – are now beginning to appear on their dedicated Facebook page.

One key driver for the opposition is the Council plan to move the football pitch over 2 miles to a site on Sim Balk Lane (where it will become the home for a Bishopthorpe based football team).

The Action Group has quoted the Councils own figures which show that the Westfield area is already short of all forms of open space and sports pitches.

Council figures demonstrate lack of open space in the Westfield area

They have won the support of local Councillor Andrew Waller who says he will object to the plans unless they are amended to save the playing fields.

In his local newsletter he says that the proposed alternative open space and sports facilities are simply too far away from Lowfields to be of any use. He points out that there isn’t even a direct bus service to the Sim Balk Lane site.

“There isn’t enough open space for recreation  in the Westfield area and this application, unless amended, will make things even worse.”

Residents have until 15th November to record objections to the two planning applications

Overall site layout

Housing application

The original proposal, tabled by the Council in 2011, would have seen a care village, aimed at older people, built on the school site.

At that time around 70 housing units were proposed.


Lowfields trench digging mystery explained

A JCB has been digging up part of the Lowfields playing field this week.

Anxious residents – who are keen to see the playing fields retained – have been told that this is work being undertaken by the York Archaeological Trust.

An official has contacted local Councillor Andrew Waller to say,

“As you are aware as part of the planning application we are required to undertake a number of site surveys in support of the planning application that we wish to make to develop the site. The trench work that is currently being undertaken are follow up works to an earlier geophysical survey that was undertaken in June 2017 in support of the planning application.

York Archaeological Trust (YAT) have been commissioned to undertake an archaeological evaluation of the site, which as you are aware is common practice in York. The Trust will be on the site until Monday 4th September 2017.

On completion of the investigative works, YAT will back fill the trenches with the stockpiled top & sub soil removed during the excavation & compact the earth”.

Threat to future of Chesneys Field amenity area?

Reports are coming in that the York Council is in private discussions about leasing off the Chesneys Field amenity area,

Chesney’s Field

It is claimed that they hope to re-home the Woodthorpe Wanderers football team there when they evict that organisation as part of a controversial plan to build on the sports pitches at Lowfields.

Hitherto, it had been understood that any plans to build on the Lowfields playing field would be subject to the provision of additional sports pitches elsewhere in the area.

However, as the pitches at Chesneys Field have been rented out on a seasonal basis for over 25 years, to both football and rugby teams, it seems unlikely that site would meet the criteria set by bodies such as Sport England and the National Playing Fields Association.

Any attempt to limit public access to Chesneys Field is likely to be strongly resisted by residents.

The Foxwood Residents Association has invested heavily in the field. It is the only substantial area of publicly accessible open space available since railings were erected by the Rugby Club around the adjacent Thanet Road sports area.

Chesney’s Field Interpretation board unveiled last year

Following the upgrade made to the play equipment on Chesneys Field, residents have supervised tree and bulb planting, the installation of seats and an interpretation board. Litter is regularly cleared from the area by volunteers.

The investment made to improve the area has mainly been through residents own fundraising activities and co-operation with partners

The amenity area is generally well used against a background of under-provision of green space and play facilities in much of the Westfield area.

The issue is likely to be raised at a meeting of the Foxwood Residents Association which is taking place on Wednesday.

NB: We also understand that the Rugby Club may seek to revive the idea of erecting a stand and other facilities next to one of their pitches on the other side of the road. Residents will be watching any such proposal carefully and will insist on compensatory, publicly accessible, amenity land being made available if any is lost through development on the Thanet Road area.

Tories announce latest plan to develop Lowfields playing fields.

Tory Councillor Sam Lisle has praised controversial plans to build on the playing fields at Lowfields.

The revised plans see still more of the green field being built on with the nominal “village green” reduced in size to the equivalent of the grassed area on Dijon Avenue.

Lowfields plans 2016

Layout July 2017

He did so on the day that the Council confirmed its plans for an exhibition of the proposals which could see nearly 200 homes (including the rooms in the care home) crammed into the small site. It also revealed that any additional homes built on brownfield former Ministry of Defence land will not be used to offset the pressure to build on green fields like Lowfields.

The Lowfields plans also include relatively uncontroversial proposals for an elderly persons care home and bungalows on the east of the site (on the built footprint of the former school).

The school finally moved its activities from the Lowfield sports field in 2010 although usage by sports teams continues to this day.

The Council says the site, to be known as Lowfield Green, is at the pre-planning stage.

“Suggestions are now invited and comments can be submitted on plans for older people’s accommodation, housing, a health hub and public open space. The latest plans follow on from previous public engagement in October 2016.

The drop-in event this month will be held at the Gateway Centre, Front Street, Acomb YO24 3BZ on Tuesday 18 July from 4:30 – 7pm and is open to all. Invitations have been sent to the immediate neighbours of the site.

At the drop-in event people can see and discuss the plans with officers and learn more about changes to the plans since the last event. Once comments are reviewed and final plans drawn up, the council will submit a planning application this summer.

The proposals for the site include:

  • Over 55’s accommodation including flats and bungalows
  • Family housing
  • York’s first self-build housing plots to be offered by the council
  • Land for community-led housing group, YorSpace
  • A health hub
  • Public open space”.

The Council are coy about a plan to provide a police station on the site. This would have meant the closure of the police depot on York Road and is controversial (although currently located outside the playing field part of the site). Similar unanswered questions remain about the Council ‘s paln to estbalsih a “health centre” on the site with no funding having been allocated for such a function by the NHS.

The Council says that “anyone unable to go to that event can see the plans at a display at Explore Acomb Learning Library Centre, Front Street, Acomb YO24 3BZ from 18 to 28 July 2017, or they can be viewed and commented on at (NB. There are no plans on the Councils web site at present)

Lowfields battle goes on

The Council’s Executive has tonight endorsed plans to build on the Lowfields playing fields.

The decision was not unexpected.

Many residents were angered by a Council announcement that they intended to build on the Lowfields playing fields - braking a promise given when the school was closed 8 years ago. A petition is being collected and representations to the government are planned.

Petition sent to Council

However, it represents only the opening shots in what is likely to be a long war.

No Councillor attempted to explain why the proposal is being brought forward before objections to the draft Local Plan have been considered.

In reality it is a pre-emptive stike aimed at maximising the sale price of the site.

The meeting also heard that officials had been negotiating for some time with the communal building group although they omitted to include this development option in papers circulated to residents in the autumn.

Council officials continue to pretend that the majority of local residents support their plans. They have so far refused to respond to the views set by respondents to a survey collected by local Councillors in September

A residents group has been set up and they will be lobbying both local planners and central government in the fight to conserve the playing fields.

The issue will be discussed again at a Council meeting taking place on 15th December.

Any building project outside the old-school building footprint will need central government approval and that is likely to be the next battlefield.

Lowfields on list of possible new mental health hospital sites

After over 4 years of neglect by the York Council, the derelict former Lowfields school site has emerged as one of the options for the location of a new mental health hospital.
Lowfields school site is now overgrown

Lowfields school site is now overgrown

The hospital will replace the obsolescent Bootham Park facility which was forced to close last year following a damming inspectors report.

In total 12 possible locations are being considered by the NHS.

The hospital will cover a wide catchment area so – with limited public transport services available – it is surprising that sites away from the City centre are apparently being considered.

The expectation had been that the new hospital would be built next to the existing facility in Bootham – although the traditional facility at The Retreat might have provided an alternative location.

Consultation meetings have been scheduled by the NHS with the nearest being at The Folk Hall, Hawthorn Terrace, New Earswick, on Tuesday 31 May (two events 2.00 – 5.00pm and 5.15 – 7.15 pm).

The NHS trust say,

We are in the early stages of planning for the new facility, which is due to open in 2019, and are inviting people to attend one of four events which are being held in the area.

The workshop style sessions will focus on three main areas – the size and number of beds needed, potential sites for the new hospital and best practice in building design.

Residents had been expecting the latest version of the Local Plan (set to be revealed on 15th June) to confirm that the school site (the footprint of the buildings) would be allocated for the construction of accommodation mainly aimed at older people. The site is ideal for retired people as it is located within walking distance of a full range of facilities in Acomb Village.

Residents were also hoping that any plans to build on the school playing field would finally be quashed. In surveys conducted by local Councillors the majority of residents said that they wanted the field to be retained as open space.