The York Civic Trust is promoting a new group which aims to articulate the needs and aspirations of users of York’s biggest transport system. Walking! We wish them well. We have recorded on many occasions that green footpaths, particularly in sub-urban areas, have been neglected over recent years. Many have been heavily used for exercise during the lockdown period, Some now badly need repairs to infrastructure like stiles while work to remedy boggy and flooded sections is also needed. Even well used bitmaced paths like The Mount are overdue for resurfacing The Trust says in an email to its members, “Formed last year, WalkYork is a project that has been developed by Dr Roger Pierce, an active member of the Trust’s Transport Advisory Group, who identified a real need for a devoted online presence to promote and represent walkers in York. Free to join, becoming a WalkYork member provides access to news of city-wide schemes and proposed changes impacting pedestrians who have not previously been consulted about major changes impacting them. Bringing together views, the group can give a voice to individual concerns and suggestions, helping to negotiate improvements and influence Council decisions. The larger the membership the more influential they can be!”
The Council has revealed its transport investment budget for the new financial year.
£44.2 million has been allocatedto a range of improvements although the vast majority of the budget has been earmarked for dualling the outer ring road (£21.3 million) and improvements to the railway station frontage (£13.5 million). Neither of the schemes will be completed during the year as extensive preparatory works are required.
£1.2 million will be spent on the ongoing programme of modernising traffic signals (this will include replacing the Front Street pelican crossing along with lights at 8 other locations across the City).
Residents of the west of the City will be disappointed to see that their neighbourhood has been snubbed when allocations from the pedestrian and cycling budget have been made. Not for the first-time investment, is being focused on the central and eastern parts of the City.
A welcome, but very modest, allocation has been made for bus shelter replacement (£100k). Many of the council owned shelters are looking very tatty now with a belated repainting programme proving to be “too little, too late” and failing to bring about a lasting improvement.
Similarly, a £50,000 allocation for Public Rights of Way (PROW) structural repairs is long overdue. Sadly, the budget will barely make a dent in the backlog of work need to stiles, signage, and repairs to flooded sections of path.
All in all then, a mixed picture.
Hopefully the highway maintenance allocations – which have still not been publicised – will be targeted at repairing the worst roads and paths many of which are located in west York.
Its over 4 months since Councillors told residents that a blocked Public Right of Way (PROW) would be reopened . The access to Acomb Moor from Foxwood Lane had been via a stile for over 20 years.
It gradually fell into disrepair and the Council declined to stabilise it.
An application to define the route as a PROW was submitted in late 2018 and supported by the Council some 12 months later.
Shortly afterwards the tenant farmer blocked the access with a large tree trunk. He went on to plant crops in the field (for the first time in over 25 years).
Local residents agreed to use a footpath route which skirted around the outside of the field and this has become a well established exercise route during the lockdown period.
Unfortunately an assurance from local Councillors – that the tree trunk would be moved to allow for single file pedestrian access – was not fulfilled. As a result an new access point has now been forced near the Askham Lane junction.
Of more concern, many walkers are now trying to climb a 5 bar metal gate. A potentially hazardous activity for the elderly and infirm.
There are other points on the route which have also fallen into a, potentially hazardous, state of disrepair.
There are easy and relatively cheap solutions to this problem. The Lockdown period has simply reinforced the importance of informal walking routes near the City.
The Council should act now to make these footpaths accessible and safe.
It looks like the government’s announcement in November of a £600,000 grant for cycling and walking in York has strings attached. A “matching” amount is required from local taxpayers.
The York Council had bid for a share of what was termed an “Emergency Active Travel Fund”.
It was originally designed to promote social distancing and reduce pressure on public transport. Early examples if the kind of scheme supported by the York Council included the controversial Bishopthorpe Road one way system (since abandoned) and The Groves Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme. Several foot streets were also extended.
Now the government (rightly) says greater weight should be given to consultation, with Local Authorities required to publish a consultation plan for their programmes by 11th December 2020. Details of York’s Active Travel Fund Tranche 2 application and the Consultation Plan are available as downloads at:https://www.york.gov.uk/lets-york/active-travel-bid/1
The costs of the individual schemes have now been revealed.
The most expensive is the proposal to construct a cycle path from Wheldrake village to Heslington.
This comes in at an eye watering £550,000.
There has still not been any attempt made to estimate the likely use of such a path although the Councils origin and destination surveys make a cost/benefit analysis relatively easy to produce.
Ironically, this project does not even appear in the list of cycling schemes that the Council has built up over the years. This is reproduced in a report being considered later this week. (click).
At least that list attempts to assess what impact the investment would have on transport choices. The top-rated improvement locations are
St Leonards Place / Museum Street / Lendal Bridge / Station Road
Micklegate / Bridge Street / Nessgate / Coppergate / Pavement / Stonebow / Peasholme Green
Improvements to Station Road / Station Avenue gyratory
Route through former British Sugar site
Castle Gateway Foss Bridge
York Central – link from Chancery Rise
Bar Lane / Toft Green / Tanner Row
The Council is being urged to develop a new “walking and cycling strategy”. Certainly, those who walk will feel somewhat neglected by current York Council policies. Even more so when they see the lack of progress being made on determining 19 outstanding Public Right of Wayapplications. Some have been outstanding for over 20 years.
The main issue remains a lack of investment in maintaining the existing transport network.
The endless pressure to borrow more money simply sucks resources from the Councils maintenance budget. The results are deteriorating cycle and footpath surfaces coupled with potholed highway margins.
This neglect poses an increasing hazard for pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.
The local residents association have added their weight to calls for access to Acomb Moor to be made safer.
They have written to local Councillors making the following points.
The tree trunk blocking the access needs to be moved by about 1 foot to allow pedestrian access. We understand that Andrew has this in hand. If the field tenants won’t do it then 2 or 3 fit people should be able to roll the log. The stile then needs to be reinstated
The route across the field could then be re-established. Pragmatically a line down the side of the field – parallel to Foxwood Lane – could be established to link with the desire line path which is now clearly marked at the bottom of the field. (It will be for the owners to apply for a formal PROW diversion order if they wish to discourage people for walking through, what will presumably by the spring be, a cropped field). Obviously the current practice of people climbing over a 1.5 metre high metal gate is potentially hazardous and precludes some less ambient residents (who ironically are perhaps those most needing access to informal walking options) from using the paths.
The stile at the bottom corner needs to be repaired and hardcore put on the approaches.
Neither of the access points to the Council owned section of the path near Osprey Close have had the promised hardcore put down. Both these paths are narrow and on a gradient, They will become increasingly slippery in poor winter weather. So some action needs to be taken now.
Further along the path near and in Acomb Wood there are sections which are subject to flooding and which would also benefit from having hardcore put down.
Local residents have asked the Council to deal with maintenance issues at the Grange Lane park.
Complaints have been raised about littering but some of the equipment is unusable as a result of vandalism, graffiti, muddy entrances and missing safety surfaces under the swings.
The Council also promised to put hardcore down on parts of the footpath link from Grange Lane to Westfield Place where it is subject to flooding. This work hasn’t been done yet. It needs to be completed before the wetter winter months arrive.
The path is now being used occasionally by cyclists as a short cut. Some arrangements for them could be made at relatively little cost.
Use by walkers has also increased since lock-down started.
Our application to have the route from Foxwood Lane to Osprey Close – across Acomb Moor – recognised has passed another hurdle.
We understand that at a private meeting held on Tuesday Council officials decided to make a definitive map modification order (DMMO). The order should be made and published within the next few months. This would mean that the Public Right of Way route would be added to footpath maps.
The meeting was held behind closed doors and no agenda was published. This meant that interested parties were not able to make (further) representations. We understand that the background papers may not be published on the Councils website until next week.
We understand that initial consultation and review of the available evidence was completed and it was apparent that there is sufficient evidence to “reasonably allege that a public right of way subsists over the application route”. Under these circumstances the Council is required to make a DMMO by section 53 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
There will be a period of time during which objections to the designation can be made. If any objections are not subsequently withdrawn then the matter is referred to the Secretary of State for determination. This sometimes results in a Public Inquiry.
So it could be several months before the issue is entirely resolved.
In the meantime we have asked the Council to take steps to ensure that public access to the path is available for the point on Foxwood Lane where the stile used to be located (currently blocked by a tree trunk).
NB. We hope that the promised extension of the York Strays will include at least part of Acomb Moor. It is already used as an informal “country park”, is an important leisure area for the neighbourhood, it falls within the Green Belt and is on the most accessible side of the A1237. There is considerable scope for promoting conservation of flora and fauna in the area not least through re-establishing hedgerows where they have disappeared”.
The latest Council funding bid offers little hope for those wanting to do more walking in the wake of the health crisis. Many had, during the lockdown, made a start by making more use of local Public Rights of Ways.
These include the network of paths which link Acomb Moor to Acomb Wood. Nearby the rural section of Askham Lane was also well used as was the Westfield/Grange Lane Park links.
None of these has received any funding for improvements to access gates, signage or even by putting hard core down on sections liable to flooding. A few hundred pounds invested in paths located in the suburbs would make a lot of difference. A £500,000 budget, intended for walking and cycling improvements, has already been allocated mainly to cycling projects near the City centre.
One claim for a Public Right of Way could apparently take a step forward next week. The Foxwood residents association has been told that the path across the moor (the field which has recently been ploughed) will be considered at a decision meeting taking place on Tuesday. The association applied for heh PROW order on te path as long ago as December 2018
Unfortunately no agenda or report for any such meetings has been published on the Councils web site. This suggests that any discussion will be at one of the Councils, now infamous, “behind closed doors” meetings.
We hope not.
We also expect the Council get a move on and re-establish a safe access onto the moor from Foxwood Lane.
The government has launched a welcome initiative this week aimed at encouraging more active lifestyles. There has been a lot of support for cycling as a way of keeping fit and losing weight. That is very welcome and we hope that it soon translates into a Council initiative aimed at improving maintenance standards on off road cycle paths, many of which are in poor condition in York.
Less attention has been paid to leisure walking – an option open to virtually everyone.
There has been renewed interest in the use of local Public Rights of Way (PROW) as residents sought to follow daily – social distance – exercising guidelines. The route across Acomb Moor to Acomb Wood became more popular. A localbulletin boardhas seen several people criticise the farmer who blocked off all entrances to the moor before ploughing it.
Access to Acomb Moor blocked
While the owner is entitled to cultivate his land, he should not have blocked the Foxwood Lane access at least while the current PROW application is being actively considered. We have asked the public rights of way officer to intervene.
More needs to be done to enhance and improve access to the natural environment at least on the west of the City.
The Councils own annual survey of opinion revealed that 44% of panellists thought that the Council was not doing well at improving green spaces.
59% thought that the Council wasn’t doing well at reducing air pollution.
The Council planted 515 trees last year. It had previously claimedthat it would plant “50,000 trees by 2023”. It had also promised to expand the City’s strays and introduce more wildflower meadows in an attempt to encourage pollinators.
We understand that a report will be considered by the Council in August which will set out proposals to acquire land which will enable the creation of a “large new area of woodland in close proximity to the city to provide green amenity space for residents and plant trees that will contribute to the council’s commitment to become net carbon neutral by 2030”.
There has to be balance. The country does need to be more self sufficient in food production, so the retention of good quality agricultural land is also important.
However, the creation of a country park on land near Askham Lane would be a welcome step forward. It has been a vision for several years. It would allow hedgerows to be re-established and PROWs to be maintained in good condition.
It would also provide some compensation for the sports and leisure land lost through recent developments in the area.
It only now remains to be seen whether Councillors have the drive and determination to deliver on their promises.