Where’s the money gone? Front Street poser

Recycling pont in Acomb Car park still needs a “makeover”

Last June, the Council announced a £100,000 boost for the Front Street area.

The mood in the shopping area had been more buoyant as several additional independent shops announced plans to open while more upper floors were to be brought back into use as residential accommodation.

Part of the Council budget  was to be spent on bolstering existing activities with the aim of increasing “footfall”. These include additional grants to the ADAM arts festival and an improved Acomb Alive Christmas lights display.

Additional planters were planned for Front Street as were better signposts (wayfinding)

The “Friends of Acomb Green” were allocated £5000 for “recycling area improvements” in the car park although it was unclear precisely what this would involve.

Nothing more was heard about this project with the bins still badly needing at least a coat of paint.

More worrying is the lack of progress in getting the whole of the precinct levelled and paved. This was the top priority identified by residents following a door to door survey.

Consultants were to have been appointed to produce an economic masterplan for the area.

They were expected to report in December 2018.

There is no sign of any report nor is its publication included in the Councils forward programme of decisions.

Acomb Front Street improvements – report published

More flower tubs are promised

The Council is set to consider the latest report on the future of Acomb Front Street on 3rd July.

The area has had a boost in recent months with fewer empty properties and plans announced that would see several empty upper floors brought into residential use.

Nevertheless, the long-term future of the shopping area remains unpredictable, so investment of up to £100,000 is to be welcomed. Some of the fund will be spent in Haxby.

Back alleys need better refuse storage and cleaning

Part of the money is to be spent on bolstering existing activities with the aim of increasing “footfall”. These include additional grants to the ADAM arts festival and an improved Acomb Alive Christmas lights display.

Additional planters are planned for Front Street as are better signposts (wayfinding)

The Friends of Acomb Green have been allocated £5000 for “recycling area improvements” in the car park although it is unclear precisely what this would involve. (The bins could do with repainting although overfull containers, and litter drift, have been the main sources of complaint).

The Council could make a start by cleaning its noticeboards on a regular basis

A further £23,000 of the budget will be allocated later in the year.

The project has moved forward only slowly over the last 3 years.

The results of our survey undertaken in 2017 revealed that residents had clear priorities for the improvement of the area.

Residents priorities for Front Street 2017

Top of the list was the need for a level pedestrian surface across the whole of the precinct.

Achieving this would have required negotiations with the forecourt owners.

Little progress seems to have been made although consultants are now to be appointed to produce an economic masterplan for the area. They are expected to report in December 2018.

July decision day for Front Street investment

Front Street

According to the Councils latest forward programme, proposals to improve the Front Street area will be considered at a meeting taking place on 3rd July.

The report follows on from earlier decisions on how the Councils available investment budget would be allocated.

One of the decisions was to allocate £100,000 to be spent on regenerating the Front Street and Haxby shopping areas.

At the time, the allocation was criticised as being too small to make much difference.

Last year, residents were consulted about how they would like to see the shopping area upgraded.

The most popular improvement was a proposal to provide a “level” surface across the whole of the pedestrian area.

This would potentially include the (privately owned) shops forecourts. We said at the time that this would need the involvement of a dedicated project manager who would have to negotiate agreements with several landlords. Whether improvements of this scale will be included in the July package remains to be seen.

Front Street back lane

The second most supported change, by residents, was improved management of litter and rubbish. There have been ongoing problems with litter and dumpingt in the back lane behind Front Street.

Many residents also wanted to see street furniture refurbished. Some progress has been made on this with cycle racks now added to the painting programme.

As we reported earlier in the week, there are some signs that Front Street is becoming more popular with traders. The number of empty properties has reduced, The Acomb Alive traders group now produces a 6 monthly magazine which has a wide distribution, while the Saturday markets continue to attract shoppers.

What is now needed is a bold and decisive approach to investment in the public realm

Sue Hunter calls for continued action on Front Street regeneration

Cllr Sue Hunter, Liberal Democrat councillor for Westfield, is calling on the Council to ensure progress is maintained on the regeneration of the Front Street area.

Cllr Hunter recently joined with Cllr Johnny Hayes, Chair of Indie York, for small independent businesses in the city, to discuss how Acomb can be regenerated.

According to data recently released by the Local Data Company, more empty shops in Acomb have now comeback into commercial use, underlining the economic importance and opportunity to reinvigorate the Front Street.

In response to these calls, the Council has acknowledged the need to continue with a clear programme of proposals and the work to identify such proposals is now underway. Some suggested proposals put forward Cllr Hunter include:

  • A campaign to promote Acomb as a place to do business in York
  • To continue with the successful Acomb Market and Christmas Festival
  • Physical improvements to the roads and footpaths in the area
  • Application for rate relief to businesses operating in Front Street

Cllr Sue Hunter, Liberal Democrat ward councillor for Westfield, said:

“As a local councillor and business owner in the area, I fully recognise the potential of the Front Street as a place to do business in York.”

“It is pleasing to know that the Council has recognised the need for a clear programme of proposals for Front Street but more can be done. I look forward to work commencing on this I strongly urge the Council to begin work on local economic improvements as soon as possible.”

“With the recent news that more empty shops are now being used in Acomb, the Council should move forward to capitalise on the opportunities the Front Street area holds.”

Front Street regeneration – residents views sought

Residents are being asked to give their views on what needs to be done to revive the Front Street area.

There are fewer empty shop units on Front Street compared to 3 years ago (above)

The York Council recently announced that it will invest in the Front Street area and the expectation is that experts will recommend a way forward. Although the shopping area has had a boost over recent years, with the Acomb Alive traders organisation holding a series of events, many feel that a change to the physical layout of the precinct will be necessary to tempt larger numbers of shoppers back to the village.

A monthly street market has been very popular and it is hoped to build on its success.

The next market is being held on Saturday 24th June.

Responding to a door to door survey, recently launched in the Hamilton Drive and St Stephens Road areas by the Westfield ward Councillors team, residents have already indicated how often they use services on the Front Street area.

The majority have said that they frequently use the supermarket, local shops and the bank/post office facilities.

Residents are also being asked to rate several potential improvements. These include:

  • Providing a level surface across the whole of the pedestrian area including the forecourts
  • Improving litter and rubbish management
  • Providing a “big screen” focal point
  • Generally repaint and refurbish street furniture and signs
  • Providing easier parking
  • Narrowing the carriageway in “old” Front St to make it more pedestrian friendly.

The hope is that the survey will prompt some original thinking by both residents and commercial users in the area.

A public meeting has been scheduled to take place, on 12th July at 6:30pm in the Gateway Centre, to discuss how the Front St area can be regenerated. 

In the meantime, interested parties can complete a brief on line survey by clicking here

 

 

Business rate valuations mostly up in Acomb

Community centre faces 50% hike in Rates

Sanderson House faces rates hike

Sanderson House faces rates hike

Further detail has emerged of the new Business Rates that will be payable in Acomb and elsewhere in the City.

Generally, valuations have increased by around 10% although there are very wide variations.

This means that most shopkeepers in the area will pay more than they currently do when the valuations are introduced next year.

Examples of valuations – which can be found on the government web site by clicking here – are shown in the table below.

Business rates in Acomb

The figures quoted do not indicate the actual amount which is paid. A multiplier – which changes each year – is applied get the actual amount to be paid.

Still there are some shockers on the list not least the huge hikes in rates for the Community Centres in Chapelfields (+50%) and Foxwood (+17%). Charities do get relief on their rate payments but the changes are difficult to understand against a background where some businesses, like Ladbrokes bookmakers, will enjoy reductions of around 7%.

Elsewhere Liberal Democrat Councillor Sue Hunter has backed the idea of a new investment scheme for Front Street and called on the council “to give Acomb the support it deserves”.

A recommendation for a “wider renewal and reinvigoration scheme” was agreed by York’s Executive Member for Transport & Planning at a meeting yesterday in response to petitions presented by Lib Dem councillors in Acomb and Foxwood.

Over the summer, Cllr Sue Hunter organised a petition signed by over 800 residents calling for action to fix pavements in Front Street to help those who use wheelchairs and mobility scooters, and support the local shopping area. Meanwhile, Cllr Sheena Jackson organised a petition calling for improvements to the pavements around Foxwood Shops.

In response to the petitions, it was agreed that standard repairs will continue and that further work is carried out to appraise the possibilities for a wider renewal and reinvigoration scheme for both locations and a report prepared for the Executive Member for Economic Development and Community Engagement. (more…)

What’s on in York: Big City Read 2016 launched today

Programme launch and event booking from 1st September

Big City Read 2016 LogoEvents from 5 October to 1 December

In July 1917, Siegfried Sassoon wrote an open letter to the Times protesting about the conduct of the war. What happened next is the subject of Pat Barker’s book Regeneration which will be our Big City Read for this year.

York Libraries are giving away 5,000 free copies of Regeneration over October and November and asking readers to immerse themselves in the world of 100 years ago.

click for summary

click for summary

“We have put together a fantastic programme of events, together with our partners in the city, which offers something for everyone.

We are delighted to be welcoming Pat Barker to both launch and conclude the Big City Read at York Explore.

You can download the programme here Big City Read 2016 Events, and find details of Big City Read events in our What’s On listing. Copies of the programme will be available from 6 September at all York Libraries and other outlets in York.

You can collect your free copy of Regeneration from any Explore Library from 6 October while stocks last.

Events can be booked from 1 September either in person at any library in York or by phone, (01904) 552828 or (01904) 552651.

We advise booking in advance for all of our events, if applicable, to make sure of a place.

Read, Enjoy, Discuss, Share”

Acomb Alive devolution plan – Only £17,000 available

Fair deal for AcombThe report on plans to devolve responsibility for economic development activities, in the Acomb Front Street area, to local residents and traders has been published

It confirms that, of a £30,000 investment promised by the Council in 2013, only £13000 has actually been invested.

The balance of £17,000 may now be allocated to the Acomb Alive group.

However, these are derisory sums and will do little to redeem the regeneration project  promised for the area by local Councillors when seeking election last year.

Major investment is required in the streetscape and a full time coordinator will be required if the many private sector owners are to become involved in the project.

A budget of least £250,000 will be required each year.

By comparison, the City centre partner (Make it York) has a budget of over £600,000 a year while even Monks Cross will get £1 million a year from the Council to fund a leisure development there.

Two years ago the then Labour controlled Council ditched plans to create a retirement village in Acomb on land at Lowfields school

The funding was transferred to a similar project at Burnholme school on the other side fo the City.

The land at Lowfields – and a similar plot next to the library – remain unused adding to the general atmosphere of neglect in the area.

 

Major boost for Acomb on way?

The Council is to consider devolving economic development activity management to the Acomb Alive organisation.

Vandalised cycle stands in Front Street

Vandalised cycle stands in Front Street

The decision is due to be made at a meeting taking place on 12th April

The plan is likely to be welcomed by many living and working in Westfield and Acomb who feel that the area has been snubbed in recent years both by the Council and local economic development partners like “Make it York”.

The Front Street neighbourhood badly needs a regeneration intiative and local businesses and residents do have a key role to play in any improvement activity.

Front Street flower tubs 2007

Residents are working to improve the appearance of the area

Occupancy levels of shops have improved with the economic recovery but too many new businesses seem to flounder within their first couple of years of operation.

Ideas like the establishment of an occasional street market have come to nothing while local Councillors have had to resort to collecting petitions aimed at getting local footpaths repaired.

The scale of any investment which may be on offer is not known and any regeneration project will need at least one full time management post over at least 3 years.

Something major does need to happen and quickly.