Not been short on local news this week with a lot of speculation that the Theatre Royal’s annual pantomime will be ditched.

The seasonal event was a favourite with many residents and attracted a loyal following. In the 80.s and 90’s the income from the pantomime kept the Theatre Royal afloat.

The audience numbers were so large that the Opera House, and briefly also the Barbican, put on competing pantomimes.

Lots of people were prepared to pay for “more of the same” right up to the time that the star Berwick Kaler announced his retirement last year. Tickets sales were down, and reviews were mixed, for this years “Kalerless” event (he did do some script-writing).

With the benefit of hindsight, the Theatre might have been wise to boost the cast with some fresh – well known – names this year.

The theatre then announced last week that it would be taking “brave” decisions, so the writing was one the wall.

It coincided with a bid from the Theatre Royal for £500,000 of investment by the York Council. That implied a need for an ongoing public subsidy level similar to that seen in the last decade.

We have no doubt that there will be at least one pantomime in York next Christmas.

Nostalgia rules with a seasonal production of the 70 year old “White Christmas” having pulled in big West End audiences this season. The Theatre Royal needs to exploit that market. The City’s seasonal background atmosphere offers a huge marketing advantage.

Whether the present cast of the traditional panto can find another venue for their product – and continue to attract audiences – will become clear later in the year.

The Theatre Royals plans should become clearer this week.

York Libraries and Theatre Royal publish progress reports

Reports from two key leisure operators in York will be debated by the Council next week.

They cover the activities of the York Explore Library team and the Theatre Royal.

The Libraries now operate as an independent “community benefit society”. They receive funding of over £2 million a year from York taxpayers so it is disappointing that the report says little about the organisations financial position. Nor are KPIs tabulated.  However, local libraries have maintained, and enhanced, their reputations over the last year. They are more outward looking with several – including Acomb – seeking to establish “Friends” support groups. They are also meeting the challenge of a, still expanding, technology sector.

Theatre Royal has re-opened following refurbishment

Theatre Royal has re-opened following refurbishment

The Theatre Royal – which is an independent trust – has had a turbulent year with performances moved to the Railway Museum while the St Leonard’s Place building was completely modernised. The work ran 6 months behind schedule which was a major challenge for the theatre’s management. Early reactions to the recently reopened theatre have been generally positive. With the Council having paid their annual grant up front to help pay for the costs of the refurbishment the theatre faces a testing few years on the financial front. The Theatre Royal is an important part of York’s cultural heritage and most residents will wish it well as it seeks to re-establish itself.


York Theatre Royal reopening delays to cost £3/4 million

The Theatre Royal will not reopen until 22nd April.

That means it will have been closed for 47 instead of 27 weeks during its current restoration.

Theatre Royal restoration scaffoldingThe delay has been caused by the unexpected discovery of archaeology remains including the foundations of the St. Leonards Hospital. Asbestos was also discovered in the back wall of the stalls.

The additional cost of the building works is put at £1/4 million but to this must be added an estimated loss in income of £500,000.

Origonally the restoration had been expected to cost £4.1 million.

The Theatre is hoping to persuade the Arts Council to help to make up the deficit although some subsidy from the York Council is also likely.

The news is a major blow to the Theatre which is one of the gems in York’s cultural crown. It does much to promote the City around the world with the recent “in Fog and Falling Snow” production featuring in a TV documentary only last month.  The cast was mainly made up of York residents.

The adaptation for the stage of the Railway Children had its genesis in York. It is currently still running in London at the Kings Cross theatre.

Secret decisions on bus shelters and road improvements

Behind closed doors logo

Following the move not to allow Cabinet members to take decisions in “private” sessions, the gap has been filled by Council officials who are queuing up make the most use that they can of  their “delegated” powers.

Rougier Street

This week, the much delayed project to replace the (admittedly odious) bus shelter on Rougier Street next to Roman House was formally shelved.

Developers had been planning to convert Roman House into flats. There were concerns that a new shelter might be damaged during building works.

It now appears that the flats project has been abandoned and new owners are looking into providing a hotel on the site.

The scheme is being funded by the – time limited – “better bus fund” . This is the same fund that the Council misused to subsidise their ill fated Lendal Bridge  adventure.

With little prospect of the development on Rougier Street starting in the near future. it would have been sensible to divert the funds into sub-urban areas where bus stop and information facilities have had little improvement during the last 4 years.

Instead officials decided to mothball the project. (Their decision rather strangely refers to the shelter being located in the Skelton ward !!)

St Leonards

Separately – and not yet formally reported to the Council – we understand that improvements to the Theatre Royal bus stop have also been suspended. Apparently English Heritage were concerned that the works might endanger the adjacent listed buildings.

The improvements to the Theatre frontage include glazing the area between the columns.

It appears however that these glazing panels – rather  than filling in the gaps in between the masonry – will actually be recessed further back.

This raises concerns that a litter trap – or worse – is being constructed.

Clifton Moor

Clifton Moor link foot and cycle path click to access

Clifton Moor link foot and cycle path click to access

Plans to connect the two sides of the Clifton Moor retail park are being redesigned following the opening of the DFS store.

A new combined cycle/foot path has been approved. The  costs will be born by developers and land owners.The design is reproduced right

Burdyke Avenue plan click to enlarge

Burdyke Avenue plan click to enlarge

Burdyke Avenue

Obstructions on Burdyke Avenue have been causing delays to local bus services. The Council plan to install a parking lay-by with associated parking restrictions. Telecoms equipment in the verge means that the project will cost £55,000. 

The plan doesn’t provide any additional parking space and an alternative, which would have utilized gardens for parking, does not appear to have been fully explored.

Estate car parking is an increasing issue.

Labour slowed the improvement programme when they took office in 2011. Until then most wards had allocated money for  dropped kerbs, lay-bys and off street parking near flats.

The installation of matrix reinforcement on verges was also being developed as a way of protecting them.

In a further leap back into the dark ages, it appears that the convention that the spokespeople for each Group represented on the Council (together with local ward members) are given the opportunity to comment, before delegated decisions are taken, has also now been abandoned.







Small business rate relief – non claimers in York

Power company fails to cash chequeCheque

The Council has published a list of the business premises where the occupier may be able to claim Small Business Rates Relief but who had, by the end of July, not done so.

The list of properties with a Rateable Value of less than £12,000 can be accessed by clicking here

NB. Small businesses can only claim relief for one premise.


The Council has also published a list of Business Rate refunds where the cheques have not been presented.

Click here for the list of un-presented cheques which includes, as well as companies that went into administration,  some big names such as NPower, the Theatre Royal and the District Valuer (!)