City centre repaving consultation

The York Council is delivering a leaflet to all households outlining its plans for resurfacing works in the City centre.

Exhibition Square plans

Exhibition Square plans

They are right to do so but, in pointing to improvements planned for Exhibition Square, Blake Street and Fossgate, they lamentably fail to answer the question that will be on every taxpayer’s lips.

How much will these paving schemes cost?

There is little new in the leaflet.  The Labour Council changed the Council’s forward programme in 2011 putting the modernisation of Kings Square ahead of the Fossgate pedestrianisation scheme which had been set to go ahead in 2012.

Next in line were to have been improvements to Duncombe Place, which could have provided a large and useful pedestrian precinct.

But the Councils increasing financial problems meant that progress would inevitably have slowed.

Residents might usefully have been asked when completing the “on line” survey whether they want any of these schemes to go ahead or whether the money might be better spent repairing the roads in sub-urban areas?

The danger in the Councils approach is that the improvement of the City centre may become politically toxic.

Against a background of plans for a further £1 million cut in road maintenance in sub-urban areas, residents are likely to demand of Council candidates – at the next local elections in 2015 – a commitment to improving public service standards in residential areas.

The City centre may find that its share of available resources is reduced.

York traffic congestion cameras now working

click to access

click to access

8 months after they were supposed to be available for residents to access, the cameras which provide real time information on congestion levels, on key roads in York, are now working.

The inability of the Councils new camera control computer systems, to provide the kind of access that other Council have done routinely for the last 10 years, has been a source of embarrassment in the City.

Links are now also available for mobile devices.

More disabled parking spaces in York’s car parks

City of York Council is increasing the amount of disabled parking spaces in York’s city centre.

Blue badge holders are able to park free of charge anywhere in all council owned car parks, which provide a number of spaces that are wider and set aside specifically for use by blue badge holders only.

Work has now begun on expanding the number of disabled spaces in car parks in the city centre to try to better serve those who have restricted mobility.

The number of disabled spaces has increased in the following areas by:

  • · Castle car park- increased from six to 13 spaces
  • · Bootham Row car park – increased from two to nine spaces
  • · Monk Bar car park– increased from three to seven spaces
  • · Piccadilly car park– increased by five – which will see an increase in the number of spaces set aside for use at the shopmobility scheme

Groups and individuals can submit suggestions to be considered by emailing highway.regulation@york.gov.uk

More problems for York real time traffic information site

Click to visit site

Click to visit site

The much publicised, and very expensive, ITravel web site launched at the beginning of the year by the York Council – is still plagued by gremlins.

 

It was heavily criticised for not providing the kind of real time traffic congestion camera input which has been widely available elsewhere for over a decade.

The responsible Councillor promised in October that this feature would be available within days.

But now the interactive map has crashed altogether and does not provide any information at all about car parks, road works etc.

It is an embarrassing “fail” for the City in the busy run up to Christmas and may have contributed to the sometimes chaotic traffic scenes which arose during the St Nicholas Fayre period.

Many private cars were seen using Lendal Bridge during restricted hours over the weekend suggesting that some may pay more for their Christmas shopping trip than they were anticipating.

York £83 million transport bid

The government is consulting on a plan to establish a West Yorkshire and York “Super Council”.

The plan could “unlock” a £1 billion transport investment fund for the region as the coalition government pursues a policy of devolution. York might expect to get between £5 and £10 million a year from the devolved transport budget.

The York Council hopes to get £83.5 million in total for major infrastructure from a new “pot”.
Nortern by pass congestion

Of this, £37.6 million would be spent on the northern by pass (not enough for dualling. Would just mean larger roundabouts).

York would be contributing up to £4 million a year into this “pot”. This is additional unbudgeted expenditure and would mean an increase in Council Tax levels and/or the introduction of new/additional charges

The report being considered tomorrow singularly fails to address the financial disadvantages of “pooling” transport income streams. Even the scale of the risk remains unclear.

Under the current proposals, drawn up by Labour Local Authority Leaders, York would not be a full member of the new authority and would not have voting rights.

The key question to be answered therefore is whether the new arrangements will be better for the people of York?

Or are they just a way of underpinning a “high growth” approach to the future of the City? That’s the 25% increase in size during the next 15 years advocated in the Local Plan published by Labour in April.

A West Riding, Labour, dominated super Council would not automatically be any more sensitive to the needs of a City like York than would the present decision taker who is bunkered in Whitehall.

The Authority would be ruled by a Quango. There is no mechanism for giving residents a say in the running of the new “Council”.

With local elections only 16 months away, there is a worrying absence of broad consensus across the political spectrum on whether, and on what terms, participation in the “Super Council” should be pursued.

Views must be sent to the government collaborate@communities.gsi.gov.uk by 2nd January 2014.

A bridge too near?

The promised report on Labour plans for a new £10 million bridge near Wilton Rise has now been published.

It turns out that £1.5 million of this will be spent on consultant’s fees.

Housing numbers. click to enlarge

Housing numbers. click to enlarge

The report claims that the costs of the bridge would be repaid “from the additional income in Business Rates and Council Tax generated by the new developments” (on the York central site).

It then goes on to claim that 1083 new homes will be provided. That is a surprise because the draft Local Plan published by Labour in April assumed only 438 homes would be constructed on this site.

However, the housing numbers included in the Labour draft Local Plan have already been undermined with actual planning applications submitted, and approved, over the last 6 months being in every case higher than the Plan estimate
.
Therefore a much higher housing figure is a legitimate target for the York central site.

The present coalition government policy does encourage development and allows local authorities to retain and invest, for 6 years, additional Council Tax monies generated by new homes (New Homes Bonus).

Business Rates have also been “localised”. So an increase in income from additional commercial buildings would increase the amount that the Council receives from Business Rates. However government grants, which seek to equalise Council income between “prosperous” and less well off areas, could be reduced.

No business case of any sort has been provided for the meeting next week.

In addition to the homes, the “plan” talks about “building 93,000 sq m of office space with ancillary bar, restaurant, retail and leisure uses” in 2015.

A further 35,000 sq m would be built in 2019 in the form on a commercial area “in front of the station” and would include a new hotel although most would be more offices.

Of course, any incremental development in the City provides similar increases in Council income plus more jobs and homes.

Residents might have expected any income to be earmarked to pay for repairs to the public services in the City which have deteriorated so badly over the last 3 years.

Public consultation results - York central access options

Public consultation results – York central access options

Incredibly, the Council is being asked to earmark the £10 million without a development “Masterplan” being in place.

As a result no planning permission exists for the development.

The absence of a business plan is the major problem at present. It remains unclear how the site clean up will be funded (it is heavily polluted) nor is there any guarantee that other transport infrastructure needs can be financed.

From the information, that has been made available, it does seem that the Councils investment will not be underwritten in any way.

It is therefore a very high risk venture.

There is no proposal to form a joint development company which would allow Council Taxpayers to share in the success of any development (to offset the substantial risk)

The legal restrictions – which apply across Europe – on subsidising private companies are not explored in the paper.

Like the sale of the Haymarket car park on Hungate – for around 50% of its current open market value – the Council is being both naïve and reckless with taxpayers money. The promised offices and hotel on Hungate have yet to move forward and so have provided no economic stimulus for the City.

The “Bridge to Nowhere” could well be a similar embarrassment.

With the national economy improving, and some local developers reflecting the more buoyant approach in the City, less risky ways to kick start important developments like York Central should be considered.

York businesses: sign-up to get free tailored travel advice

Mobile Business

City of York Council’s i-Travel York team are hosing a breakfast meeting on Tuesday 26 November at the Best Western Monk Bar Hotel from 8.30am till 9:30am and are encouraging all businesses – particularly during this week’s York Business Week 2013 to consider attending.

The event will showcase a new video which is the result of collaboration work with York businesses and will also highlight the benefits of business travel planning and the services which the council can provide to businesses to assist them with their travel plans.
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New Askham Bar P&R site: night works

Askham Bar (Tadcaster Road) roadworks

Askham Bar (Tadcaster Road) roadworks

Working in partnership with Balfour Beatty, City of York Council will be carrying out night works for the revised junction at the new Askham Bar Park & Ride site from next week.

A series of night-time closures will be in place from Monday 18 November until Thursday 28 November on the inbound and outbound carriageways along the A1036 from the A64 to Sim Balk Lane.

The carriageway will be closed from 9pm and will be re-opened at 6am. The closures will not take place on the evenings of Saturday 23 November and Sunday 24 November.

Alternative diversion routes will be in place and signed. Access to the Esso Petrol Station will be maintained at all times from the York side of the junction.
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More behind closed doors decisions made in York

The York Council has made several decisions about new parking restrictions in the Guildhall and Clifton wards. In summary they are:

Behind closed doors logo

Newborough Street

Approved the advertising of No Waiting at any Time Restrictions and identified space for a Car Club vehicle in Newborough Street (Clifton Ward). Click for more details

Gladstone Street/ Dennison Street

click for map

click for map

“No Waiting at any Time Restriction” on Gladstone Street and Dennison Street to prevent obstructive parking taking place on footways, as well as inconsiderate parking which blocks the entrance to the play area and private driveway access. .

The issue related to parking conflicts since new homes were built on the Minster Engineering site. The Council required only 1 parking space per property but this has proved to be inadequate with parking being forced onto pavements and neighbouring streets

Council agreed to overturn the objections made to a proposed amendment to the Traffic Regulation Order located within Guildhall Ward and implement restrictions as advertised. click for more details