The environment and informal leisure

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 local bulletin board has 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 claimed that 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.Tree Walking GIF - Tree Walking Tired - Discover & Share GIFs

That was the week that was in west York in photos

Bachelor Hill looking very smart including the wildflwoer meadow.
We’ve reported the damaged fence at the Cornlands park play area. The play area is due to officially reopen later this week following the health lock-down.. The fencing was provided to prevent fouling by dogs.
Another shopping trolley has made a break for freedom. This one on Tennent Road
We are still waiting for the goal posts on the Westfield park to be repainted. Been outstanding for three years now. Pitch also needs remarking before the new season starts.
Lots of weed growth as a result of the weather this week. Particular problems in Chapelfields and on Askham Lane.
Weeds overgrowing the bus shelter on Foxwood Lane again. The Council owned shelter is now looking very shabby now.
Damaged utility marker sign on Grange Lane is still lying on the verge despite being reported in January.
More snickets now obstructed by overhanging trees.

More trees coming but what about maintaining existing ones?

More trees are set to be planted this year as part of the Councils response to climate change. 50,000 are promised.

Officials say that the programme has been delayed by the heath scare although little progress seems to have been made in securing sites for the “forest”.

Over the last few months, residents have laid informal claims for the use of some unused areas of land on the City outskirts as informal exercise areas. These would be a good place for the Council to start looking for locations for planting although it does own several sites, including some near the river, which could accommodate more trees.

Informal walks through Acomb Wood, and the like, have brought home to more people the value of informal leisure space. Any Council initiative is likely to have popular support if it is pressed through quickly now.

Hopefully they will remedy the mistakes of the past and avoid planting inappropriate species of trees too close to paths and highways.

We have already learned that nearly £500,000 is required to repair part of the York – Selby cycle path which has been badly damaged by tree roots. One lesson is the need in the future to install “root shields” at vulnerable locations.

Roots damaging cycle paths

There are similar problems in the urban area

Root damage on snicket link to Thoresby Road. We’ve reported litter and weeds on the same snicket.
Similar hazard on Tudor Road
In same cases private hedges are now obstructing footpaths
The Council have now promised to trim the branch which is obstructing a footpath in the Kingsway West area
Weeds on Front Street. The council has treated some weed growth around amenity trees but has missed others. Doesn’t seem to be any consistency in their programme.

Prompt response from York Council

Cornlands Road/Askham Lane

A York Council manager has responded promptly to reports of Epicormic (lower trunk) growth on some trees in the Cornlands Road/Tudor Road area.

Such growth can cause sight line problems for drivers.

The manager says the branches will be trimmed.

Dumping is a problem at some empty properties.

We’ve reported a similar issue with a tree at the junction of Cornlands Road and Askham Lane.

We also received a prompt response from Cllr Demise Craghill who has executive responsibility for housing in the City.

She was sympathetic to our complaints about delays in bringing empty Council houses back into use and promised to pursue two long standing issues in the Foxwood Lane area.

Morrell Court

Lack of action to level potholes on the Morrell Court access road has now been registered as a formal complaint with the Council. The defects were first reported 6 months ago.

Elsewhere black bags have been left next to the recycling bins at the Acomb Wood Drive shopping area.

We have asked for them to be removed.

Acomb Wood Drive shopping area

Tree growth causes sight line concerns

It happens every year to a lessor or greater extent, but low level branches (known as epicormic growth) sprout on some trees.

If left untrimmed they can cause sight line problems for drivers and may even obstruct footpaths. We’ve reported several over the weekend.

Cornlands Road
Cornlands Road
Cornlands Road
Tudor Road
Weed growth around telegraph poles. The Council usually treats these with weed killer.
Weeds are impeding the disabled access gates at some of the entrances to Hob Moor
Overgrown hedge issues have been reported
Better news elsewhere. Dickson Park is looking very tidy.
While Corlett Court residents have turned their flower beds into a blaze of colour
& the Council have done some grass cutting near Herman Walk

Post storm public service issues

River levels are rapidly returning to normal levels now with streets like Skeldergate reopening to traffic.

It will be several hours before the riverside paths are open and cleared of debris

Attention will now turn to how to restore other public services to an acceptable standard

Tree issues being addressed by York Council

The Council has acted promptly to fell a “self seeded” tree that was damaging the boundary railings at the Foxwood Lane pumping station.

Earlier in the week the Council announced its most ambitious ever tree planting programme.

£600,000 a year will be invested to enable the purchase land or to utilise pieces of land, already in the council’s ownership, that are suitable for planting trees.

The budget would cover the cost of planting new trees and replacing diseased trees as the council’s contribution to the White Rose Forest initiative.

The White Rose Forest has 3 aspirations: Leadership for sustainable economic development, Social well-being and Facing Climate change.

In Foxwood, the local residents association has suggested several sites for additional tree planting.

These include the Foxwood Park, Dickson Park, the Thanet Road sports area, Chesneys Field, Acomb Moor and the rural part of Askham Lane.

Hedges – A good time to check if they need trimming

There were a lot of problems during the summer with hedges obstructing public paths. In some cases, the obstructions were caused by Council owned trees and bushes. The jury is still out on whether new processes and budget allocations announced earlier this week will result in an improvement during 2020.

Hedges on the boundary of private gardens and the public highway (including foot and cycle paths) are the responsibility of the hedge owner. Home occupiers must ensure that the highway is kept clear of obstructions at all times

Obstructions can be a significant problem for some users. The partially sighted are at a particular risk and cyclists being “swiped” by stray branches can lead to more serious accidents.

In some cases thorn buses like brambles and roses overhang paths representing an added hazard.

Thorn bush branches at eye height are a particular risk

Sadly, like the problems with damage to verges, in recent years the Council has been tardy in ensuring that hedges are cut back from paths. They do have enforcement powers which have been used in the past to force action. In extreme cases hedges have been cut back to the path line after notice periods have expired. The owners were charged for the work.

No such notices have been issued recently.

Of course, some occupiers may not be physically able to cut badly overgrown hedges. It has been suggested that this is a service area that a “not for profit” start-up could usefully exploit. There are already several local gardening companies which offer trimming services.

Even the Councils own cycle tracks were obstructed last summer

With leaves now off trees and hedges, winter is the optimum time to deal with long standing problems. This needs to be done before the start of the bird nesting season.

The Council also has powers to require its tenants to cut garden hedges as do social landlords.

We have advocated for some time the appointment of a paths supervisor who could trim back Council owned hedges and initiate action against irresponsible neighbours who cause obstructions. We hope that the Council will fund such a post in its new budget.

We hope to see some well publicised action from West Offices over the next few weeks.

Balfour Street tree felled

The tree that was damaging railings and the footpath on Balfour Street has finally been felled. The Council have also removed accumulated leaf fall. The path is now much safer.

The opened up area to the rear has revealed locations where at least two additional trees could be planted.

The work followed complaints to executive Councillors. The self seeded tree had been reported 2 years ago. It caused considerable damage to the railings and footpath in the interim. It is likely to be some time before the tree stump rots away and allows permanent remedial work to be undertaken on the railings and footpath.

Leaf problems reported

We’re reporting leaf fall issues when they represent a safety issue. No one expects the Council to clear all leaves immediately but footpaths do need some priority.

We reported the self seeded Sycamore tree on Balfour Street several months ago and were promised that it would receive attention. The tree has damaged the adjacent railings and made the adjacent path uneven. The tree needs to be replaced, with an appropriate species, on the ample adjacent site.

In the meantime Balfour Street is covered in tree detritus and needs to be cleared

Balfour Street