Traders in York are saying that they have had a very good period in the run up to Christmas. The St Nicholas market has attracted coachloads of visitors, while the Christmas lights displays have been generally applauded.
Special events like the display in the Museum Gardens have added to the festive spirit.
The number of people on the streets has been high during late November and December although the final figures won’t be known until after the holiday.
But, of course, everything is relative with overall visitor numbers, as measured by “footfall” cameras, broadly the same as they were 7 years ago.
There are of course peaks and troughs. There was distinct peak, for example, when the Tour de France visited York in 2014. But that boost was largely transient.
Some will point out that there are parts of the City centre which have been neglected. Duncombe Place is an unexploited opportunity, particularly at Christmas time, while Exhibition Square (outside the Art Gallery), is too often a deserted and windswept place.
Parliament Street remains a visual embarrassment made worst this year by the ugly shipping container village.
Footfall in Coney Street has shown the biggest fall with long term empty shop units mainly to blame.
Nor does footfall always translate into economic activity although several attractions, including The Minster and Merchant Adventurers Hall, are reporting a 5 year high in visitors.
January and February may give a more realistic set of figures on which to measure whether the City centre is bouncing back from the recession and changes to shopping habits.
We hope that it is.
The start of “Business Week” in the City coincides with the publication of a progress report by “Make it York” (MIY). This is the QUANGO charged with developing the York economy and particularly the visitor sector and markets.
Reading the report, one might think that all was rosy in the garden.
There has been a steady stream of tourists visiting the City this year. They have partly been attracted by a series of festivals while other initiatives like the food court on the market have attracted favourable publicity.
The complementary York BID scheme has produced tangible improvements to the streetscape coupled with imaginative lighting schemes.
However, part of the success in attracting foreign visitors is down to the low value of the pound.
The MIY report is singularly short of figures.
One look around the City centre, at this the busiest shopping period of the year, reveals that key shop units are still empty several years after they become vacant. The pile of empty shipping containers on Parliament Street doesn’t help while the surface of the City’s most popular car park (Castle) is in an appalling condition. Advanced car parking space availability signs – and their “on line” counterparts – haven’t worked for over 4 years.
This all adds to a depressed feel in the “high street”.
The report – to be considered by a Council scrutiny committee on 28th November – considers progress against a limited number of targets. Some issues, like the shortage of labour and key skills, aren’t mentioned.
Nor is any attempt made to assess the impact that BREXIT will have on the City economy over the next five years or more.
We hope that Councillors, faced with a bland report, will ask questions which root out any complacency.
The Council has revealed the home location of the drivers caught by their ANPR “invisible policeman” cameras.
A total of 8197 separate addresses have received notifications of penalty charges. Of these 5481 (67%) are addresses outside the YO postcode area.
As expected about 70% of the penalty notices issued for the new Coppergate restrictions were sent to local York drivers.
On Lendal Bridge, the reverse was the case with 22% sent to York drivers and 78% to visitors.
The question was asked at last weeks Council meeting and Cllr Merrett’s answer was:
To the Cabinet Member for Transport, Planning and Sustainability from Cllr Runciman: “Could the Cabinet Member provide a breakdown of the ANPR penalty notices issued since the Lendal Bridge closure and Coppergate restrictions by residents living inside York and residents living outside York?”
1852 individual postcodes recorded.
1280 ‘YO’ postcodes & 572 non-‘YO’ postcodes. This equates to a 70%-30% split
• Lendal Bridge:
6340 individual postcodes recorded.
1436 ‘YO’ postcodes & 4904 non-‘YO’ postcodes. This equated to a 22.5%- 77.5% split.”
The Council has belatedly published the answers to question tabled last week about the fine income that they are generating through the use of ANPR ”invisible policemen” cameras in the City.
The Council is paying its Northampton based contractors £7 to process each Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).
The Council says
02-08 Sept – 1675 PCNs issued (4 days enforcement, commenced Wed)
09-15 Sept – 2015 PCNs issued (6 days enforcement, because of the Skyride event)
16-22 Sept – 1766 PCNs issued (5 days enforcement, cameras updating)
Accurate actual income into CYC is not available at this stage due to the short time the system has been operational. Based on £23 / PCN (the £30 ‘early payment’ value of the PCN minus the processing and operating costs), this would equate to a potential income of £125,500.
15-18 August -1085 PCNs issued (4 days enforcement, commenced Wednesday)
19-25 August – 1741 PCNs issued
26-01 Sept – 880 PCNs issued
02-08 Sept – 850 PCNs issued
09-15 Sept – 841 PCNs issued (6 days enforcement, because of the Skyride event)
16-22 Sept -324 PCNs issued (5 days enforcement, cameras updating and gas works commenced)
Accurate actual income into CYC is not available at this stage due to the short time the system has been operational. Based on £23 / PCN (the £30 ‘early payment’ value of the PCN minus the processing and operating costs). This would equate to a potential income of £131,500.