Local Councillor commitment to tackle untidy streets

Several councillors have now responded to complaints about weeds, detritus and overgrown hedges in local streets.

Front Street

Joining Mark Warters and Tony Fisher, who operate on the east of the City, Westfield Councillor Andrew Waller has pledged to personally remove weeds from the Front Street pedestrian area. The precinct has been weed infested for over 3 months with growth around street furniture and trees a particular problem.

That is a shame because the image of an area – which in recent years has become more economically successful – can be disproportionately influenced by what people see on arrival. Front Street doesn’t have the advantage of the, York BID funded, clean up contractors that have brought major improvements to the York City centre environment.

Elsewhere we have asked for weeds to be treated in several locations. We think it is now time for the Council to give a public commitment to complete a tidy up programme within a specific timetable.

Overgrown thorn like brambles will be a hazard as darker nights approach. We’ve asked for those on the access road to the Thoresby Road garage block to be cut back
Another example – this one on Kingsway West- where basic spraying or strimming of areas around street furniture has not been competed.
Contractors should spray up to the edge of the footpath
Snickets are particularly vulnerable to weed growth and litter
Problem areas are taking weeks, sometimes months, to address
Some footpaths are now being eroded and will be more costly to repair

Timetable to address York public service woes needed

Anyone expecting the York Council’s Executive to take decisive action, to address declining public service standards at their meeting yesterday, will have been disappointed.

Despite a plea from Independent Councillor Mark Warters that a team be set up to deal with outstanding complaints, the Councils leadership remained tight lipped.

Cllr Warters was echoing a similar call from a growing number of Liberal Democrat supporters in the City

Many residents may conclude that there is something seriously wrong at West Offices.

Not only is there no timetable for addressing outstanding issues, but communications with residents are poor while many local Councillors (not all) fail to roll their sleeves up and tackle issues directly in their wards.

The York Council is no longer a “can do” organisation. It’s become a “maybe things will get better next year” type authority.

That won’t do. Its the kind of complacent attitude that has prompted a rise in more extreme political ideologies elsewhere in the country and abroad. It needs to be reversed, and quickly.

Not everything is bad, of course. Some individual Council officials are making limited progress in improving our streets as we show here.

The drainage channel on Foxwood Lane has been cleared
The Field Lane cycle track has been cleared of obstructions
But for every success there is a failure. The footpath on Hull Road remains obstructed despite pedestrians being forced onto the busy highway
and weeds still haven’t been treated even on streets where Councillors actually live!
New issues are emerging each day. This footpath on Field Lane, near the Hull Road junction, is now obstructed.
Not the Councils responsibility, but there has been a build up of litter on the Teal Drive “pocket park”. Reopened 6 weeks ago, it is being well used but it does need routine cleansing (or a litter bin). Reported to JRHT.

Media haven’t got the whole story on weed growth in the City

The Press and other local media outlets are running stories today about excessive weed growth on paths and in drainage channels in the City. The local Tories are criticising the Lib Dem/Green administration for the problems. The published stories give the impression that the Tories have been actively campaigning on the issue.

That is misleading.

Problems with the effectiveness of the weed spraying contract became apparent in May. As the contract was relatively new, and responsible executive members were busy changing roles post the local elections, It seemed fair to allow a few weeks for things to settle down and for the chemical treatments to take effect.

We reported serval dozen problem areas including the longstanding weed problem on the parapets of the Ouse Bridg,e together with a build-up of silt on many traffic islands.

Nothing much seemed to happen. As usual with this sort of report there was no feedback from the Council to those who had highlighted the problems.

Tongue in cheek, in early July we launched a “biggest weed contest”.

There was still no response from Council officials. Councillors were notified but the only response came from Mark Warters who was having problems in his Osbaldwick ward.

6 more weeks passed and we felt we had no option but to make a formal complaint (see below). This was tabled on 15th August. It was copied to the Councils leadership.

An official replied on 21st August blaming the weather for the problems.

The complaint was escalated on 22nd August and we await a further response.

The Council’s leadership did announce yesterday (Wednesday) that they would conduct a review of weed control processes at a meeting which will be held in October. What happens in the interim remains unclear.

We are quite clear that a blitz on weeds and overgrown hedges, using mechanical removal methods, is needed urgently.

One other aspect that needs to be clarified is the responsibility for keeping former trunk roads like the A59 clear. Highways England confirmed that it was down to local authorities to deal with these highways. Yet the Council’s current weed control contract seems to exclude these roads (they have certainly not been sprayed).

We have submitted a Freedom of Information request in an attempt to clarify the situation.

Ironically a review of performance indicators, being considered by the Councils Executive later today, pointedly puts no focus on the appearance of the City’s streets.

While the Tories are being opportunistic in highlighting the current weed problems, they might have a point if a Council, committed at the recent election to raising street level public service standards, failed to address quickly and effectively significant failures when they have been identified.

Volunteers helping nature conservation in west York


….but little Hob Moor getting overgrown

Hob Moor

Invasive weeds were being cut back on Hob Moor yesterday. The area is fortunate in having supporters who will undertake this sort of task with the Friends of Hob Moor one of the most successful of local amenity societies

The Friends of Hob Moor organise various interpretation events.

However, there are some problems on the Moor. Hedges have become overgrown with several paths, including part of Kingsway West, being obstructed.

The cycle path link to the railway tunnel is becoming overgrown.

Little Hob Moor (adjacent to Tadcaster Road) is showing signs of neglect.

Weeds haven’t been sprayed and are now overwhelming the cycle barriers
Areas around street furniture need to be sprayed or strimmed .The grass was cut yesterday 28th August)

So there is some work to be done. As this area is off the public highway (and relatively “safe”) gardening could be undertaken by – suitably equipped – volunteers. The Council does, however, need to add amenity area management to its promised weed control review agenda.

How we control weed growth in York will be reviewed..

…but not until October

Senior York Councillors have confirmed that they will be reviewing how the City controls weed growth in gullies, on footpaths, on traffic islands and on other hard landscaped areas. A review meeting will take place on 7th October.

The move comes after many residents, together with some local Councillors including Independent Mark Warters from Osbaldwick, pointed out that this years spraying programme simply hadn’t had the required effect..

Ouse Bridge today with long established weeds (and cans)

More perceptive residents will, however, have also worked out that, by October, weeds will be dying back naturally anyway.

So some action over the next 6 weeks is still needed.

This can really only be done now using mechanical – rather than chemical – processes.

We can report that today the weeds that disfigure the Ouse Bridge still remain along with assorted empty beer cans.

It would take only 5 minutes to clean the area.

Weed control review added to Councils forward plan today

Post bank holiday clean up needed!

There was a disappointing amount of litter lying around in some neighbourhoods today. We’ve reported over 20 issues to the Council

As well as litter, these included weed growth, hedges blocking footpaths and dumping.

Litter was particularly bad on Chesney’s Field while a hedge overgrowing from Hob Moor is now obstructing Kingsway West.

We are told that the Council will be making a statement about the failed weed control contract within the next few days.

Problems with litter, weeds, overgrown hedges, dumping etc. These were in the Foxwood area.

Residents urged to report footpath obstructions

“Adopt an island” idea

Three weeks after local residents sprayed weed killer onto an overgrown traffic island on Northfield Lane die back has been limited. Further investigation revealed that around 4 inches of silt had accumulated around the island. Moss is a major problem on this and other similar islands

The area in question is important because it is immediately adjacent to the Councils Poppleton Park and Ride site. It is one of the first (and last) neighbourhoods that tourists are likely to see. Neglect is not a good selling point for a City with an economy dependent on visitor income

The nearby A59 is worse with weeds around 1 metre high.

While we don’t advocate residents taking matters into their own hands unless it is safe to do so, there are some roads where relatively little local effort could produce a startling improvement.

In every problem location we do ask residents and visitors to report obstructions – including excessive weed growth, overhanging hedges and trees – to the York Council.

This can be done via their “on line” web site which is available 24/7. https://www.york.gov.uk/reportproblems

We understand that a Councillor plans to raise the issue of failures in this years weed control contract at an executive meeting which is taking place on Thursday. Despite there being 300 pages of reports to the meeting, they fail to review the Councils performance on key street level public services. The Councillors responsible for street public services are likely to come under increasing pressure to issue a public statement, and initiate a recovery plan, aimed at restoring acceptable standards.

That was the week that was in York in pictures

York Council needs to have a plan to remedy high profile problems.

“Bottle” bridge is back

Fresh set of bottles and cans disfigure Ouse Bridge in York. It should be possible to fine the culprits, there are CCTV cameras in the area.
Nearby this years crop of parapet weeds are now in flower. No attempt has been made by the Council to remove them despite fears that they may affect the structural stability of the bridge. The issue was first reported in May but the Council has still not responded
We’ve some sympathy with the Council’s grass cutters who have struggled with wet weather this week. Means that several verges, like this is Kingsthorpe, are now overgrown
The grass cutters task isn’t made any easier if garden waste and other material is dumped on verges!
A lot of highway trees are now showing signs of “sucker” growth round the lower trunks. These can cause a problem with sight lines.
Easier to control is weed growth around street furniture. Many lampposts haven’t been strimmed or treated with weed killer this summer.
Footpath widths are gradually being reduced following the failure of the Council to undertake any edging work over the winter period. There are calls now for the weed control function to be taken back “in house” by the Council next summer. The staff employed could be used on verge edging and tree maintenance work during the winter period.
Narrow footpath width and poor surface on Kingsway West forcing pedestrians to walk on verge
Thanks to the Councils Community Safety Unit at the York Council who agreed on Thursday to have the accumulated rubbish in the little Green lane garage area removed.
It’s not just in west York that problems with weed growth on traffic islands is a significant issue. Above from Cllr Mark Warters illustrates the problem on the A166.

“Mares tail” arrives in west York

Thanks to Osbaldwick Councillor Mark Waters – a professional horticulturalist – we have identified one of the weeds that is damaging road and footpath surfaces on the west of the City

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), often called mare’s tail, is an invasive, deep-rooted perennial weed that will spread quickly to form a dense carpet of foliage, crowding out less vigorous plants in beds and borders.

The RHS says that horsetail “is persistent, and several applications of a strong weed killer  – possibly over a number of years – may be necessary to completely eradicate the problem”

Horsetail has appeared in several areas in west York. These include the Council garage areas on Kingsway West and on little Green Lane.  It is already doing considerable damage to the  recently bitmaced forecourt access road at Green Lane.

We will now be formally submitting an official complaint about lack of action on weed growth in several areas. For example, weeds reported in early May on the Beaconsfield Street back lane have still not been cut back. It is a similar picture at many traffic islands

“Get a grip” call to local Councillors as footpath weed problem spreads

Residents have called on local Councillors to intervene to ensure that weeds growing on local paths and gutters are cleared. Today’s weather, damp and warm, is likely to see the problem get worse over the weekend.

Weeds are obstructing footpaths, gullies and garage areas in the Westfield Ward

In the little Green Lane garage area grass is now growing through the recently resurfaced forecourt. It is a similar situation in Windsor Garth

The weather also means that hedges will be growing more quickly. We’ve reported this bramble bush which is obstructing the public footpath near the entrance to Hob Moor school
Although the Council says that they have removed litter from the Tithe Close snicket, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Similar situation on The Reeves snicket
The only thing that the Council seems to be doing quickly this summer is knocking down parts of west York. This is all that is now left of the Windsor House elderly persons home. There is some mud on local roads which needs to be monitored.
Still no sign of the replacement for the children’s games area at Hob Moor. Contractors using the old all weather games area for storage are at least polite!