Chapelfields bus fare reduced

First has reversed its plan to charge £2 for the trip from Front Street to Chapelfields. The price hike from £1 was widely criticised. Although a short distance, the service is well used by those with heavy shopping to carry. The gradient can be a problem for some.

The new fare will be £1-20p

A similar situation exists in other parts of the CVity including Foxwood, although there, the short hop fare to Acomb has yet to be revised.

We have generally been supportive of the improvements that First have made to their services over recent years.

However, changes to short journey fares seem to be have been driven more by administrative convenience than passenger needs.

NB. Over 50% of bus journeys are made by pensioners using their free passes.

York Council plans more devolution to residents

The York Council says that it will give more powers to local residents to influence how resources are used in 4 key public service areas.

They are:

  • Increased ward budgets.
  • A “Safer Communities” fund to meet residents’ priorities.  
  • More ward control of spending on highways to meet residents’ priorities
  • Timely delivery of Housing Environmental Improvement Schemes (HEIP). NB.These are tenant funded.

The plans are broadly to be welcomed.

Over the last 8 years the number of locally determined improvement schemes has declined while those that have been approved have faced unacceptable delays in implementation.

One set of new parking laybys in the Westfield area took over 4 years to plan and construct.

Askham Lane lay by took 4 years to complete

A report to the Councils executive meeting this week, paints a confused picture of what is wrong with the current “ward committee” process and what might replace it.

Councillor dominated “Ward teams” will stand in for residents associations where the latter do not exist.

£250,000 has been allocated to wards for them to spend making local communities “safer”. Although joint working with the police is proposed, the major issue – an institutional reluctance to expand the use of technology solutions such as CCTV – remains. So, the most that residents will likely see will be “target hardening” style initiatives.

Two additional staff members are to be employed helping to administer ward committee improvements. Last year £157,000 of ward budget was not spent. This is put down to process delays.

£500,000 is being allocated for local highways improvements (road and footpaths). A further £500,000 is allocated for “walking and cycling” improvements. The irony, that better highways maintenance is the best way of encouraging safe walking and cycling, appears to be lost on the report authors. 

Perhaps School Street will now be resurfaced?

The £1 million simply should be added to the road and footpath resurfacing budget.

The budget is classified as “capital” meaning that it must be spent on an asset with a long lifespan. That would seem to rule out a crash programme aimed at removing the trees, hedges and weeds which obstruct many existing foot and cycle paths.

 The idea of recognising and responding to local concerns is the right one though.

Poor highway maintenance is invariably the most criticised local public service in residents satisfaction polls.

The Council plans to introduce a “6 stage” process in allocating the estate improvement budget.  As the main criticisms of the existing process is that it is cumbersome and slow, the introduction of additional bureaucratic stages is unlikely to be welcomed.

The report talks of the provision of parking lay-by taking up to 24 months to complete. In the past, the use of contractors had cut this target time down to less than 4 months. Councils should return to the old procedure where Residents Associations/Parish Councils took responsibility for drawing up improvement lists.

Walton Place footpaths need repairs

Finally, the report talks of using a mechanistic formulae for assessing the “social value” of each project. As a way of spending scarce public resources this is a discredited approach. The value of projects can best be determined by door to door surveys thus giving residents a chance to directly influence their neighbourhood.

The report does not propose any PFIs to monitor progress on any of these programmes.

It does, however, require decisions to be made in public and with a public record. Regular “on line” updates are proposed (although these have been  promised in the past but have never been produced in a timely or accessible way)

There are no proposals which would provide better support for Residents Associations. The Council recently refused to even publicise RA activities on its web site.

How much locally?

The Council has published a list indicating the amounts that will be available to spend in each ward. In Westfield (one of the largest wards) during the present financial year that totals £55,878  

With highways (£63,830) and safer communities fund (£17,181). That figure increases to nearly £120,000 over 4 years.

 To put that into context a 4 space parking bay costs around £10,000, while the resurfacing of Stonegate is costing £1/2 million this year.

Crime levels stable in York

Police security marking event tomorrow (Tuesday)

Overall crime levels in York have remained reasonably stable over the last 12 months.

Usually at this time of year – summer holidays – anti social behaviour issues and vandalism show a peak.

It will be a month before the picture becomes entirely clear but early indications are positive.

In the year up to the end of June, anti social behaviour was the most reported crime across the City. This was followed by violence and criminal damage (vandalism) as the next most reported crimes.

It was a similar picture in Westfield

More information is available on the Police UK web site click

Meanwhile on Tuesday the 13th August 2019 the York City Neighbourhood Policing Team will be holding a cycle registration and marking event in partnership with York BID and Street Rangers. The event will take place in the garden area next to Black Horse Passage on Stonebow, York between 1200PM and 1500PM.

“The service is completely free and your cycle will be recorded on the Immobilise database which is a national property register. Once recorded you will have access to your own account on Immobilise.com allowing you to added / remove property and upload photographs of your recorded property.  We will also be using a Dot Peen machine to mark cycles with your post code to add another layer of security”.
“Please come and speak with officers at the event for further information or visit www.immobilise.com

“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!

Nine payphone kiosks to be removed

List of payphones in York which may be removed

BT has applied to remove 9 payphone kiosk from streets in York.

The Copmanthorpe, Strensal, Dringhouses and Westfield areas are affected

None of the iconic “red” K6 kiosks are on the list although there has been criticism recently about the state of repair of some of them. Several of these are “Listed” buildings.

Iconic K6 kiosks are not affected by the current removal plans. Several are in need of refurbishment

Some of the kiosk listed have been a magnet for drug users, vandalism and anti social behaviour. Their removal is likely to be supported by neighbouring residents.

The use of public payphones has dropped to near zero over the years as mobile phone ownership has increased

Westfield Councillors to debate what to do about building works at public meeting tomorrow


Bowling club building site not on the agenda?

The Westfield Councillors are right to insist on more information being provided on building works in the area, when they meet tomorrow (Wednesday)

However, they will be meeting only a few metres away from the spoil heaps and site compound which has been constructed on the Council owned land to the rear of the Library.

Large spoil heap on Council land at the Acomb Library

Some explanation for the decision to allow the contractors to use this Council owned site will be expected. It is an issue that is not likely to go away.

Some residents still hope that Council will offer some sort of compensation for the problems that have been caused by the use of the compound

Elsewhere, the Lowfields development saga continues.

There has still not been any explanation about how the York Council came to mislead residents about the inclusion of a “police station” and health centre/GP surgery in the original consultation plans.

Both these promises turned out to be bogus. It is unclear what will happen to what, otherwise, will be unused plots on the east of the site.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Carriageway-cracking-on-Kingsway-West-1300hrs-5th-May-2019-.jpg
The Kingsway West carriageway is already breaking up

On Ascot Way, access arrangements, for the heavy plant needed to complete the demolition of Windsor House, remain unclear. It seems that access for the plant will be via Kingsway West and Ascot Way It is clear that the roads are too narrow in the area to avoid major damage to adjacent verges and paths. A “one way” system has been suggested but not confirmed.

There are real concerns that the bus route will be obstructed by the likely congestion

The original hope had been that more parking lay-bys would have been provided by now.

…..and the problem of the promised replacement for the all weather games area seems to be no closer to resolution. The existing MUGA has already been converted into a building compound.

Games area is now a building compound. No alternative provision for children has been provided

There is no word about the proposed alternative site on the Thanet Road Sports Area although officials were asked to follow this up 3 months ago.

Residents will no doubt be hoping that some answers emerge from the meeting

Spoil heaps dominate neighbouring properties on Lowfields Drive

Another planning forum for Westfield – we think not

The York Council has started consultation on whether to recognise an “Acomb and Westfield Neighbourhood Forum”

A small group of residents, mainly living in the Front Street area, want to establish a “neighbourhood plan”. It would supplement the Councils own Local Plan which will be subject to a public hearing over the summer months.

Proposed neighbourhood plan area (Acomb and Westfield)

Unfortunately, the area they hope to cover includes the whole of the Acomb and Westfield wards (approximately 10,000 homes). It would stretch from Foxwood to Boroughbridge Road, encompassing a disparate group of neighbourhoods with little obvious community of interest.

If agreed, it would be by far the largest such plan in the York area. In the main those plans that have been approved cover smaller villages. All have a shared commonality of interests.

Westfield is not short of groups which seek to influence Council policy.

There are several Residents Associations, a “planning panel” (which scrutinises planning applications), a “ward team” and a “ward committee” together with several “action groups” which tend to focus on stimulating, or preventing, specific developments.

Adding an additional tier of representation, although only a consultative body, would involve additional costs and could lead to confusion about roles and responsibilities.

When it comes down to it, Foxwood has little in common with Chapelfields or the Gladstone Street area.

It has even less shared interest with Ouse Acres and vice versa. Arguably Foxwood has more in common with the Woodthorpe area.

In our view, this proposal represents an unwelcome diversion and could take resources away from the key task of raising public service standards in the area. Residents Associations are bested suited – and of the right scale – to identify changes that need to be made in local neighbourhoods.

They deserve more Council support.

In most built up sub-urban areas, there is little scope for redevelopment anyway with the focus being to retain existing open spaces. There is an opportunity for more public open space on land lying between the existing development and the A1237 bypass. The proposed Neighbourhood Plan boundaries exclude this land from consideration.

Ward Councillors are already aware of the need to move the extra public open space issue forward.

Front Street in older times. This part of Westfield may require better protection from developers in the light of the current problems at the Bowling Club building site.

There may be a case for a neighbourhood plan covering the Acomb village conservation area and its immediate environs.

The “forum” organisers would be wise to focus on a smaller area like this – where there may be a need for more clarity on its future – rather than try to “boil the, proverbial, ocean”.

In the meantime residents should email the Council to oppose this unnecessary proposal.

neighbourhoodplanning@york.gov.uk

Latest planning applications for the Westfield Ward

Below are the latest planning applications received by the York Council for the Westfield ward. 

Full details can be found by clicking the application reference 

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189 Kingsway West York YO24 4QD

Erection of single storey extension extending 4 metres beyond rear wall of the original house, with a height to the eaves of 2.67 metres and a total height of 3.57 metres. 

Ref. No: 19/01127/LHE 

———-

4 Croftside York YO26 5LT

Single storey rear extension and rear dormer. 

Ref. No: 19/00980/FUL 

———-

Dryfix Preservation Ltd The Yard Tudor Road York YO24 3AY

Change of use from electrical storage only (Use Class B8) to unrestricted storage, open air storage and distribution (Use Class B8)

Ref. No: 19/00966/FUL 

————

94 Wetherby Road Acomb York YO26 5BY

Single storey rear extension 

Ref. No: 19/00867/FUL 

——

Representations can be made in favour of, or in objection to, any application via the Planning on line web site.  http://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/

NB. The Council now no longer routinely consults neighbours by letter when an application is received

Really disappointing that potholes take so long to repair

Some potholes in York, reported weeks ago, have still not been filled. This is the time of year when the Council normally catches up on the pothole backlog which can develop during periods of icy weather.

The York Council doesn’t provide “real time” updates on the number of highway defect reports it receives and the progress made in addressing them, but there is a suspicion that some are written off without any action being taken.

Fortunately the LibDems, who lead the new administration at West Offices, promised in their election manifesto “to reconstruct all roads in York”.

Even allowing for hyperbole, that is a very expensive looking promise. Perhaps Council officials had better get on with drawing up a work programme?

Herman Walk potholes on access road
Corlett Court potholes (marked but not repaired)
Morrell Court has n uneven road