A bridge too near?


First walk across new Scarborough Bridge, York ahead of next month’s opening following £4.4m upgrade

The new bridge is the first over the River Ouse in York city centre for 138 years

Unfortunately it does little for cyclists travelling from, and to, the Leeman Road area who still face an unpleasant journey through the black tunnel of Marble Arch (which lacks a waterproof membrane). It remains a major obstacle to the development of the York Central site.

Scarborough bridge cycle track with train!

The first steps across the new Scarborough Bridge, York, were taken during a site visit today (Tuesday 19 March) to see how the £4.4m scheme to boost access for people travelling by bike or on foot between the train station and the city centre is progressing.

The new bridge has been delivered in partnership by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority through its £60m CityConnect programme aimed at encouraging more people to cycle and walk, City of York Council, and York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (YNYER EP).  The bridge is due to open to the public next month (April).

Scarborough Bridge has been closed to the public since the end of January to allow for ongoing construction works, including the old footbridge being lifted out by rail crane to make way for the new, wider and more accessible shared use bridge. 

More than 3,000 people crossed the old footbridge daily, despite access issues. 

At 65-metres long the new bridge is three times as wide at 3.7metres, increasing access to more people.  It had to be lifted into place in four separate parts due to its size.     

Improvement works also include step-free access with ramps as well as new external steps leading to the riverside paths.

On the southern side a new path on the top of the embankment will mean people can travel directly between York Station and the new bridge, providing a traffic free scenic route to the city centre.  The new bridge will be accessible even when in flood. 

The original bridge was designed and built by Robert Stephenson in 1845. This first iteration saw the walkway placed between the railway tracks and was accessed by internal steps.

When York Station was moved in 1873-5 the bridge was updated to make it suitable. This is when the old footbridge was installed and, until recently, had remained largely unchanged for the last 144 years.

For more information about the Scarborough Bridge scheme visit www.york.gov.uk/scarboroughbridge

Busy week for the York planning committee

Big planning decisions in York

York Central

York Central

The largest proposal concerns the land to the rear of the railway station. Known as “York Central” redevelopment of the area has been on the cards for nearly two decades. It has finally reached the planning application stage. The report recommends that the plans be forwarded to the Secretary of State for endorsement. The plans have attracted some opposition, but the economic and social welfare of the City depends on making some progress on the site now. Hopefully some of the ill judged ideas such as having only one-way traffic through the Marble Arch tunnel can be changed at a later stage.

Lowfields

‘dozer wrecks playing field

There is already a lot of local disquiet about the way that the Council are implementing their plans for this area. Many of the comments on the “Save Lowfields Playing Field” Facebook page are from disgruntled local residents who, even at this early stage, point to conflicts between lorries and parked cars, muddy roads and the ripping out of trees and hedges.

They are asking that the new parking spaces promised for Tudor Road be constructed before the existing parking lay-by is lost as an access road is constructed.

Yorspace proposed development plan, Lowfields

Further along the road, the Yorspace” application has been heavily criticised by local residents. The main concerns related to the lack of affordable units proposed on the site, the impact on the natural environment including inappropriate boundary treatments, security concerns relating to the adjacent public snicket access to little Tudor Road, the proposal to remove the railings which protect adjacent properties,  inadequate car parking provision  and the impact that overspill parking by residents, families and visitors could have on neighbouring streets and the height of the buildings.

Council officials have revealed that they have approved 5 outstanding conditions, for activities on the building site, despite several objections.

Lincoln Court

Lincoln Court.

The Council has made an embarrassing series of mistakes on the proposal to extend this independent living building. Even now they have published papers which imply (wrongly) that the new apartments  will be classified as “Extra Care” units. It has had plenty of time to clarify that issue.

There is some hope now that the future of the adjacent games area will be secured. Local Councillors are understood to have taken the initiative to discuss moving the facility to the local rugby club ground. If so, that would be a good solution to a problem which has also raised concerns from Sport England, and the resident’s association.

Other applications

All applications are recommended for approval

York Central moves another step closer with £37.32m funding decision

York Central has moved a step closer as £37.32m of external funding was promised to deliver the new generation of homes and higher paid jobs York needs and to improve the railway station.

The funding was confirmed yesterday (Wednesday 13 March) from the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund and Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment through the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

The funding will contribute to a new western access road, bridge and spine road into York Central, a fully accessible western entry into the railway station and the station frontage scheme which will bring a transformation of transport interchange facilities, enhanced accessibility and new public realm at the front of York station.

The scheme will support the delivery of up to 2,500 new homes and over 6,000 new jobs.

£23.5m of this funding will contribute to the £155m infrastructure funding package for York Central with a further £11.7m towards the costs of transforming the front of the station.  Together the two schemes will open up the 72 hectare York Central site which is surrounded by railway lines, and create vibrant and distinctive residential neighbourhoods, cultural spaces, and a high-quality commercial quarter at the heart of York.

The plans for the front of the station will demolish Queen St Bridge, improve the public spaces and improve the transport interchange to create a greatly improved fitting gateway to the city.  This funding is conditional upon the award of Housing Infrastructure Funding later this month and on the award of Planning permission.

The West Yorkshire Transport Fund money follows the £35m budget agreed by City of York Council in December. This will then be repaid using retained business rates from the York Central Enterprise Zone. The council’s £77m bid for the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund is at an advanced stage, with a decision expected soon.

The outline planning application for the site will be considered by the council’s planning committee on Monday 25 March 2019.

A Big, Big, £155 million decision for York Council next week

Councillors are rarely asked to make more far reaching decisions than the one they will have to take, about the future of the York Central site, next week. They will approve a £155 million budget to fund “abnormal infrastructure costs” with £45 million of it coming from Council resources. Of this, an additional £35 million will be borrowed.

The Council has already spent £5.4 million of its existing £10 million York Central budget.

The Council hopes to recover its investment through increased business rates payments generated by the new commercial premises that will be built on the site. It is unclear how national government policy may develop on business rate discounts and planning exemptions for those occupying properties in Enterprise Zones.

The abnormal costs arise from a new access bridge, highway cycle and pedestrian routes into and through the site, a new station entrance, a 5.5 ha park, 3 public squares with enabling ground works, site clearance, remediation and utilities supply.

York Central Partnership (YCP) is a partnership of landowning bodies on the York Central site and is comprised of Network Rail, Homes England National Railway Museum and CYC. Over the last 3 years YCP have developed a comprehensive masterplan for the 72 ha site and are currently awaiting the determination of an outline planning application for the 45ha main site to the west of the railway station, which will deliver up to 112,000 sq. m of commercial space and up to 2500 homes as well as a large park, public squares and an expanded Railway Museum (over a net developable area of c25ha).

A report to Councillors says, “This abnormal enabling infrastructure cost of £155m means that without significant public funding the site is simply not viable and the compound risks of preparing the site for development are not likely to be acceptable to the market. It is therefore proposed that the YCP, having undertaken the enablement and funded the work to date, continue to take the role of infrastructure deliverer for the first phase of infrastructure (CYC) and master developer (NR and Homes England as the predominant land owners on the site), in order to de-risk the project and bring it within viable financial parameters. 

Through doing this, the partnership will also exert influence over the timing, nature and quality of development, to optimise fit with policy and corporate objectives whilst respecting the important relationships with local communities, the rest of the city and the historic setting of the site”.

The Council would recover its investment from additional Business Rate income generated by the site. The report forecasts that there could be a maximum cumulative risk to taxpayers of £11.4 million if commercial development is “slow” on the development.

No estimate has been given on the additional annual revenue costs for the Council as the site occupiers start to use public services (e.g. waste collection, lighting etc.) in the City.

The developers do not, at present, have an identified core tenant for the office units.

It is hoped that some residential units on the site may be marketed as early as next year. It is likely to be 2021 before the access roads and bridges are completed.

Any decision by the Council to commit to the expenditure next week will once again mean that there are potential conflicts of interest between the authority as an investor and in  its role as an “independent” planning authority.

The Councils record on impartially determining applications in which it has a financial interest (e.g. Lowfields) has been disappointing in recent years

NB. Figures being reported to the same meeting next week reveal that the York Council will – before taking on the above debt – owe £213.1 million. This will increase to £314.2 million by 2022. By the same date, 18% of council tax payments will be used just to to pay interest and principal repayment charges on Council borrowing.

Scarborough Bridge work set to start next week but maybe a missed opportunity

Work is set to start on-site at Scarborough Bridge on Monday 29 October to create a new shared use pedestrian and cycle bridge.

The new bridge will provide a better traffic free route for residents and visitors travelling between the railway station and city centre.

Unfortunately it will do little to assist cyclists wishing to access the new York central development. They will continue to face a ride through the unremittingly oppressive Marble Arch tunnel.

The new bridge will have ramps at either side making it accessible for a range of users, including cyclists, wheelchair users and people pushing prams. It will also be nearly three times as wide to ensure there is sufficient space for everyone.

Preperation works will start on-site at the end of October with the construction of the ramps and steps likely to be finished in the new year. The existing footbridge will be closed from late January when it will be removed and the new bridge will be put in place.

The new bridge will be in place and open to the public in March, weather dependant.

 

New Water End bridge will cost £20 million

York Central

Councillors are set to invest £20 million in a new access bridge linking Water Lane to the new York Central development.

Part of the cost involves mitigation of the effect that the new road will have on the “Millennium Green”.  Ironically the green was previously owned by the Council.

The work has to be finished by March 2021 to satisfy criteria laid down by the Leeds based West Yorkshire Transport Fund. Work is expected to start in the spring of 2019

There is likely to be wide-scale disruption to traffic using Water End. With several other major schemes also set to start on the north and west of the City, including the northern by pass roundabout upgrades, the potential for major transport disruption exists.

If the York Central scheme fails to go ahead, – some financing bids are still outstanding – the liability for taxpayers already stands at £5.7 million.

Imaginative design plan for York Central has flaws

Councillors will today be asked to approve design plans for the York Central site. The area behind the station has been ripe for redevelopment for nearly 2 decades now as the demands of the rail industry have reduced.

York central  is a large and hugely expensive site to develop but has the advantage of being close to intercity transport links and a City centre which boasts a full range of amenities.

The design guide springs from a comprehensive public consultation process which managed in the end to avoid the obvious dangers of raising unaffordable expectations.

The design guide rightly concentrates on the impact that a dense, and relatively tall, development will have on the rest of the City. It passes that test and goes on to tell a convincing story about street and layout potential. It may be a little short on iconic USPs although the idea of an old steam train running through the site will appeal to many.

But perhaps the approach does tend to be “all things to all men”.

It talks of a large increase in office space at a time when the City has full employment and some empty office units. A report implies that the York Council might underwrite some of the new floorspace space. But the Council is already doing so at the Community Stadium site while the £12 million white elephant business centre at the Guildhall had still to find tenants.

The main issue may prove to be access and transport.

Even footpath links between the Carlton St area and the City centre look – for most of the evening – to be longer than currently is possible. The one-way system to benefit cyclists through the Leeman Road tunnel has also (rightly) been vilified.

The development partners will have to find funding for a discrete pedestrian/cycle bridge over the railway line – a solution which might also address other permeability issues and might even provide an alternative route for the Railway Museums “Disney” train which currently obstructs general traffic routes in the City centre.

The design guide refers to parking space provision at “up to 1 space” per house (0.45 spaces per flat). This suggest that many cars will be parked “off-site”.  The Council will need to be clear whether this would be at a peripheral on-site location or at a sub-urban park and ride site (with its security implications).

The design guide fails to address other transport needs such as recharging/refuelling points for electric/hydrogen buses. Indeed, the guide is weak on public transport infrastructure requirements generally.

In the main though, the guide does address the main planning issues and is a welcome step forward for the project.

Whether the actual planning applications can be faithful to the concept, and remain affordable, may become clearer later in the year.

York central consultation leaflets dumped

Disappointing to see so many “York Central” consultation leaflets left in the foot-wells of flats in the Kingsway West area. Not a very effective way of spending taxpayers money.

Problems also with graffiti, broken glass, and detritus in the same area. All reported to the Council for attention.

Council bid for nearly £70m government housing fund moves a stage further

York Central

City of York Council has moved a step closer to securing nearly £70m government-funding to unlock up to 3,300 new homes in the city.

The Housing Secretary Sajid Javid today announced that both York’s bids to the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which would speed up major developments at York Central and a new garden village at Clifton Gate, have been approved to move to the final co-development stage of the competitive process.

The council has bid for £57m towards the complex infrastructure and access road which will open up the delivery of up to 2,500 homes on the York Central development. It would supplement the West Yorkshire Transport Fund money to deliver the bridge, spine road, and improvements in connectivity for vehicles, cycles and pedestrians.

At Clifton Gate, nearly £10m of funding would be used for vital access works and improvements, including an upgrade to Clifton Moor roundabout, new access roads tot he site, a subway for pedestrians and cyclists, and a pedestrian bridge. This would allow quicker delivery of the 1300 home site.

The Housing Infrastructure Fund is there to help deliver infrastructure projects which are essential to building significant numbers of new homes.  City of York Council will now work with the Ministry for Housing  Communities and Local Government and the developers on a detailed business case which will be assessed in the autumn before a final funding decision is made.
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York Central access road decision next week

Construction of the access road to unlock the potential of York Central – one of Europe’s largest brownfield sites – could start next year if senior councillors approve plans next week.

2015 plan

The council’s executive could give the green light to find a contractor to build the bridge and spine road into the site from Water End.

A new access road has long been established as crucial to opening up the 72 hectare York Central site, which can drive the city’s economy and create vital jobs, housing and quality public spaces.

The positioning of the road was decided following extensive public consultation by the York Central Partnership, which is delivering the regeneration of the site, last year.

The Council will take the lead on the design and construction of the access road before 2021, in order to take advantage of available funding from the West Yorkshire Transport Fund.

Councillor Andrew Waller, acting leader of City of York Council, said:
“Regenerating this site is vital to grow our economy and provide housing.

“Thanks to the efforts of the York Central Partnership, we are overcoming the barriers to take this once in a lifetime opportunity to unlock York Central’s potential as an exemplar sustainable development.

“I welcome the news that the partnership is improving the community engagement on the project. This will help to make sure York Central is a place in which we all want to live, work and spend time.”

The construction partner would deliver key infrastructure, including the access bridge and spine road, while the contract could potentially be extended to deliver public open space (parkland, urban drainage and public
realm) and the rail link to the national rail museum.

The York Central Partnership has announced a special consultation which will help to develop the masterplan, which will be considered by the council’s Executive in June. The ‘Festival of York Central’ will begin on Monday 19 March, and will go beyond conventional community consultation.  It will use social media, ‘Pechakucha’ conversation evenings, walk’n’workshop site tours, web and blog content and speaking events. There will also be opportunities to meet with the four partners, the consultant team behind the evolving masterplan and local councillors.

The executive will also be asked to:

  •  dispose of the freehold of the 5% of council land holding on York Central to Homes England at market value to simplify land ownership on the site and to use this capital receipt to fund the York Central project costs. This land includes the Fermatol trading estate off Leeman Rd and the private car park near to Carlisle St.
  •  to commit £907k further funding from the £10m allocated budget to take the project through to planning determination.