Share your views on the York Station planning application

Plans that will see the front of York Railway Station transformed with the removal of Queen Street Bridge and reorganising the layout leading into the station are now available to comment on using the planning portal.

The plans were submitted last month following an extensive public consultation in summer 2018 which saw over 1,500 people share their feedback on the scheme. People now have the opportunity to comment on the submission at www.york.gov.uk/planning (ref no19/00535/FULM and 19/00542/LBC). Following this it is expected to go before the planning committee in summer.

Following feedback from the public consultation designers altered the master plan to take into account the comments.

Different landowners and funding arrangements mean that plans for the area will be delivered in phases, each with appropriate partners, planning approval and timescales. We’re working closely with Network Rail, London North Eastern Railway and Northern Powerhouse.

The project to transform the front of York Station will receive funding through the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund, and the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

For more information about York Station front visit www.york.gov.uk/stationfront

Huge York central development gets planning approval

A major development behind York railway station got the go ahead from the Planning Committee last night.

York Central site

It will provide hundreds of new homes and jobs over the next decade or so.

The site has been derelict, and mostly unused, for over 20 years. The progress made in bringing forward the site will probably be recorded by history as the major achievement of the current Council coalition administration.

The development is not without controversy.

The transport plans in particular lack the quality and imagination that many had hoped for. The developers will need to refine access arrangements from the City centre to Leeman Road particularly for pedestrians and cyclists.

Bus services must include a frequent park and ride link to off site parking spaces at Poppleton Bar.

Some courage will be needed if the site is to be declared an “ultra low emission zone”. Such a step would be an acknowledgement that the declaration of a “climate crisis” by the Council a few days ago was more than just rhetoric.

But overall the decision is a good one for the City, not least because it will reduce the pressure to build on green fields.

Hopefully we will see some development on site before the end of the year.

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.