Spending review – how it may affect York


There will be no cuts to government funding for the Police. North Yorkshire police however already employ fewer officers than they have budget for, so we hope those vacancies will be filled quickly now. What is less clear is what impact the Chancellors statement, that Police Commissioners would have flexibility to raise the police precept, will have locally.

Tax Credits

The Chancellor has scrapped plans to reduce working tax credits. The move has been welcomed by Local LibDem Cllr Sue Hunter

Jobs & housing

The York central site has been awarded “Enterprise Zone” status.  This means all business rates growth generated by the Zone, will be kept by the relevant local enterprise partnership and local authorities for 25 years to reinvest in local economic growth. However, there are fewer planning controls in these Zones. The York Central site is expected to provide 2000 new homes and around 80,000 sq m of office space.

£50 million will be invested in the agri-tech centre at Sandhutton

Elderly care

The Chancellor has said that Council can increase Council Tax by 2% “to help pay for increasing elderly care costs”. This means that the Tories have abandoned their policy of freezing Council Tax. However, income for Council Tax is not hypothecated to individual services, so it remains to be seen whether the government will condition this power by ring-fencing social care expenditure.

The spending statement indicates that there will be increased funding available for the NHS and for Mental Health


Basic state pension to rise by £3.35 next year to £119.30 a week


The statement says that big regional variations in grants to schools would be removed. Historically York schools have been more poorly funded than those in other areas.


The Chancellor has promised major capital investment including HS2 and electrification of the Trans-Pennine route.

However the revenue budget has seen major cuts so there is likely to be less for public transport subsidies and maybe road repairs.

Council Tax

As well as the proposed 2% increase this year, the proposals imply that York will retain more of its Business Rates (it has always been a net contributor to the national pool) but will continue to see reductions in government support grant.

The way that the York Councils budget has been funded has changed a lot over recent years.

York Council chnages in source of income

York Central development – proposals announced

The long awaited report on the development of land behind the railway station has been published by the Council.

York Central Nov 2015

It proposes a major increase in the number of new homes to be provided on the site bringing the total to around 2000.  It is likely to be a high density development similar to that being constructed on Hungate.

The new proposals hark back to the numbers agreed in February 2011 which envisaged 1780 dwellings being built on the site together with around 90,000 Sq m of office space.

This plan was jettisoned by the last Labour administration who – as part of their “Big City” approach – chose to put new housing on green belt sites. They reduced the housing figure at York Central to only 410.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

The new policy recognises that central brownfield sites offer great advantages, with many facilities, and communication links, within walking distance of people’s homes.

The proposed use of part of the site for additional comparison shopping has been quietly abandoned.

One concern highlighted in the report is that planners think that only about 100 homes per year could be built.

This is an artificial and unnecessary constraint.

A growing economy means that mortgages are again becoming accessible and demand for property is increasing in York.

Building 1800 additional homes over the next 15/20 years is an achievable goal that the Council must go for.

Infrastructure problems remain for the site and the Council has been wise to elicit the support of the Homes and Communities Agency for its housing plans while also seeking Enterprise Zone status to support the growth of office based jobs.

Significantly, the Council has so far failed to seriously debate the actual amount of economic growth that the City could sustain over the next few decades without compromising its character (and transport systems).

It is this relatively high expectation of growth which fuels the demand for more housing most of which will be occupied by inward migration (a total of around 6000 homes are required to meet natural growth over the next 20 years).

The Council claims that high growth in relatively well paid office based jobs is needed to offset the low wages paid in the care, retail and tourism sectors. Growth in care – against the background of an aging population – is inevitable while the Council continues to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds promoting tourism.

Members of the Local Plan Working Group (LPWG) will be asked to consider and provide comments on work to-date at the meeting which takes place on Monday 30 November.

The group will give feedback on their thoughts and recommendations on the emerging plan policy, ahead of an Executive meeting on 15 December – to inform the overall approach to the development of York’s largest brownfield site.

Further detail of the developing project will be included in an upcoming Executive paper. The proposed policy “recognises the significant economic and regeneration benefits which could be achieved for York and the broader region“.

The LPWG will take place on Monday 30 November at West Offices from 5.30pm.

Click here to read the report


Bid to unlock £100m to help deliver York Central site

Public consultation results - York central access options 2011

Public consultation results – York central access options 2011

City of York Council and the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership have announced that today that they  submitted a bid to government which could unlock over £100 million to help deliver York’s largest brownfield site.

However, the bid doesn’t seem to have been approved by any of the York Councils decision making bodies.

No copy of the bid has been published either on the Councils web site or on that of the LEP.

It therefore remains unclear how much the York taxpayer might be expected to contribute towards the costs of the project. The last Labour Council courted unpopularity by allocating £11 million for the provision of a road bridge into the site from Poppleton Road.

The media release claims,

If successful, York Central could be designated as an Enterprise Zone which will mean all of the business rates for the site, which would have gone back to government, will be retained in the area. This will provide the funding to be able invest in the infrastructure required to unlock the site and encourage business investment.

Prospective businesses locating on York Central would also get full business rate relief for the first five-years, providing an incentive for inward investment and business growth.

Estimates in the bid suggest this could help to create up to 6,600 jobs in the city, and over £1.1 billion value for the region’s economy.  The jobs created would be high-value office based jobs, helping to grow York’s economy by an estimated 20 per cent and increase average wages in the city.

Enterprise Zone status will also support the infrastructure for housing elements of the site, helping to create new homes on brownfield land and protect the greenbelt.

Liberal Democrat prospective MP to be selected on Monday evening


Liberal Democrat members are meeting on Monday 15th December to finalise the selection of a Parliamentary candidate who will contest the York Central seat in the General Election which is scheduled to take place on May 7th.

The result of the members ballot is expected to be known at around 8:00pm and details of the candidate will be announced shortly afterwards.

The meeting on Monday is the culmination of a process which has allowed any Liberal Democrat member, who is on the approved list of Parliamentary candidates, to apply for the position.

The party operates a “one member, one vote” system when selecting candidates and short listing is undertaken by local parties.

The sitting MP Hugh Bayley announced earlier in the month that he will not be seeking to retain his seat.

At the last General Election the Liberal Democrat candidate in York Central came within 6,879 votes of winning the seat.

2010 General Election result

City leaders back High Speed Rail College for York

York central site

York central site

York’s political party Group Leaders have backed calls for the Government proposed High Speed Rail College to be situated in York.

The college, expected to deliver specialised training and qualifications needed to construct high speed rail, will not only benefit HS2 but other future infrastructure projects in the region.

The first new incorporated further education college in over 20-years, it will offer technical training ensuring HS2 can be built by skilled British workers including; rail engineering, environmental skills and construction.

York Central site proposed

York Central has today been put forward for consideration for the new national high speed rail college.

The proposed hub would be located on a site next to the rail station in York, on land owned by Network Rail, yet harnessing the strengths of employers and skills providers from a broader geographic region through the rail connectivity this location affords, up and down the East Coast Mainline, and across to West Yorkshire through the Transpennine route.


Cleveland Street residents raise concerns about “bridge to nowhere”

click for large scale plan

click for large scale plan

The Council’s Cabinet is set to agree to buy a strip of land (marked C on the plan) between Wilton Rise/Cleveland Street and Chancery Rise when it meets on Tuesday.

The Council bought sites A and B in 2011.

The Chancery Rise link will be the location for the Councils £10 million access bridge into the York Central site.

The bridge will pass close to some houses on Cleveland Street and may affect the nearby playground.

There has been surprisingly little discussion with local residents about the plan which could have major noise and pollution implications.

No planning permission for the bridge is in place.

The Council is also looking to sell on site A to Network Rail.  The site will accommodate some rail functions relocated from the York central area.

The affected streets fall within the Holgate ward. They are represented by Cabinet members James Alexander and Sonja Crisp.


A bridge too near?

The promised report on Labour plans for a new £10 million bridge near Wilton Rise has now been published.

It turns out that £1.5 million of this will be spent on consultant’s fees.

Housing numbers. click to enlarge

Housing numbers. click to enlarge

The report claims that the costs of the bridge would be repaid “from the additional income in Business Rates and Council Tax generated by the new developments” (on the York central site).

It then goes on to claim that 1083 new homes will be provided. That is a surprise because the draft Local Plan published by Labour in April assumed only 438 homes would be constructed on this site.

However, the housing numbers included in the Labour draft Local Plan have already been undermined with actual planning applications submitted, and approved, over the last 6 months being in every case higher than the Plan estimate
Therefore a much higher housing figure is a legitimate target for the York central site.

The present coalition government policy does encourage development and allows local authorities to retain and invest, for 6 years, additional Council Tax monies generated by new homes (New Homes Bonus).

Business Rates have also been “localised”. So an increase in income from additional commercial buildings would increase the amount that the Council receives from Business Rates. However government grants, which seek to equalise Council income between “prosperous” and less well off areas, could be reduced.

No business case of any sort has been provided for the meeting next week.

In addition to the homes, the “plan” talks about “building 93,000 sq m of office space with ancillary bar, restaurant, retail and leisure uses” in 2015.

A further 35,000 sq m would be built in 2019 in the form on a commercial area “in front of the station” and would include a new hotel although most would be more offices.

Of course, any incremental development in the City provides similar increases in Council income plus more jobs and homes.

Residents might have expected any income to be earmarked to pay for repairs to the public services in the City which have deteriorated so badly over the last 3 years.

Public consultation results - York central access options

Public consultation results – York central access options

Incredibly, the Council is being asked to earmark the £10 million without a development “Masterplan” being in place.

As a result no planning permission exists for the development.

The absence of a business plan is the major problem at present. It remains unclear how the site clean up will be funded (it is heavily polluted) nor is there any guarantee that other transport infrastructure needs can be financed.

From the information, that has been made available, it does seem that the Councils investment will not be underwritten in any way.

It is therefore a very high risk venture.

There is no proposal to form a joint development company which would allow Council Taxpayers to share in the success of any development (to offset the substantial risk)

The legal restrictions – which apply across Europe – on subsidising private companies are not explored in the paper.

Like the sale of the Haymarket car park on Hungate – for around 50% of its current open market value – the Council is being both naïve and reckless with taxpayers money. The promised offices and hotel on Hungate have yet to move forward and so have provided no economic stimulus for the City.

The “Bridge to Nowhere” could well be a similar embarrassment.

With the national economy improving, and some local developers reflecting the more buoyant approach in the City, less risky ways to kick start important developments like York Central should be considered.

Rush to spend £10 million

In 2005 the Regional Development Agency (Yorkshire Forward) budgeted to spend nearly £10 million, of central government money, on infrastructure improvements which would allow the area of land behind the York railway station to be developed.

The site – dubbed York Central – was effectively landlocked with a bridge over the freight avoidance line required before development could start.

But it wasn’t the only issue.

Much of the site was contaminated while a viable transport system to service the development proved to be elusive.

Possible access routes into York Central

Possible access routes into York Central

The funding was never released.

The major landowner (Network Rail) found it impossible to come up with a development proposal which satisfied local planners and also recovered the huge development costs involved.

Then came the recession in 2008 and the scheme, like others across the country, went onto the back burner.

With the economy now improving it is not surprising that development sites like York Central, Nestle South and British Sugar are once again on the agenda.

What is astonishing is that the Council Leadership apparently intend to spend £10 million of Council Taxpayers money on building a bridge linking Holgate Road to the derelict site, and without securing a development agreement, timetable or the planning permissions necessary to ensure a comprehensive development.

Unless a legal agreement is signed to the effect that the costs of the bridge will be repaid from development profits, then the local taxpayer will be left with the bill.

The Council has already dramatically increased the amount of money that it borrows.

These additional debts have resulted in an extra annual repayment costs for taxpayers of £1 million.

The bridge to nowhere would add another £700,000 a year to that figure.

And that money could only come from either higher taxes or – more likely – further reductions in the quality of public services.