Supporting York’s city centre night time economy

City of York Council could join 70 towns and cities across the UK by gaining ‘Purple Flag’ status – in a bid to work with key partners and support York’s night time economy.

Town or city centres that achieve a Purple Flag are those that are safe, vibrant, appealing, well-managed and offer a positive experience to residents and visitors.

A report outlining plans for the council to apply for this status, as well as appointing a new role to support the existing Safety Advisory Group (SAG) in the city and combining these two tasks into a single coordinating role, will be taken a public meeting on Wednesday 18 September, to Cllr Keith Aspden’s decision session meeting, for approval.

The Purple Flag standard, launched in 2012, is an accreditation process similar to the Green Flag award for parks and the Blue Flag for beaches. It allows members of the public to quickly identify town and city centres that offer an entertaining, diverse, safe and enjoyable night out.

An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report from November 2018 shows that York now has nearly twice the national average number of pubs per 10,000 residents, and that there are 15 more licenced premises in the city than there were in 2001.  This is in stark contrast to national trends with ONS reporting that there has been a 23 per cent reduction in the number of pubs nationally since 2008.

The report sets out the background to Purple Flag as a scheme, existing commitments from city stakeholders, and a proposed way forward to run a Purple Flag process as part of improved partnership arrangements for the city centre. For the SAG elements, the post will help organisers meet their legal duties in respect of complying with their legal responsibilities and keeping people safe.

The decision session takes place on Wednesday 18 September at West Offices from 4pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch later online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, said: “The Purple Flag status aims, amongst a broad range of policies, to improve work with partners, reduce anti-social behaviour and support a safer city centre. York city centre’s night time economy is both vibrant and challenging.  The continued growth of our reputation as a place to visit for leisure has seen the number of bars and restaurants in the city centre increase in recent years. 

“City centres that achieve a Purple Flag are those that are safe, vibrant, appealing, well-managed and offer a positive experience to residents and visitors. The challenges that York’s growth presents are related to the often conflicting needs of different users of the city centre.  It is these challenges that Purple Flag seeks to address through positively bringing together those involved in the day time, evening and night time economies, to develop joint plans and make York even safer.”

“Sliding bollards” plan for York City centre

Temporary measures introduced to protect York’s busiest city centre spaces from terrorist attacks could be made permanent by City of York Council next week.

Phase 1 of the vehicle exclusion zone

The Council’s Executive will consider the results of a trial restricting vehicle access to the busiest city centre streets during footstreet hours (10:30-17:00) at its meeting next Thursday (29 August)

The Councils consultation revealed major conflicts with the wishes of groups representing disabled people

More disabled parking is planned for Piccadilly

It has been criticised by a former Tory Councillor who said on social media “Almost everyone wants to pedestrianise our city centre. It should be about improving it and supporting business growth in difficult times…not terrorism

Changes were introduced last November following police counter terrorism advice for long-term measures to combat the ongoing threat of ‘vehicle as weapon attacks’ like those seen recently in Toronto, London and Nice.

If approved, a sliding bollard system would restrict access to Parliament Street, St Sampson’s Square, High Ousegate and Spurriergate, Coney Street, Davygate, Finkle Street, Church Street and Jubbergate during footstreet hours (10:30-17:00).

“Sliding” bollards are planned for the entrances to several streets.

The Executive introduced the measures on a temporary basis to allow for work to understand the impact of restricted access on key groups, including disabled people and others with limited mobility within a core part of the city centre.

The council commissioned studies of how blue badge parking changed throughout the period, alongside a series of workshops with individuals and groups representing disabled people in York.

In addition to the available parking on the streets next to the restricted area, the executive will consider mitigation proposals including:

•             continued access to St Sampson’s Square for Dial and Ride services

•             creating blue badge parking on the traffic-restricted section of Piccadilly, and converting the taxi rank to blue badge parking during the day time (10:00-18:00)

•             extending the parking time restrictions outside Explore on Museum Street from 2 to 3 hours

•             supporting marketing efforts for alternative services like Shopmobility and Dial and Ride

*If approved, the Piccadilly changes would be subject to a traffic regulation order change. The proposed changes would be advertised for up a three week period to allow for objections before a decision can be made.

Experiments with rising bollards in the past in York have encountered reliability issues. Reliability and maintenance costs are not considered in trhe Council report.

City centre future

The same meeting will consider launching a consultation exercise on the future of the City centre retail area. The area has change a lot in recent years with several shops being replaced by pubs and restaurants.

Problems with drunken behaviour have increased.

If approved, an engagement exercise “following the principles of early and ongoing public involvement, pioneered on the Castle Gateway regeneration scheme”, would begin in the new year.

This would deliver a “strategic vision for the city centre to guide future development, regeneration and investment decisions”.

The proposal has the support of the York BID and “Make it York”.

The Council report fails to address the needs of sub-urban high streets like Front Street

York Business Improvement District performance review

320,000 pieces of chewing gum removed from pavements.

York Councillors will be considering  a report on Wednesday that reviews the work of the York BID.  The, mainly business funded organisation, was formed in April 2016 and aims to improve the attractiveness of the City centre.

The report includes an impressive list of achievements. The blight of chewing gum on footpaths is produces a particularly eye catching headline. In addition, 961 pieces of graffiti and fly posters have been removed.

The BID ranger service has also helped to reduce anti-social behaviour and address other criminal activities.

There has been a 1.9% increase in footfall in the City.

The report comes at a time when the government has announced that it will not be funding an initiative to regenerate the York  “Future High Street” The shortlisted cities include places like Wakefield and Sheffield, but North Yorkshire has been snubbed.

Last month the government, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Heritage Fund announced a £62 million package of support to breathe new life into historic high streets across the country, to restore historic buildings, create new work spaces and cultural venues. As part of the overall funding, £55 million had been allocated from the Future High Streets Fund. We still hope to see York benefit from this type of government support.

The York BID has been successful initiative and has made a real difference to the quality of the City centre. It has been criticised for drawing Council resources away from sub-urban centres like Acomb but overall the BID is viewed positively.

There are ongoing issues with more improvements needed to the streetscape – too many weeds and too much graffiti – and of course empty properties. The latter in areas like Coney Street now look to be intractable problems, which is why the governments attitude to the City is so disappointing.

Some underused sites and buildings – including those owned by the Council – need to be redeveloped quickly now. The meeting on Wednesday will hear from the Executive member with responsibility for “Economy and Strategic Planning”. Members will no doubt be hoping to hear some positive news about the use of empty property economic development activities in the whole of the City.

We hope that corporate interests will similarly ensure that prominent, but derelict, sites like that next to the Barbican will also now be developed (or at least tidied up).

Overall the BID has had a successful 3 years and can look with confidence to an extension of its mandate.

NB. “Make it York” is reporting separately on its activities click here to read their report

Meet the 999 team” opportunity in York city centre this weekend

Police and other emergency services are inviting families to come and meet the people who keep them safe in York city centre this weekend.

North Yorkshire Police officers will be on Coney Street this Saturday afternoon with a marked police van for youngsters to explore. They’ll also be joined by firefighters from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, staff from Yorkshire Ambulance Service, and volunteers from York Rescue Boat – among others.

The emergency services have joined forces to give members of the local community the chance to get to know them, and discuss any issues they might have.

Inspector Andy Godfrey, from York City Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “There will be emergency vehicles stationed along Coney Street on Saturday afternoon, and it’s a great opportunity for people to stop by and say hello. The city centre will be busy with events like the Great York Bunny Search and a Dinosaur World Live T-Rex model, so we’re hoping to meet lots of families as they pass by.

“Of course, due to the nature of what we do, we might get called away, but we’re hoping to be available from 12pm to 6pm. So if you’re in the city centre on Saturday, do stop by to see us, have a chat, and maybe even get a selfie. There’ll be plenty of emergency service vehicles and high-vis uniforms, so you won’t be able to miss us!”

City centre security on the council agenda

Plans to protect York’s busiest city centre spaces from the threat of terrorist attacks will be considered by two key council committees over the next fortnight.

York’s busiest city centre spaces are set for increased protection under plans unveiled by the council to combat the threat posed to UK cities by terrorists.

Following a decision by the Executive in February, the council commissioned independent security experts to develop a plan for long-term measures to combat the ongoing threat of ‘vehicle weapon attacks’ like those seen recently in Toronto, London and Nice.

After reviewing all the city centre access points, the report recommends changes in the first ‘priority zone’ including Parliament Street, St Sampson’s Square, High Ousegate and Spurriergate, Coney Street, Davygate, Finkle Street, Church Street and Jubbergate.

Longer-term, this will involve replacing many of the existing temporary measures, such as those at the end of Parliament Street, with permanent fixtures.

The council plans to introduce this as an experimental traffic order, which will give up to six months to understand the impact and work with affected groups like residents, retailers and disabled people.

Before the decision is taken on Thursday 27 September, the Executive has requested that the proposals are presented to today’s Economy and Place Development Committee, so the committee can consider the potential impact that the measures could have on disabled access to the city centre.

Superintendent Lindsey Robson, commander for the York and Selby area, said:

“We’re working with the council to make sure that York has the right security measures in place to keep residents and visitors as safe as possible.

“The national threat level remains severe which means a terrorist attack is highly likely and is likely to come without notice.

“This combined with the shift in methods from complex, coordinated attacks that we’ve seen around the world, to more basic attacks in the UK using hire cars and knives, means that we must do all that we can to protect the city from such attacks.

·             “Alongside these physical measures there is a lot going on behind the scenes and we continue to work alongside counter terrorism police to prevent, disrupt and deter dangerous extremists across the country.

“We thank members of the public for their continuing support and although the likelihood of being involved in an attack is low, we urge them to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour or activity to police in confidence on 0800 789 321 or via gov.uk/ACT. In an emergency always call 999.”

The current threat level across the UK from international terrorism remains at severe, meaning an attack is highly likely and the police reiterate the long-standing advice to remain vigilant and alert.

In the rare event of getting caught up in a weapons attack we urge you to follow the Run, Hide, Tell advice. Run to a place of safety rather than to surrender or negotiate. If there’s nowhere to go then hide and don’t confront. Finally, and only when it is safe to do so, tell the police by calling 999.

 

York Council to contribute £18,000 to new City Centre tourist signpost trial

In a behind closed doors decision, the York Council has agreed to spend £18,000 on new “Totem” signposting in the City centre.

A project, backed by the York BID and apparently with the approval of the York Civic Trust, will cost £36,000 for the trial in total The sum is mainly being spent on consultant’s fees but will result in some trial “Totems” being deployed.

The report goes on to say, “If the trial is successful and the programme is rolled out, this would need a significant contribution from both parties (for) which the BID has made provision and the authority would need to determine its position as a Council later in the Year”.

It is unclear how much this project may end up costing taxpayers and whether the funding would come from the “Make it York” organisation which now handles the city’s tourism budget.

The decision – taken by a Council official – is likely to widen the gap between the expectations of residents living in sub-urban areas and City centre focussed institutions.

Existing signs

Recently a commitment was made to fund a replacement for the Parliament Street fountain while additional expenditure may also result from the decision to make the revised Fossgate one-way system permanent.

There is a big question mark over the costs of maintaining the Guildhall now that the Council’s “business centre” project has collapsed. There are similar financial question marks about the Castle/Piccadilly redevelopment and York Central.

In residential areas, people are increasingly concerned about the quality of local highways. Many street nameplates are also  in need of repair. Public service standards are under unprecedented pressure.

Residents may feel that – unless paid for by business – the existing city centre direction signs will be adequate to meet needs.

After all, increasing number of people use “on line” maps and smart phones to find their way around.

Additional street furniture may actually represent a backwards step.

Last few days to have your say on city centre bike racks

Residents have just a few more days to give their views on potential sites for new cycle racks in the city centre.

City of York Council have worked ‘in tandem’ with York BID to identify 18 potential new sites for cycle racks.

Residents and other regular users of the city centre have until Wednesday 28 February to give their views at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/CYCNewCycleParking
(more…)

Numbers visiting York on increase


Footfall figures in York city centre are up on last year as the critical Christmas period gets into full swing.

Yesterday (Saturday) York was “heaving” as thousands made their way into the City to view the ice sculptures and visit shops and markets. 

The City lights have general been well received this year reflecting well on the York BID and supporting organisations.

York summer safety initiatives unveiled – webchat for residents’ questions

Organisations in York will be working together to ensure that everyone can enjoy all that the city has to offer safely and responsibly.

York summer safety initiatives unveiled – webchat for residents’ questionsRecent initiatives and campaigns have seen North Yorkshire Police work closely with City of York Council, British Transport Police, city licensees and many other partners. These will continue throughout the summer, alongside new developments to make the city even safer.

Sergeant Nick Plumb, of York City Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We have come a very long way over the last few years, and we’re now working with other agencies and organisations more closely than ever before. Those efforts have ensure that York city centre continues to be a great place to work and visit.
(more…)

So is alcohol fuelled violence getting out of hand in York City centre

With seemly daily reports in the media about drunken behavior and violence in York city centre, what are the actual crime statistics for the area within the inner ring road?

Fortunately they are readily available on the Police UK web site

The latest monthly figures available cover the month of March.

Distribution of crimes

There were 448 crimes reported in March. The majority of these were for anti social behavior,violence and shop lifting.

It was a similar picture during the previous 12 month period

Crime type Total Percentage
Anti-social behaviour 2373 43.68%
Violence and sexual offences 790 14.54%
Shoplifting 649 11.95%
Other theft 419 7.71%
Bicycle theft 340 6.26%
Criminal damage and arson 220 4.05%
Theft from the person 173 3.18%
Public order 153 2.82%
Burglary 120 2.21%
Drugs 83 1.53%
Vehicle crime 41 0.75%
Other crime 35 0.64%
Possession of weapons 19 0.35%
Robbery 18 0.33%

Crime levels usually increase in the summer when larger numbers of people visit the City. Officials will be looking anxiously at the figures for April and May, when any adverse trends may become clearer

What happens to these arrested?

Some go to court, but most do not!

So who is responsible?

Many of the crimes are fuelled by alcohol.

Here the City Council must take some of the responsibility.

They have cheerfully nodded through more and more licensing applications and have even given planning permission for new premises such as the arts barge whihc will have a bar. They have been recommended to allow up to 5 new licensed premises at the shipping container village which is to be located near the Walmgate trouble blackspot.

Not all licensed premises contribute to the problems but it would be reasonable to ask all four candidates in the forthcoming general election what they want to see done to reassure residents that parts of the City centre are not becoming a “no go zone” during parts of the day.