Busier in York today

A lot more visitors to York City centre today. Most of the car parks used by shoppers were full.

Never been a more important time for the Council to get its car park space availability advance signs working again. Same for variable message signs.
Nunnery Lane car park full
Half a dozen unoccupied disabled spaces at Nunnery Lane
Reason why some people don’t cycle into York? Bike -or most of it – may have gone by the time you return
Castle car park – York’s most popular with shoppers – full today. This is the car park that some Councillors wish to close.
Peel Street car park full. This is the privately owned car park which is offering free parking in conjunction with some City centre traders. Seems to be very successful
College Street attractions proving to be popular. Possible scope for something similar in the Duncombe Place/Deans Park area?
More people in Parliament Street but the space is still underused.
Improving footfall on Fossgate with a coupe of restaurants serving from outside tables.
Goodramgate foot street also well used today
People even queuing to get into Spark! Council may be hoping for a rent payment?
Monk Bar general spaces 95% occupied. Unfortunately, once again, only four of the 40 spaces reserved for blue badge holders were in use. Needs an early policy review.
Most embarrassing gaff by the Council is the – largely unused – cycling lane in the Marygate car park. The rest of the car park was full today. The car park is popular with shoppers and uses the “pay on exit” system. The parking spaces could be reinstated and cyclists could choose to use the service road if they wish.
The Esplanade short stay car park was at 80% of its capacity today.
Lots of space at the railway station car park. Suspect that LNER may have missed an opportunity here.?

Major changes to pedestrian hours in York City centre

No consultation prior to “behind closed doors” decision

Pedestrian hours in York City centre will be extended from 10:30am to 8:00pm, 7 days a week. Currently they end at 4:00pm each day.

The scheme will extend to include Fossgate and Goodramgate.

Cyclists will be able to slalom through some of the affected streets.

The Council leadership claims the move is aimed at helping “traders” and says cafes and pubs will be able to “set up tables on the public highway more easily”. The change was agreed yesterday only hours after alcohol fuelled disorder returned to City centre streets.

Disabled people will be badly affected. They can no longer access the City centre streets and have so far snubbed the additional parking spaces – and free taxi service – set up at the Monk Bar car park

The Council have also failed to address the confusion over their “free parking” offer which applies to some car parks in July and August. It got off to a confused start at the weekend.

The Council says that the following public toilets are now offering a contactless payment option and will be open until 10pm

  • St George’s Field
  • Coppergate Shopping Centre –
  • Exhibition Square
  • Silver Street (contactless from next week)

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the Councils recent transport and other decisions reflect the wishes of either the majority of residents or of the business community. Not surprisingly out of town shopping centres seem to be recovering much more quickly from the lock-down recession, leaving the city centre vulnerable to fanciful and ill considered social engineering experiments.

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New pedestrian rules imposed by Junta

What is increasingly intolerable is the failure of the Councils democratic systems. There is no reason why notice of this proposal could not have been published in advance with a decision subsequently taken at a publicly accessible meeting.

Instead it exploited an emergency delegation scheme which was intended to take the City through the worst phase of the lock-down.

The Council own “scrutiny” system has also once again been found wanting with meetings, which took place yesterday, failing to effectively challenge the decisions of the secretive “junta” which now dictates to York residents.

Changes to pedestrian hours may well be something that York people would want to trial. This option could have been included on a list as part of the Councils so called “big conversation” survey.

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It wasn’t, so we don’t know peoples views.

However, given the failures of the last few weeks, they will not forgive quickly those who chose to impose their views in such a discourteous and arbitrary way.

So where is York heading post COVID

There are signs of life in some organisations in the City as they begin to address the harsh post COVID realities.

The Council has issued business recovery kits which may aid social distancing particularity in shops.

The move comes on the day when the Centre for City’s releases details of how the health crisis has impacted on visitor numbers to the City centre. Not surprisingly the profile has changed radically with those travelling from the suburbs (both as shoppers and workers) now in the majority.

This will come as no surprise as foreign tourist numbers are, and are likely to remain, negligible. The next three months will be crucial for many retail and tourist businesses in the City.

The City is middle ranking so far in how well is is recovering its high street “footfall” compared to other Cities. It has a recovery index of 24 compared to the least affected (Aldershot with a score of 57 and the worst Cardiff with 11).

But it is early days and a more general return to work next Monday will tell us more.

So what needs to be done?

Clearly York’s visitor economy is going to depend, at least in the short term, on people travelling to the City from within Yorkshire. They will need to feel safe if they are to be persuaded to come.

It is vitally important therefore that such large spaces as exist in the City centre are fully utilised.

We understated that there are events planned for Parliament Street but it is less clear what use it will be made of assets like the Museum Gardens, Deans Park and the Nave of the Minster. Indeed, imaginative programming at the Minster – which could safely accommodate over a thousand people during periods of poor weather – may be vitally important in any marketing strategy.

All could potentially accommodate Arts events while maintaining social distancing rules.

York Minster and Duncombe Place, York
Duncombe Place

The Council has already listed streets which will be pedestrianised.

Incredibly it failed to include Deangate, one of the widest streets in the City and which could – together with the Minster and Deans Park- provide an ideal events space. Events held there would complement those planned for the other side of the City to the benefit traders and attractions in the Stonegate neighbourhood.

In the longer term better use will need to be made of the river banks and the City Walls but, for a few weeks at least, the City will need to concentrate on promoting itself as a vibrant, safe and welcoming destination.

It is time now for Make it York, the Council , the theatres, museums, libraries and other organisations to publish their short and medium term regeneration proposals?

Footsteets to be extended to aid social distancing and “kickstart” York’s economic recovery

York’s footstreets are set to be extended from 15 June. The main impact will be on disabled access.

“City of York Council is extending York’s footstreets from 15 June to increase pedestrian zones within the city centre and support local businesses by providing residents more space to social distance, making access to city centre shops and businesses easier”.

There has been no consultation on the proposals

“The actions are designed to support the council’s Economic Recovery – Transport and Place Strategy, to build resident, visitor and stakeholder confidence that York is a safe, healthy and attractive place for everyone.

York has one of the largest pedestrian zones in Europe, with many areas within York’s city centre already designated as pedestrian footstreets.

In line with the Government relaxing the restrictions for retailers this month, pedestrian zones will be extended to include the following streets:

  • Goodramgate (between Deangate and King’s Square)
  • King’s Square
  • Church Street
  • Colliergate
  • Blake Street
  • St Helen’s Square
  • Lendal
File:Blake Street, York - geograph.org.uk - 1059330.jpg ...
Blake Street pre lockdown

The core footstreet rules will apply to the extension area, including no vehicles being allowed to access, or park on, these streets, including deliveries between 10.30am and 5pm.

During the footstreet times, barriers (staffed for an initial period) will be in place in Goodramgate and Blake Street to control access, but emergency vehicles and the Dial-a-Ride vehicle will be permitted access at all times.

The council is exploring a further extension of the hours in to the evening, to coincide with the reopening of the hospitality sector, alongside encouraging the safe return of residents and visitors by considering incentivised short stay parking in some of the city’s car parks”. 

Blue Badge holders can, as has always been the case, park for free in any council car park and can take advantage of using disabled bay spaces in Council car parks too. For more information on council car parks visit www.york.gov.uk/parking

Blue Badges

The council is also exploring where it can create additional capacity for Blue Badge holders elsewhere in the city by the 15 June, and provide further support. 

This will include shop-mobility type assistance and additional replacement disabled bays at Monk Bar Car Park. Guides will be available to direct people to other car parks and provide on the day information about car parking availability. 

Coronavirus York updates; 16th May 2020

“Don’t socialise in York City centre this weekend” – York Council

Residents encouraged to keep safe this weekend

With good weather once again forecast for York, City of York Council is encouraging residents to stay safe and follow national guidance to continue to reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.

As indicated by the Prime Minister on Sunday 10 May, the Government have revised national guidance on current lockdown restrictions, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

With the new guidance in place, the Council is asking residents to prioritise their health and safety this coming weekend by only making essential journeys. 

The city centre will be open for essential shopping, but we would urge residents to refrain from using it as an open space to meet people.

Crematorium Chapel to reopen in June

Mourners attending services at York Crematorium are to be allowed inside the chapel, for the first time since the Covid 19 lockdown.

The City Council has announced that from next month it’s lifting its ban on mourners inside the building during services, imposed to reduce the risk of spreading the Coronavirus and protect staff and visitors.

The restrictions meant bereaved families had to gather in a marquee in the crematorium grounds.

In a statement, City of York Council says:

“As part of these changes and taking into account strict social distancing measures required by Government, and the ever-present risks relating to the spread of Coronavirus, the Crematorium will return to permitting attendance in pre-closure numbers. This allows up to ten close family members in the main crematorium chapel, and five in the small chapel.”

The Council says it’s taken the decision after three tests were passed:

  • The availability of key worker testing
  • The provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • A decrease in the number of Coronavirus infections and deaths

“It is anticipated that by 1 June, the transmission (R) rates will fall, along with a reduction in death rates, although the number of funerals sadly currently remain high.  If this proves not to be the case and the three tests are not met, the Council may have to consider adjusting the number of bookings that are taken, or reintroducing some restrictions, in order to reduce the risk to bereaved families, funeral directors and crematorium staff.”

Business recovery meeting

City leaders are urging York’s business community to support the city’s economic recovery by joining sector-focused recovery groups.

The council is developing plans to support the city’s economic recovery, incorporating the priorities outlined in the recent Council Plan, including making York a greener and more inclusive city.

To kick-start this process, a strategic business leaders meeting will be held, chaired by Councillor Keith Aspden, the Leader of the Council, to begin discussions on our local recovery plans. This will follow a similar meeting held with city partners, such as local Universities, discussing how to work in partnership earlier in the week

Businesses who are interested in participating in the roundtable events can contact the Make It York Business team on business@makeityork.com.  

So just how busy is the York City centre?

Footfall camera in Stonegate

It emerged a few weeks ago that most of the “footfall” cameras in York City centre are not working correctly.

The data from the cameras is used to help plan economic regeneration activities in the City centre.

The cameras do not currently provide any intelligence on who those users are, how they are using the space, or how much they are spending.

The cameras are located in

  • Stonegate
  • Coney Street
  • Parliament Street
  • Micklegate
  • Church Street

A new Council report says, “Footfall counts are provided under contract through a network of cameras at five points across the City Centre in a long-standing contractual arrangement with the data intelligence service provider, Springboard. The company uses its bespoke software to analyse camera data and count people passing those locations. Most of these cameras are not functioning for a number of reasons, meaning loss of consistency in data provision”.

Some of the cameras have not been functioning mostly as a result of interruption to power supply.

Critically two of the most important cameras (those in Coney Street and Stonegate) have not been working since last summer. The Church Street camera hasn’t been operational since June 2017.

The camera on Parliament Street is located at a point where data is compromised when last events like fairs are staged in the area.

In effect, the Council and local traders have no idea how many people visited the City during the important Christmas period in comparison to previous years.

Extrapolation of other data suggested that footfall may have been down by as much as 10% compared to the previous year. Clearly though there were some days when some streets in  the City centre had reached their effective capacity.

The report says “Anecdotally, we are aware that some City Centre businesses use these figures as a guide to buying stock and hiring additional staff, so there is an additional knock on effect at a commercial level”.

More information is available in Bath

A meeting next week is being advised to extend the current contract for another 12 moths while looking at other options.  The City will investigate what is done in other City’s with Bath being evidenced.

The report fails to identify how much the cameras are costing the Council or what the cost of the contract extension will be.

It seems surprising that most of the cameras could be out of service for 9 months without the issue being recognised and remedial action being taken by the Council.

Residents and businesses to have their say on the future of York city centre

Local people are being invited by the City of York Council to have their say on the future of York’s city centre as a major 12-week consultation is launched today to help the Council create a long term vision for the city.

‘My City Centre’ will build on York’s strengths by seeking the views of residents, businesses, visitors and stakeholders to inform a new city centre vision. This vision will guide investment and shape development and improvement projects in York city centre for decades to come.

An online survey will explore issues ranging from affordability, community and the environment to digital technologies, transport, leisure and culture. It can be completed at www.york.gov.uk/mycitycentreyork.

An exhibition and series of drop-in events are also planned in the city centre and around wider York where the public will be encouraged to share their views on some of the challenges facing the city centre through responding to the questionnaire and other interactive elements. The exhibition starts at York Explore, Museum Street from 2 to 26 March before stints at Burnholme and then Acomb. The first two drop-in events are being held on Saturday 14 March on Parliament Street and Friday 20th March at St Helen’s Square, both 10am-2pm.

On Monday 23 March, a workshop session led by retail expert Bill Grimsey provides a further opportunity to discussion the future of the city centre in more detail. Tickets can be obtained at https://mycitycentreworkshop.eventbrite.co.uk

The full details for the exhibitions are:

Touring exhibition

  • Mon 2 March – Fri 27 March @ York Explore
  • Mon 30 March – Fri 17 April @ Centre@Burnholme/ Tang Hall Explore
  • Mon 20 April – Fri 8 May @ Acomb Explore
  • Mon 11 May – Fri 22 May @ City of York Council West Offices

Staffed drop-in sessions

  • Wednesday 18 March, 11.30am to 1pm and 5.30pm to 7pm @ York Explore
  • Tuesday 7 April, 10am to 2pm @ Centre@Burnholme/ Tang Hall Explore
  • Thursday 30 April, 10am to 2pm @ Acomb Explore
  • Wednesday 13 May, 3pm to 6pm @ City of York Council West Offices

(more…)

£2 million cost for anti terror measures in York

Includes £300,000 project at York Racecourse

The Council’s Executive will be asked to approve permanent measures to better protect York’s busy city centre from hostile vehicle terror attacks when they meet on Thursday 13 February.

Executive Members will be asked to approve the installation of sliding and fixed bollards, which will replace the temporary measures that were introduced ahead of the 2019 festive period. The previous measures were introduced following police and counter terrorism advice to combat the threat of ‘vehicle as weapon attacks’, like those seen in Toronto, London and Nice. 

Executive previously gave approval for officers to start the procurement process for the permanent measures when they met in August 2019. The permanent measures will see vehicle access restricted to the city centre during footstreet hours by using a sliding bollard system. The measures will restrict access to Parliament Street, St Sampson’s Square, High Ousegate and Spurriergate, Coney Street, Davygate, St Sampson’s Square and Church Street during footstreet hours (10.30am -5pm).

To ensure there is still an appropriate level of blue badge parking in the city centre, it is also proposed that the loading bay and taxi rank on Piccadilly will be changed to blue badge parking. The change to the Traffic Regulation Order will be considered by the Executive Member for Transport at a decision session on 20 February.

The bollards will cost over £100,000 a year to maintain.

Councillor Andy D’Agorne, deputy leader and executive member for transport, said:

“However small the risk of terror attacks may be, the safety of everyone in York is our highest priority. That is why we have acted upon police and counter-terrorism unit advice to ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect residents and visitors in the city centre.”

“We are aware that permanent measures need to strike the correct balance between providing an appropriate level of security, whilst respecting York’s heritage and access for people with disabilities, which is why these measures include new provision for Blue Badge parking.”

Members will be asked to:

  • Approve the final location of the static and sliding bollards
  • Note the requirement for additional capital funding
  • Note the ongoing staffing and maintenance cost
  • Approve the procurement process for engaging with businesses to supply, install and maintain the bollards
  • Instruct officers to work with Make It York on the planning for security measures for Christmas 2020

Driver-less shuttles for York city centre?

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority has submitted an ambitious final bid to the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund.

The core bid is for £406 million and includes some investment in York.

Some sections of the local media are getting very excited today about a plan to run a “driverless” shuttle service in York City centre. The aim would be to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

According to papers published by the Leeds based Authority, the service would initially be based at the Piccadilly car park although additional “hubs” might later be opened at the Marygate and the University.

There is likely to be some scepticism about the safety of operating driver-less vehicles in busy pedestrianised areas.

Other features, of what the Leeds planners call a FMZ mobility hub, include improved inter model arrangements (pedestrian/cycle), fast charging facilities for electric taxis and delivery lockers. Dozens of sites across the region have been identified for similar “hub” treatments.

Much of the bid money would be spent on improving railway stations including York.

It is claimed that a successful bid would  “enable direct sustainable access to major development sites, including White Rose Business Park, Olympia Park and York Central” and includes a contribution towards improvements to the A1237 York northern bypass.

There will be issues with some of the terminology used in the West Yorkshire centric document.

York is dismissed as being amongst the 20% of wealthy areas in the country with the region failing – like the York Council itself – to recognise that pockets of deprivation exist in parts of the City.  No investment for these neighbourhoods is identified in the bid.

The process serves to emphasise just how remote governance has become in Yorkshire. An unelected regional body determines expenditure priorities for millions of people with little consultation (and minimal communication).

Council taxpayers will be expected to pick up part of the bill for many of these changes yet their involvement in the process seems, at best, to be an afterthought.

Fly posters beginning to irritate residents

With the York Council having made some recent progress in getting to grips with the problem of graffiti in parts of the City, it is disappointing to see an upsurge in fly posting.

Fly posters have always been a problem with fairs, circuses and music venues among the main culprits.

But now the City centre is being covered in stickers.

These are mainly from fringe political groups. Ironically one of the main offenders is a climate change group who seem to be blissfully unaware of the environmental costs of removing the stickers

Given the move towards digital communications , there really is no justification for despoiling the City’s historic core in this way in the 21st century.

The Council, police and amenity societies need to take a stand against this trend.