Still work to do at Poppleton Bar

Weeds2 Park adn Ride site

The York Council issued a statement on Friday claiming that work at the Poppleton Bar Park and Ride site had finally been finished – 5 months behind schedule.

But as our photos reveal, this is far from the truth with both landscaping and white lining work still outstanding. The site compound is also still in place.

Sadly the City has become all too familiar with weed growth in gutters, public spaces and even bridges around the City over the last 6 months.

However claiming a site is finished while it is still covered in 3 foot high weeds is surely a bit too disingenuous for even the Councils Labour Leadership.

It is after all the first point of call for some tourists and their impression of the City is likely to be coloured by their early experiences.

Low flying cyclists?

Low flying cyclists?

More seriously, from a safety perspective, is the Councils decision to encourage shared cycle/pedestrian use of the path from the A1237 underpass to the Park and Ride site.

unsegregated cycle/pedestrian path

unsegregated cycle/pedestrian path

Apart from one sign – which we suspect most pedestrians will not recognise – there is no reminder of the need to take extra care because of possible conflicts.

At the very least there needs to be repeater signs and warnings painted on the surface of the path.

At the moment, there not even a white line separation.

Organisations represented partially sighted people have been very critical about this kind of arrangement in the past.

No doubt they will be knocking on Cllr Levene’s door before very long!

 

Extent of repair backlog in York revealedKWW junction Windsor Garth 1

At least 55 streets in York have gulleys which are permanently blocked. The blockages mean that heavy rain is likely to result in extensive ponding and in some cases flooding.

The Council has responded to a Freedom of information request and revealed the list of streets which will be “dug out” this year. (see below)

The Council claims only to have 6 outstanding complaints about long term blocked drains.

However it has received 459 complaints about blocked drains during the last 18 months taking an average of 5.5 days to have the gulleys emptied.

The Council has been criticised for stopping the routine cleaning of most gulleys in the City. Instead they now respond only to complaints.

Heavy rain last month resulted in considerable flooding on highways and footpaths cross the City. It seems that many of the problem areas may not have yet been added to the Councils list of outstanding work.

The list of locations receiving significant engineering attention this year include:

  1. Ten Thorn Lane
  2. Back Lane
  3. Shipton Road (inside outer Ring Road)
  4. A1237
  5. School Lane
  6. Wetherby Road
  7. Field Lane
  8. Windsor Drive
  9. Hull Road
  10. York Road
  11. Bishopthorpe Road
  12. Wigginton Road
  13. Top Lane
  14. A1237 (Millfield roundabout)
  15. Wetherby Road
  16. Main Street
  17. Weldrake Lane
  18. Karelia and Ashdale Crossing
  19. Long Lane, Heslington
  20. Vicarage Lane
  21. Cow Moor Bridge
  22. The Village, Stockton on Forest
  23. The Village, Strensall
  24. Cleveland Way
  25. Bad Bargain Lane
  26. Moor Lane
  27. Lords Moor Lane
  28. Naburn Lane
  29. Elvington Lane
  30. Grantham Drive
  31. Welland Rise
  32. Beckfield Lane
  33. A1237, Rawcliffe
  34. Hurricane Way
  35. Sitwell Grove
  36. Huntington Road
  37. Front Street
  38. Bishopthorpe Road
  39. Haxby Road
  40. Gray Street
  41. Dauby Lane
  42. School Lane
  43. Malton Road
  44. Shipton Road
  45. Sheriff Hutton Road
  46. Strensall Road
  47. Mill Lane
  48. Corner Close

Signposting in York

Signpost in YorkAn award-winning consultancy which has worked on a number of nationally acclaimed projects for Derby, Oxford and Cambridge has been appointed to undertake a six-week consultation on behalf of City of York Council, into the future-look of York’s signposts, and in particular how this can benefit people with disabilities or dementia.

 

Only 3382 new Minster Badges sold.

Less than 10% of current users have been prepared to pay £20 for Labours new style parking discount badge

Minster Badge

The new badge is mandatory from Monday when the old blue free stickers – issued by the former LibDem run Council – will no longer be recognised by parking wardens.

Many traders fear that the message has not got through to shoppers and that some may be alienated if they receive a parking fine.

Another Lendal Bridge fiasco may be in the making. The quality of the warning signage about the change in the car parks on Monday is likely to come under intense scrutiny by residents.

Of over 30,000 current Minster Badge holders in York, only 3382 have so far bought a new Minster Badge. The badge was an initiative by Labour to try to bridge a £200,000 shortfall on parking income.

But it looks like it will make things worse, rather than better. Take up has been well below expectations and if motorists choose out of City centre retail parks in which to do their shopping, then the car parking account will be hit even harder..

Without the new badge, York residents will have to pay the same parking rates as visitors – meaning a hefty increase

Under the LibDems, in 2011 residents paid £1.10 per hour to park at most City centre car parks (those designated as “standard stay”). Residents will now see that increase by a staggering 82% to £2.00.

Even worse may be the effect on the City centre evening economy where the “free after 6:00pm” parking concession will also be lost.

Earlier in the year, a large petition was collected by residents who wanted to see things left as they were.

With the next Council elections only 8 months away, it is likely that the Liberal Democrats will become the first party to pledge to reintroduce the free Minster badge for residents.

In addition any regular visitor to the City should be able to buy one of the new style badges – in recognition of the money that they inject into the City centre economy and the jobs that it supports.

Local Liberal Democrats have welcomed the news that in total 5,819 children in York will benefit from the introduction of universal Free School Meals when term begins next week.

All reception, year 1 and year 2 pupils will now get their meals paid for under the scheme, which was first announced by the Liberal Democrats in 2013.

Although some children previously qualified for school meals, some do not take them due to the stigma, and others who don’t qualify struggle to afford them.

Research and pilot schemes in places such as Durham and Wolverhampton show that introducing universal free school meals leads to positive improvements in health, attainment and social cohesion, as well as helping families with the cost of living.

Read more »

The meeting to discuss possible changes to Labours highly controversial Local Plan proposals will take place on Thursday 18th September at 5.30pm at West Offices.

Ann Reid at one of the Green Belt sites that Labour want to build on

Ann Reid at one of the Green Belt sites that Labour want to build on

This will be the first opportunity that residents will have to personally confront the Labour Councillors who are responsible for the plan which could see 22,000 additional homes built in the City – mostly on land currently defined as “Green Belt”

The Labour plan would see the city increase in size by 25% over the next 15 years with potentially dramatic effects on transport, health, education and other public services in the City.

The papers for the meeting will be published on 10th September on the Councils web site.

Any approved changes – and there will have to be some as new brownfield sites for over 1600 homes have been identified since the draft plan was published in April 2013 – will apparently be reported to a “Cabinet” meeting on 25th September.

Given that there were over 15,000 objections to the Councils plan, giving residents only 8 days to read and analyse the official response is insulting to residents.

Amongst the original plans were proposals to build on land opposite Woodthorpe/Acomb Park on Moor Lane.

Green Belt campaign logo

Proposals to build a “Showman’s Yard” on land between Wetherby Road and Knapton were subsequently withdrawn by the land owners, although the Councils enthusiasm for the scheme means that the Green Belt designation of the site is still under threat.

Labour are hoping to rush their plans through before they lose power in next years local Council elections. However a protracted Public Inquiry (Examination in Public) now seems inevitable.

Residents who wish to speak at either of the meetings (18th and/or 25th) must register to do so at least a day before the meeting.

New Newbury development site layout, Click for large maps

New Newbury development site layout, Click for large maps

A new layout plan for the controversial 9 flat development on the garage area off Newbury Avenue has been published.

It is unlikely that many residents will have seen the plan as objectors have not been alerted to the changes.

The new layout increases the number of parking spaces to be provided to 16 with an additional 5 to be located on vacant land at the Newbury Drive/Windsor Garth junction.

This is the junction which is subject to ponding after heavy rain.

Unfortunately at the same time the Council has said that it won’t be acting quickly to deal with the lack of proper parking opposite Carlton House. Vehicles parking on the bend have caused the bus to mount the footpath on several occasions. It had been hoped that individual driveways for the house would have been provided across the green area with more parking for residents being constructed to the rear of the flats.

Poor drainage already a problem in Windsor Garth

Poor drainage already a problem in Windsor Garth

There is no news on where the occupants of the garages will park in future. It had been suggested that the Council should provide dropped kerbs/verge crossovers where the 24 garage occupants wanted to construct an alternative parking space in their gardens. This idea has not yet been taken forward.

The background papers for the development can be accessed by clicking here

The 3 storey buildings will prove eight 2 bedroomed flats and one single bedroomed unit. Access to each will be by an external walkway.

There are some big questions on drainage arrangements which are yet to be satisfactorily answered.

A report from the Councils protection unit concluded “Therefore, there is a plausible possibility that residual contaminants may be present onsite”. This arises from its former use as a waste disposal site in the 1950’s.

In a later objection the Unit expresses concern about methane gas levels in the area and says,

The soil sampling results identified elevated levels of lead, PAHs, arsenic and vanadium. Remedial work is therefore required, in order to ensure that the site is safe and suitable for its proposed use, and a remediation scheme must be submitted for our approval in due course”.

The ground conditions mean that piling will be required in the construction process.

It is expected that the application will be determined at a meeting which is scheduled to take place on 8th October.

City centre footfall up 60% compared to last August

increase-footfall-retail

The York Council delayed responding to a Freedom of information request until just 5 minutes after a key Lendal Bridge decision was taken yesterday.

After the meeting had concluded it emerged that the effect of the closure on City Centre businesses last year had been more substantial than had previously been revealed.

The Lendal Bridge restrictions were in place from 27th August 2013 to 1st April 2014.

Camera enforcement on Coppergate started on 15th August 2013

During the earlier part of the restriction period footfall – measured by a camera in Parliament Street – showed a significant decline peaking at -12% during September.

The situation improved only during March when a 14% increase was recorded comparing 2014 with 2013.

However, since the camera enforcement was stopped on 1st April 2014, visitor numbers have soared.

    • April 2014 up 29% on previous year
    • May 2014 up 21%
    • June 2014 up 25%
    • July 2015 up 33%
  • Aug (to 25th) up 60%

These figures are far higher than might be accounted for solely by the economic recovery.

Fortunately they do seem to suggest that the City’s reputation has not been permanently damaged.

A failure by the Council to refund all fines which were imposed unlawfully could change that picture.

The failure to provide information in a timely way – and prevent some Councillors from seeing key legal advice on the Lendal Bridge issue – may lead to the York Council Leadership being reported to the Local Government Ombudsman

Labour reject calls to refund all Lendal Bridge finesLendal Bridge closure Nov 2013

Labour have rejected Liberal Democrat calls for all motorists fined for crossing Lendal Bridge to be automatically refunded.

In July, Labour run York Council confirmed that it would drop its appeal against a Government Traffic Adjudicator ruling which said the Lendal Bridge closure was unlawful and would repay the 50,000 plus motorists fined. However, the Labour Cabinet decided that only those who contact the council and apply will get their money back.

Liberal Democrat councillors Keith Aspden, Ian Cuthbertson and Ann Reid called-in the decision for review saying that all motorists who received fines should automatically be contacted and then repaid, using the revenue from the fines currently ring-fenced in council reserves. The Lib Dems believe that the onus should not be on drivers to apply for their refund, especially as the majority of people who were caught out by the ban do not live in York.

However, tonight Labour used their majority on the cross-party Corporate and Scrutiny Management Committee to vote down the Liberal Democrat proposals and back the original decision by 5 votes to 4.

Cllr Burton (Westfield Ward) who led the fight to stop an enquiry into the unlawful fines again toed the party line and voted not to tell motorists about the availability of refunds!

NB Important information that was apparently kept from the committee will be published here tomorrow
Read more »

Future of Waterworld and Yearsley pools under threat

08-27-2014-08-48-27-555

Labour are circulating a glossy brochure ahead of the publication of a report on the future of leisure provision in the City. Private briefings to staff and media have raised serious issues about the future of swimming and other facilities in the City.

The project will now cost £37 million in total with Greenwich Leisure (who have operated Waterworld for the last 3 years) taking on responsibility for all major sporting and swimming facilities in the City.

Greenwich Leisure are a CIC although the level of local York engagement – if any – in their management decisions and structure has yet to be announced.

Community Stadium

The project will cost taxpayers £8 million more than originally budgeted. It had been expected that a 6000 seater stadium and replacement athletics track could be built for the £12 million contribution from the John Lewis development. The Council would have contributed only the value of the Huntington Stadium site (conservatively assessed as £4.1 million). The Football Foundation would have put in the £2 million that it had loaned against the value of a redeveloped Bootham Crescent.

Later Labour said that they would spend the £4 million contingency included in the Councils budget for the project. This had been included as a potential loan which would be repaid from stadium income.

Now Labour are stating that they will borrow an additional £4 million bringing the taxpayers contribution up to £8 million in total, with the stadium capacity increased to 8000 (it costs roughly £1 million for every additional bank of 1000 seats).

It is highly unlikely that such an additional burden could be passed on to the Football and Rugby clubs with details of their rental agreements not having yet been revealed.

At a time when the campaign forsafe standing” – backed by the Liberal Democrats is gaining momentum – local fans will be bemused that the design does not appear to provide for rail seats (although this modification could still be made)

Council taxpayers will be responsible for the debt repayment charges on the amount borrowed which will be around £600,000 a year. It is far from clear where this money will come from although some additional “commercial elements” have been designed into the scheme.

Given the controversy about out of city centre shopping, this raises doubts about how long the planning process might take and with it the ability of any contractor to meet a July 2016 opening date.

Waterworld

Waterworld and its associated gym will close in December.

A new pool and gym will be designed into the stadium. However it will be more conventional than Waterworld with only a small “fun” pool included.

Waterworld is only 20 years old and with that kind of life one wonders how durable such facilities now are? (The Barbican pool lasted for 40 years, Yearsley is over 100 years old)

Since the opening of the Sports Village on Hull Road, the Council has met national standards for the provision of swimming pools. There is insufficient demand to pay for an additional swimming pool (which is why Labour quietly dropped their plans for a city centre pool).

Yearsley Pool

Under Labours plans, the opening of the new pool at Huntington will mean the end of the Council subsidy (around £250k pa) for the Yearsley pool. The unique 50 yard pool has fought off two previous attempts by Labour to close it although ironically in early 2011 – following a £1 million refit undertaken by the then LibDem controlled Council – Labour invented a bogus “closure” rumour and campaigned against something that was not going to happen. A new boiler was fitted at the pool meaning that the steam heat supply from the Nestle site could not attract disproportionately high charges.

Yearsley Pool

Yearsley Pool

Labour have now performed a 180 degree policy about turn.

The only chance for the pool would be for users to acquire the site and run it independently as a community asset. However it is highly unlikely that that increased admission charges could make up the financial deficit – more so as it would have to complete with three other modern pools in the City not to mention those at several independent sports clubs, hotels and schools.

Its only hope would be for Nestle to relent and allow a profitable gym to be added although this might involve them losing some car parking space.

Energise

The management of Energise – the sports facility on Cornlands Road – seems less threatened by the take over plans.

The centre is very popular and no doubt Greenwich Leisure will want to keep it that way. However standardisation of charges and facilities, together with focusing some types of provision at just one site, may prove to be a challenge in the future.

No guarantees are being offered on admission charges although heavy competition from the private sector may help to keep them down.

What next?

The Stadium project is running over two years behind timetable. The publication of a report, for decision by the Councils Cabinet on 9th September, is belated but welcome.

Residents will be looking very carefully at the business plan for the new facility as the Council – which will remain the freeholder – does not want to risk having to step in to recover a failing project a few years down the line (as happened in Huddersfield a few years ago).

The changes to the retail component of the project do raise planning issues that may take some time to resolve, jeopardising the construction start date..

Whether a July 2016 opening date is realistic remains to be seen.

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