The need to improve the York Central planning application

Tom Franklin’s address to the planning committee on why the current proposal for the access road for York Central is inadequate. Despite reservations on this the Planning Committee approved the applications.

Thank you for allowing me to speak. I am speaking as chair or York Green Party.

York Central is a great opportunity for York to demonstrate to the City, the region and the world what an outstanding 21st Century development could be like instead of the current mid 20th Century proposal. Putting people and sustainability at its very core.

Unfortunately, that is not what this proposal offers. This proposal puts cars rather than people at the centre of the development. Let me explain.

This development is close to the city centre, hard by the station and close to the major bus interchange. It could therefore be built with pedestrians and cyclists at the core. Instead, it is a massive missed opportunity. What we see is a through route that is expected to bring even more traffic into the city centre, with a significant increase in traffic on Leeman Road. This will bring more traffic into a supposedly pedestrian area in front of the museum, changing the whole nature of area from a quiet unpolluted pleasant place to one dominated by traffic, traffic noise and pollution.

Last year the Council passed to policies that have direct implications for this development. First, they declared a climate emergency and that York should be carbon neutral by 2030, second, that the city centre should be car free except for essential journeys by 2023.

Building a through route for cars that will bring more traffic into the centre is clearly against this, and the developers should withdraw the current proposal and re-think.

However, I don’t expect them to do that, so turning to the details of the current plan we welcome the changes to Marble Arch and the complete modal separation of pedestrians  and the creation of a two lane cycleway through the tunnel. But, whilst cars are allowed to use the route as a rat run avoiding the A19 or A59 it will mean that there will be a very large number of through journeys that will make York Central just one more car based development.

Further, where there is limited space for the roadway the carriageway has been prioritised over the cycle path; despite the Local Transport Plan’s traffic hierarchy which puts pedestrians and cyclists at the top, so this contravenes council policy

The plan devotes even more space to cars, with additional car storage on Park Street and Foundry Way. If you build these then people will come, and there will be more traffic. Further, the single way working on Leeman tunnel will lead to traffic queues, and then there will be pressure to eliminate the cycle route to allow to way working on Leeman Road. We have seen huge push backs for even minor changes to improve things for walkers and cyclists, whether on Lendal Bridge, Bishopthorpe Road or Fishergate. We will see the same here.

So, instead you should take the lead now and make Marble Arch should a bus only route. Yes, this will inconvenience some people and we have to understand and appreciate that. But, Councillors, if, when you voted to declare a climate emergency (and all four political parties voted for it) and to close the city centre to non-essential motor traffic you really meant it then you are going to have to make some hard, and possibly unpopular in the short term decisions.

It is easy to pass resolutions, but it is essential that you then follow these through in your actions. This is one of the first tests for demonstrating that you take the climate emergency seriously and will implement the non-essential traffic in the city centre. So, you should reject the current proposal until such time as it genuinely prioritises cycling and walking and creates a 21st Century public realm.

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