Can you help us make the difference in Guildhall ward?
Being an elected councillor for Guildhall ward is a huge privilege and opportunity to get involved in all kinds of interesting stuff.
The ward includes most of the city centre – all of it east of the Ouse – as well as a variety of very mixed communities – rich, poor and in between – that stretch from St Nick’s nature reserve and the terraced streets partway down one side of Lawrence Street across to the riverside near Clifford’s Tower; through the city centre and Museum Gardens to the Marygate area and across to the railway line, then up Haxby, Wiggington and Huntington roads as far as the Nestle chocolate factory and the Foss Island cycle path – and back via James Street and Layerthorpe to Lawrence Street.
Many of the issues that are seen as council wide/city wide issues play out in Guildhall ward. Flooding has a big effect on parts of the ward with riverside communities along the Ouse (through the city centre) frequently in need of extra flood defences and even evacuation plans and residents along Huntington Road next to the Foss (flooded out in 2015 when the Foss barrier failed) and who will still be affected by intense rainfall events until the upstream storage at Strensall (now approved) is actually built.
Housing, planning and all that ….
The ward includes many major development projects and construction sites from the Castle Gateway Project which will transform the current car park around Clifford’s Tower and the Eye of York into a new public park, to the new managed workspace in the Guildhall complex (complete with water source heat pump); the large Hungate development off Stonebow; the Gasworks development with ‘build to rent’ properties on the corner of Layerthorpe and James Street; the Cocoa Works development on the old Rowntrees Factory site off Haxby Road (now being developed by Clarion – the biggest Housing Association in the country) – to many other new student residences or housing developments around the ward. An exciting development for me is the forthcoming community engagement on building out the former Willow House older people’s home site on Walmgate. As a result of the pressure I have put on through my portfolio the plan is for it to be a new council led housing development with a wider regeneration remit – part of our Passivhaus and zero carbon Housing Delivery Programme. The previous plan was to sell the site off to the highest bidder, losing potential new housing and green space.
The Walmgate area includes one of the two biggest residents’ associations in the ward. It covers a council estate with considerable social deprivation and high numbers of very vulnerable people – a situation exacerbated by austerity, high house prices, the low wage economy in York’s tourism and hospitality sector and the increase in the number of people with mental health issues and complex needs on the housing waiting list. Substance abuse and drug dealing is an issue in the area, though the area also has loads of positives – the historic city walls, lots of students, mixed shops and cafes on Walmgate and a residents/community association that takes in the very mixed wider community.
The other main residents association is to the north of the centre in the Groves – now famous for its slightly controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhood (!) and the subject of a Government funded Community Plan that covers improved housing, green space, local shops and community resilience, but still needs implementing (the traffic scheme is an integral part of the plan and came out of resident engagement). The residents’ or Community Association again covers both the council estate with significant deprivation and the Victorian Terraces to the north (including professionals and key workers) and close to the hospital. It works to promote community activity, a green environment, community growing and much more.
Beyond the Groves between Wiggington, Haxby and Huntington roads more Victorian housing – some of it posh, some of it less so – historically housing for the hundreds of workers at the Rowntrees factory; also two allotment sites and Greenfields Community Garden – shared by local residents and Haxby Road Primary School. The other two schools in the ward are both in the Groves – Park Grove and St Wilfirid’s. Clarence Gardens is the local park in this area where we still struggle (for some reason not clear) to set up a ‘Friends of the Park’ group.
Heading back towards the city centre we have York St John University (building a new theatre and music/arts centre and always seeking to get involved in the community), opposite the Union Terrace Homeless Hostel and behind it Bootham Park – the former now closed pioneering mental health hospital with its huge site off Bootham – owned by the NHS (until recently?) and a site for potential development – good or not so good. Groves residents remember annual fairs with hot air balloons on the big green space. Then there’s Gillygate – one of the most interesting and most polluted streets in York – a very tricky one to crack as it is part of the inner ring road! – yet more than 60 residents live on Gillygate plus more on the roads off. This is just waiting for someone to lead an energetic grassroots campaign, galvanising residents and traders!
The city centre
The city centre itself has all kinds of issues of course – and also quite a lot of residents. We have the current decisions to be made around extension of the footstreets and the consultation coming up on making those permanent. There is also the York Minster Neighbourhood Plan – the only one of its kind in the country – ward councillors are members of the committee – the Minister plans to future proof itself focussing more on attracting domestic visitors and generally maximising income – plans include a new library and educational centre that could offer disabled access to the city walls, a new visitor centre, possibly solar panels on the roof and transforming Duncombe Place.
City centre residents also live in the Aldwark and St Andrewgate area – they tend to be relatively well off but also pretty green-minded and committed to a ‘car-free’ walkable city centre. Their area was in its day at the forefront of urban planning following the ‘seminal’ Esher Report on city centre housing. Some of them are currently keen on EV charging and improving the electricity grid in their area.
There are also concerns about the Shambles Market and how to support it to be as good a local market as possible; tricky questions around the further pedestrianisation of Fossgate and the debate about the future of the city centre itself – how will it change and adapt in the face of internet shopping, Covid, recession and changing shopping and tourism patterns? Hen parties or a centre for community building and mixed uses?
Greens in Power
Well – that’s just a flavour of some of the issues in Guildhall ward – plenty to get to grips with – but fascinating and endlessly interesting.
I do believe it is crucially important that we get as many Greens as possible into positions of power and influence. Whilst climate change and environmental degradation have in some ways leapt up the political agenda and there is far more potential to push forward with the right policies, it is still at times an uphill struggle. We need as many Greens in the room as possible to keep pushing on the door and pushing policy making in the right direction. Being a local councillor is a fantastic way to achieve this whether we are in opposition or whether, as now, we get the opportunity to be part of the ‘machine’! I won’t pretend it isn’t sometimes hard going but the more councillors we have, the easier it is for all of us to be effective.
Amazing things to be done in Guildhall ward!
I am hoping to stand again for Guildhall ward. As I hope comes over above it is one of the most interesting ward to represent – though I am biased! I now have a lot of experience of representing the ward and its issues and a lot of contacts with residents and community groups. In 2019 I was re-elected top of the poll, nearly 300 votes ahead of the second placed Labour candidate. But I really need energetic target candidates to work alongside me at the ward level in order to get re-elected in 2023 – and hopefully to elect three Greens.
After the exciting times we have been having implementing the Groves Low Traffic Neighbourhood – and the ‘slings and arrows’ of being part of the council Executive, we can make no assumptions about what will happen in 2023. We will have to campaign very hard and it is really crucial at this stage that we can get some target candidates in place and start raising your profile. At present I have to put a lot of energy into trying to come to agreements with my two fellow Labour councillors at the ward level, for example, for spending our ward budgets. Progress in Guildhall ward after 2023 would be so much easier with 3 Green councillors working together – we could do amazing things! So, if you are hesitating about coming forwards please don’t – if you want the Green Party to succeed we need your participation!”
You can also find more information on the ward in the Council’s profile of the ward