There is a real opportunity for the right person to represent Fishergate ward for the Green Party and make a difference for the ward and the city.
This is the ward most associated with the Green Party in York – it’s the ward where Mark Hill and Andy Chase campaigned for a decade on local issues to build up our vote to the point where in 2003 we got our first Green councillors in the city (Mark and myself) with a massive swing from Labour 3 months after the Iraq war. Since then, as leader of the ‘Green group’ on the council and now as one of two Greens on the council Executive I give it a high profile, and my transport portfolio is one where the policy in the city is now associated with our party views – everything from dualling the ring road to a car free city centre, bus services, parking charges etc
So in 2023 it is one where we will face a tough challenge from Labour in 2023, keen to push their message that ‘only a Labour majority council will deliver on climate change and meet the recovery needed for the city.’ I do hope to run again to represent the ward but with Dave Taylor standing down there will be a tough fight at least for the second seat if not both with Labour pitching to regain control.
So what is the ward like?
The ward has a good mix of house types, the second highest percentage of students but also a good proportion of environmentally aware middle class and ex student types, a relatively small amount of council housing (Kexby Ave and Horseman Ave, Festival Flats), and a fair amount of mid 20th century semis in the south of the ward. It stretches from the city walls at Fishergate Bar and Lawrence St / Green Dykes Lane down to St Oswalds Rd and Heslington Lane on the border with Fulford and from the River Ouse across the Walmgate Stray, with Fulford Rd as a connecting spine. Lawrence St now has several large private student blocks but also private flats (St Nicholas Gardens). Students also concentrate in areas off Heslington Rd and the terraced Victorian streets running down to the river from Fulford Rd. Pressure on parking and from commuter or university related parking is an issue across the ward. Cycling and walking tend to be concentrated on riverside routes and the Millennium Bridge – Walmgate Stray – University routes.
Local groups and schools
We don’t have a secondary school (other than Danesgate Centre and the Steiner School up to age 14) but we do have 3 state primaries: St Lawrence’s, Fishergate and St George’s, plus pre- school at St Lawrence’s, Funfishers and the Steiner School. The Danesgate Centre provides specialist education for excluded/ challenged behaviour issues for the whole city. The Steiner school has a wide catchment across the region but also locally providing an alternative education (with a significant proportion of parents being Green supporters!)
Over the years a number of volunteer groups have got established and make use of ward funds to enhance the area. There isn’t really a focal point for the ward other than the Broadway shops, Aldi/Iceland and Sainsburys opposite the Barracks/ Police Station and the Fishergate shops opposite St George’s School. For many it is access to the river and New Walk that makes it a nice place to live and the Friends of New Walk has existed for about 20 years. Other local groups include BANF (who help to do clean up work in Fenby Field, open space off Danum Road) and Friends of Danesmead Wood which does similar things in the woods near to Millennium Bridge. The wildflower area near Millennium Bridge has been created and tree planting carried out on the Ings but we don’t currently have a core group to look after this. Danesmead Meadow on the Danesmead has an orchard of local varieties of apples and is cared for by residents.
There are a small number of properties that flood or come close to flooding regularly, but these are currently getting resilience measures installed to help with this issue. Other areas have residents who have held regular community events or look after shared open space in their neighbourhood – Fulford Cross, Alma Grove (communal allotment!) Redfearn Group greening of back alley project (off Heslington Rd) Fulford Church has a community café normally three mornings a week and is active in supporting the elderly in the area. The ward has a shortage of formal playgrounds – only Cemetery Rd is fully equipped although there are goal posts and open space on Millennium Field, Fenby Field and in the Army housing areas just into Fulford ward. York Cemetery is another fantastic area for wildlife and tranquil space and we have two allotment sites plus the riverside and stray areas for nearby countryside walks.
In terms of big issues for the future there’s still pressure for more student accommodation, with a new block for 300 students being built on the site of Frederick House (next to the police station). Long term the Army have announced plans to sell off the Barracks site for housing after 2033, with up to 500 houses envisaged on the site. The council has plans for replacing the existing temporary homeless facility at Ordinance Lane with new small area of passivehaus housing and a low car design. This could be an opportunity for us to get a high quality segregated cycle lane to link between the riverside and the path through the Barracks rather than the current poor link through an industrial estate. We do still have a couple of vacant sites – a former garage site and the site next to the Barbican, both well suited for housing but not being progressed at present by the owners. We also have issues about poor maintenance of private frontages and especially shops such as the Fishergate shops, with potential loss of these to housing uses following the pandemic. Recent national planning changes could see more applications to raise the height of any post war dwellings with implications for parking, traffic, disturbance, waste etc.
In recent years we have run a ‘Bloom competition’ to try to promote pride in front gardens and even windowboxes or hanging baskets in terraced streets. We have also had a successful summer fair on the area near to the Millennium Bridge, which could be revived in due course.
It’s probably fair to say that we now have a good reputation for supporting residents getting involved in their local neighbourhood and responding to casework. This brings support from residents who will vote Labour and those who vote Conservative at General Elections, with both preferring a Green council rep rather than ‘letting in’ a Labour or Conservative one!
Working out our core message for these votes is always a bit challenging. In recent years we have done ’60 second surveys’ and petitions or canvassing on a regular basis to pick up on local issues and ensure they are reflected in the stories that go into our Fishergate Greenlights. We have a Fishergate Greens Facebook page that could carry more stories and promote engagement more. Andy D’Agorne
It is also worth looking at council ward profile