Greens say city needs to get on with Local Plan - but it could still fall down for lack of a proper public transport strategy

24 November 2017

York Council’s Green Group says that recent Government concerns about the delays to York’s Local Plan (Press 17th Nov) reinforce its own submission to the Local Plan consultation process. The Green Party submission (see blog pages here or PDF) says that that it is ‘crucial’ that York agrees a Plan as soon as possible to protect it from uncontrolled development and to ‘guide the city towards an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable future.’

Green Group leader, Cllr Andy D’Agorne says

‘We have to get past continued political squabbling over projected housing numbers. It is important that we establish a set of strong local policies to guide how the city develops and that we focus on prioritising the affordable housing that York residents need. There is little evidence that pushing the overall house building target even higher will do anything to actually deliver more affordable housing to rent or to buy – action should focus on delivering affordable housing through as many means as possible, including greater flexibility for direct council investment in social housing, self- build schemes, developer contributions and schemes to help buyers and renters. We still believe the current Local Plan proposals are pushing at and beyond the boundaries of what the city can sustain, particularly in terms of the impact on traffic, air quality, biodiversity and other infrastructure such as drainage – and that the lack of a serious plan for investing in environmentally sustainable public transport infrastructure such as light rail could easily render the plan unsound. Our submission argues that any new settlements and urban extensions in the plan must be designed around modern public transport, walking and cycling rather than the private car. The £34 million currently allocated for work on the northern ring road would go a long way towards designing and implementing a public transport network fit for the 21st century. We have argued that some adjustments could be made to the current allocations to make the plan more sustainable. The new Elvington settlement could be increased in population size with a mix of densities (perhaps up to the 5000 dwellings originally planned for the nearby ‘Whinthorpe’site) in order to support viable public transport (such as a tram or monorail city link via the University of York) and other infrastructure such as schools and health facilities. Other proposed housing sites which officers clearly identify as having very serious negative impacts on traffic levels and biodiversity, such as land west of Wigginton Road and east of Metcalfe Lane, could then be removed or reduced in size.’

Cllr D’Agorne added ‘We also believe that despite being the cause of the whole plan process being delayed by another year, the viability of the two Army sites as housing allocations are also in question. Officers clearly have serious concerns about the impact of housing at Strensall on the biodiversity of the nearby Strensall Common, whilst drainage, biodiversity, heritage and traffic impacts of housing on Imphal Barracks are clearly all a major concern in the current draft plan.’

The Party proposes that the Imphal Barracks site should be mixed use (as at present if with different occupants), retaining some employment, the historic buildings and mature trees. They would also like to see transport solutions to cater for any new development as well as residents of Germany Beck, possibly linked to a tram network from Elvington to the University and city centre. The Green Party submission identifies other key points including:

• The need for a specific policy to protect green open spaces and pocket parks in the city centre and urban areas;

• The need for an ambition to create a largely car free city centre and to give more attention to the needs of city centre residents as well as traders and visitors;

• Support for the current draft which includes requirements to protect the balance of retail and non-retail in the city centre, which Greens have argued for strongly in previous submissions;

• The need to include in the plan requirements for high standards of sustainable building and zero carbon development, along with the right infrastructure for renewable energy provision, particularly on large sites such as York Central;

• Support for the development of policies on the Castle Gateway, pointing out the opportunities offered by the removal of the Castle car park to create a largely car free part of the city and arguing for any building on the west bank of the Foss to be small scale and allow free public access through to the riverside.

• The potential for a tram/train/light rail link through the British Sugar site should be an immediate strategic transport priority.

In sum, The York Central site should feature a central green spine providing open-space, biodiversity, recreation and a sustainable transport corridor and substantial areas of ‘car free’ or very low car development.

NOTES Cllr D’Agorne was the only member of the Local Plan Working Group at its meeting (Dec 5th 2016: http://democracy.york.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=43471 )to vote against delaying the Plan further to look at the potential role of York’s two army sites in future housing provision.