York Central Outline Planning Application

Thank you so much for your interest and contributions to the My York Central events. We are writing to let you know about the York Central Outline Planning Application.

From 29th August, the York Central planning application and supporting documents will be live on the council’s Planning Access website. Reference number: 18/01884/OUTM

This formal period of consultation is a crucial part of the engagement process. The comments will be looked at by the council planning officer and used to develop a recommendation to the Planning Committee.

The key documents to look at include:

  • The Planning Statement (which sets out the thinking behind the proposals)
  • The Design Guide (which sets out the intentions for detailed design and would if approved be used as a basis to judge subsequent detailed “reserved matters” applications)
  • The Parameter Plans (which set out the spaces and volumes within which different detailed elements of the development must fit).

The other supporting documents are either illustrative – showing what it might all look like – or technical in nature – for example transport assessments and energy & sustainability statements.

The access road will be covered by a separate full application due to be submitted in September.

The period of consultation is 30 days from 29th August. You can make comments via the Planning Access website, by email or by post – details of how to do so are here.

Although the statutory 30 day period is fixed you can continue to submit comments up until the application is determined. However, after the 30 day period the council planning officer will discuss the application with the partnership in the light of comments received, so subsequent comments are less likely to influence these discussions.

If any substantial changes are made to the proposals then notice of a further period of consultation may be given – but only if these changes are considered sufficiently fundamental to require this.

Community-Led Housing

Notes from meeting 20th August 2018

The purpose of the community-led housing event was to build on the interest identified during the Festival of York Central. The question of how to make homes on York Central not just affordable but forever affordable was explored during an event during the Festival and this – plus the two boards of post it notes in the exhibition – informed the first of the My York Central big ideas. It is also worth noting that Homes England are interested in supporting community-led housing.

We invited James Newton of YorSpace and Jimm Reed from Leeds Community Homes to join us to inform the discussions with their experience and expertise.

We began by seeking to refine the brief for York Central – and to explore the links between housing and other aspects of the site.

A number of strands of discussion developed, including:-

  1. Basic questions and answers – what does community-led housing provide? (Something different, but also the basics like a place which feels secure?)
  2. What is affordability, and who exactly is community-led housing providing for? (Who gets to live there, and does this include middle-earners who still need housing help?)
  3. How is long-term affordability ensured, and buy-to-lets and holiday-lets avoided? (Which led to a broader discussion of control and governance) 

A number of questions led to discussion of the structure(s) that was required in order to provide what was wanted. For example:-

How to stop holiday lets and buy-to-lets?

This has been a recurrent question (from the start of the Festival of York Central) – we discussed a number of different models, but there seemed to be two basic approaches:-

  • Co-operative or co-ownership models which retain overall control through overall ownership (as used by Yorspace with their Mutual Home Ownership Society).
  • Covenents or other legal means to retain control when ownership is passed to others.

How to make sure people around the scheme are gaining from the scheme?

One of the ideas that came out of the Festival of York Central was of a social contract which provided benefits for residents outside York Central in return for any disruption or disbenefit which the development caused. How can Leeman Road Triangle share some of the benefits of the development – can two-way investment benefit both? How do you define the boundaries of the community? How wide should the “membership” be?

Could the whole of York Central be a Community Land Trust?

The role of a Community Land Trust (CLT) was explored. This provides for ownership of the land which means it can’t be disposed of without it being in the interests of the membership. Private housing could still be in there. Affordable housing could then be controlled as (for now at least) Community Land Trusts have exclusion from ‘right to buy’. The community land trust could be responsible for the green spaces – but would need income stream to do this.

This raises issues of service charges and stewardship.

It is very common to appoint a service company to do maintenance and receive service charges. It was noted that someone is going to be collecting service charges – could it be a community-led body where the money gets ploughed back into the community? This would then create long term stewardship. It was suggested that this could be on Garden City principles, so the community-led body might run commercial ventures so they have a revenue stream and that gets ploughed back in.

‘There is a difference between this and putting faith in a distant council by waiting for them to do something. In a community-led context, people can do it themselves’.

‘This is about York, taking back control’.

Community? Economy? Housing?

‘Community is about encouraging people – putting in encouragement for the things we call “community” to work?’

The discussion led on to making links between the previous event on community-led economic development and this conversation about community-led housing.

How can we develop the infrastructure that enables social and economic exchange to work (Phil has written a blog on this to bring this idea to life).

‘This goes beyond community-led housing and onto community-led living’

‘there is a strong consensus about some kind of Community Interest Company, that people on the site make the site’.

Next steps:

  • Link together the community-led economic development ideas and community-led housing ideas
  • Explore ways of setting up a clear vision
  • Build a bigger network of people who might be interested in this.

 

 

 

How viability will shape York Central

8th August 2018

Although the economics of large-scale developments are complex, the aim of the ‘How viability will shape York Central’ workshop was to explore the basic principles in as straightforward a way as possible. We have heard many times that York Central is “expensive”, but we want to explore how expensive, and what implications might this have? How much does it drive questions of density and building height, and does it restrict – or conversely encourage – opportunities to pursue innovative ideas within the development?

Tamsin Hart-Jones, York Central Partnership began by introducing the headline figures related to the overall viability of the site.  We were also joined by Andy Dainty, director of Urbo Regeneration, a developer of similar, challenging large-scale mixed-use projects. Andy has no commercial interest in York Central but has a background in regeneration/consultation and was simply invited to join us on the recommendation of David Rudlin to help open up an informed discussion.

Tamsin Hart-Jones, York Central Partnership

Tamsin began by noting that the numbers are illustrative. The numbers give an indication and viability is something which evolves over time and is a work in progress. (Andy later referred to this as “knowing something is capable of being viable, rather than that it *is* proven to be viable”).

Viability on York Central is thought about through a two-fold approach.

  • ‘Off-plot’ infrastructure (e.g. main access; new pedestrian and cycle connection) that will open up the site
  • ‘On-plot’ (build costs and values)

‘Off-plot’ infrastructure

Significant challenges:

  • Site bounded by railways
  • Existing use clearance
  • Remediation (hot spots that need to be treated)
  • Cross site earthworks (level changes in that area, e.g. the changes in level you can see when you come out of Marble Arch and look towards the NRM)

Estimated costs: c. £150m

Funded through public grant funding: Housing Infrastructure Fund (grant funding), Enterprise Zone Borrowing (CYC can borrow against the expected income from business rate retention), WYCA Transport + Funding (grant funding) (CYC has applied for that, by January aim is to have a number of funding approvals in place).

(The development appraisal doesn’t / can’t cover this type of off-plot infrastructure).

The infrastructure will be delivered by the York Central Partnership or the City of York Council. In the Council’s June 2018 Executive report, they had approval to go out for procurement. The Council will adopt the road so the Council delivering the access road might make sense. YorCivil2 Framework will probably be used to get contractors.

The off-plot infrastructure is about creating serviced plots.

Off-plot benchmarking

The numbers are developed by looking at other examples. You add value by spending money on key areas (e.g. coal drops and new square, and landscaping will need to be to a high standard).

‘On-plot’ Development Appraisal – cost assumptions

Build costs

  • Offices – £111-£160 per sq. ft
  • Homes – £139-£163 per sq. ft
  • Retail – £93 per sq. ft
  • 3% contingency

(note all being updated based on Quarter 2 2017 build costs)

Professional fees 12%

Developer profit at £17.5% for residential and 15% for commercial.

The aim of YCP is ‘to de-risk the site’ by carrying out ground investigations, achieving outline planning consent and putting in the off plot infrastructure so that all bids are based on same understanding of the site.

Section 106 (sets out how developers will contribute to the development e.g. affordable housing / community facilitates) with the YCP proposals including an assumption of 20% affordable housing. The council is looking at whether they can increase the amount of affordable housing on the site by doing more themselves.

Finance – interest rate of 5.5%

Purchasers costs at 6.8% ( stamp duty; agency and legal fees ) the costs for someone to buy the completed development as an investment.

Appointed Savilles as commercial advisors on the site, Turner & Townsend are giving cost advice.

On-plot – revenue assumptions

Offices £15-£23 per sq. ft (annual rental value)

Retail £15-£17.5 per sq. ft (ancillary retail e.g. local co-op/ independent store) (annual rental value)

Residential – £375-£400 per sq. ft (local comparable Chocolate Works and Hungate) (capital sale value)

Q: Why do costs escalate?

York Central has a funding envelope, only a certain amount of funding. You won’t know until you go out to market and receive tendered prices back. We have to make assumptions around it. There is a risk contingency. The figures can change but need to work within the funding envelope. There will be choices to make.

Q: The examples of Chocolate Works and Hungate are exactly what we don’t want

These are just comparables, they are market evidence in terms of what is happening in York and then we will go out to the market, examples of what could be delivered on this site. Whatever we choose to do at below market value, this tells us where the market values are.

Q: How are you going to make 20% actually affordable? The danger is that rent on The Chocolate Works for a 2 bedroom apartment is £1200 per month plus service charge and so 80% of that is still very expensive.

CYC and YCP looking at social rent through to discount for sale, a wide range of tenure.

Q: There is a difference between government jargon and how people in York see and experience affordability

That will be agreed through the Section 106 through the planning process. That is not something that will be down to the developers.

Q: what will be the structural role of the council in terms of these discussions? [returned to below]

On-plot Appraisal Summary

Gross development Value

 

£665m
Net Development Value (gross minus purchaser’s costs) £647m

 

Development and construction costs £554m

 

Of which Residual Land Value – reply as Homes England and Network Rail for the investment made in the site through land acquisitions, relocation costs, site clearance costs

 

£55m (£1m per acre)
Developers margins

 

15-17%

 

Q: What about the council land?

This appraisal is only based on Homes England and Network Rail land and not the CYC 5% ownership.

Q: Have we looked for lots of different funding partners? E.g. NHS

Often public money is just loans rather than grants. Here it is clear that there is no site without massive infrastructure investments.

Q: There is no economic champion for the site, it is mostly housing. You seem to have a “one size fits all” procurement approach. You need to go out to partners and users first, not developers first.

Andy Dainty: It is a difficult place for a ‘pioneer’ i.e. the early occupiers before the character of the place has improved. On Day 1 it is difficult to get someone to jump in but maybe easier when it is half developed. The “unpalatable” high value residential will pay the bills – offices won’t pay the bills and low cost housing won’t pay the bills. The percentage developer profit should relate to the amount of risk they are taking and resource/funding provided (e.g. building roads).

Tamsin: What we haven’t done yet is soft market testing the site. That is because we need to get to the point where we have a site that works, with planning consent, we will then be asking a whole range of people. We have asked the council to be clear about the economic sectors we should be targeting. We need an anchor tenant that draws other people to come around them.

Q: The language is important, we should go and talk to users and partners rather than just ‘take it to the market’.

Andy Dainty’s example of how volatile viability is:-

 

Base – assumptions/outcomes + assumptions/outcomes
+/- 5% +/- 5%
Total Development Value 110 105 116
Total Development

Costs

100 105 95
Residual Value (margin) 10 -0.5 21
This is why it is volatile – Small changes in the many variables an appraisal comprises impact disproportionately on the viability. -100

 

The margin has gone altogether

+100

 

The margin doubles.

 

We are exploring in this event ‘how does viability work?’ – but the real question is what does it mean?

At the front end we tend (prudently) to worry about the worst case. This makes it harder to commit to non viable but desirable elements of a scheme ‘up front’

Doesn’t mean you can or can’t get affordable houses and other things the community wants. But it informs how you approach it. You need to add value that will come back. It needs a sensible grown up partnership so that all partners share the business of adding value – e.g. placemaking. It might include loss leading items but adds value.

What can be said: we can’t promise to do that (e.g. high % affordable housing) because values change but we will work towards it and try to add value. In terms of a strategy, it helps get over the bumps of the infrastructure.  The contractual basis then needs to underpin this however.

Offices do not make much money. High cost high value makes a margin but not necessarily more than lower cost lower value managed workspace.

The residential seems thorny. If we need to recover a large chunk of the costs, only open market residential will do it. Doesn’t mean you do 2500 units. But density becomes interesting. Apartments make land value because you are stacking value. Houses are not capable of getting to those land values. How much “affordable” can York Central afford? It would be better not to fix this up-front, but rather design a process that is responsive and might lead to a higher percentage if ‘extra’ financial surpluses allow during delivery and over the project lifetime. For example, a development agreement could specify that if the developer profit or sales values exceed a certain level, there is a commitment to deliver additional community facilities or affordable housing.

Q: Is it advantageous for York Central to make it a longer process?

Public sector could back it by keeping a stake in it.

You could have a partnership which says if it goes badly it is the developer’s risk/problem, but if it goes well then the developer can invest afford to contribute more. The advantage of building in flexibility is that developers will look pessimistically. Whereas the public sector tends to look optimistically. The partnership works better when you align the interests up front rather than relying on the planning process. And then everyone tries to make it go better and afford ‘extra’ benefits. If not, you share the pain (but funding for extra benefits was never in hindsight really there).

Q: Who is going to be part of the partnership? The Council needs to be involved in the partnership as they are sharing the risk, where are our share the benefits going to be?

Tamsin: We are all public sector bodies. The Council owns 5% of the overall site – a relatively small stake in terms of land. But infrastructure costs require HIF Homes England and the input of two major public landowners. There would be a separate conversation about leading on procurement. How the funding goes in and where overage would come out.  The collaboration agreement is about the developer partners. It is not yet a done deal – merely that there *will be* an agreement.

One of the defining features of this scheme is 20% affordable. 20% is council policy but that is subject to a viability test. Usually, on the way everyone makes noises about the 20% then the developer shows it is not viable so you end up with 3% or 5%. The council and YCP have said York Central has to deliver 20%. That makes this scheme massively different from most developments.

Andy: I would always advise a council that if there is an attempt to control it through the planning process then it will likely get compromised. There is more teeth in a partnership agreement and development agreements with delivery partners than just through planning. Where willing partners own all the land as here, greater control through tenure/development contracts is possible (and recommended).

Q: Thank you for giving us the numbers and I want to see this site develop but it is not viable. I want to see something happen here. York Council taxpayer own 5% site, but all the risk will fall on the York tax payer if you’ve got your numbers wrong. The Enterprise Zone assumption that if you can rent them out then we can recover the business tax. But what is the demand for offices? The answer from CYC has been ‘build it and they will come’. Offices are being turned into homes. I want to hear a more realistic approach. What is Plan B. Has anyone said it might be worth starting to do some house building now rather than first putting in all this infrastructure.

Tamsin: What can we do without £150m infrastructure? York Central only has capacity for 400 homes with the current highways infrastructure.  There is a question about that, could you have 400 homes delivered? You might not get planning for part of the site as there would be a desire to have certainty around the whole site. Without that upfront infrastructure it is not possible to move forward. There have been refusals already.

Q: Why not create cash flow early by building 400 homes now. Instead of waiting for the fictitious return from the Enterprise Zone.

Tamsin: The Enterprise Zone work is underway and will go through the City of York Council.

Q: The council needs to be more transparent about its evidence.

Q: Is a public-private partner realistic as there is government pressure on Homes England and Network Rail. What is Homes England policy on a public-private partnership or if they were supportive of the principle would they look to someone else to lead that?

Tamsin: We don’t have a policy position. We consider things site by site, what are the challenges in that area. Homes England and Network Rail have to recover investment and have targets around delivery of houses. You have surplus brownfield land, you need to use it for housing delivery. Homes are central to Homes England’s business, and for Network Rail delivering homes is one of a range of things they have to think about. In partnership with the council as master developers we are taking out an element of risk and we are maximising the value we can create in that way. Do we have a partner on board? It is an open conversation at the moment. It could be we end up in partnership for the whole site or for part of the site. There is a whole range of options, as I mentioned. The soft market testing will inform the decisions we make.

Q: What are the drivers in terms of when you will make that decision?

Tamsin: It is being informed by minimising risk. We want to minimise risk to get the best value for the public purse. There are still uses and so we haven’t yet been able to do the land investigations needed to create certainty before going out to the market. We’ll start soft market testing by summer 2019, we’ll be clear about how to go out to the market across the site. My aspiration is that we take some of the earlier plots, this time next year, to the market. That would be early delivery.

Q: I am more concerned about investment attraction. Whatever they might think they want, what the council may want is one aspect only. We need to look at who is interested in coming here. It is the Enterprise Zone money that we need.

Tom Devine: There is a lot happening in the wider Yorkshire office market. In Leeds, with government office and the land take for HS2, plus land take for the new expanded station, the Leeds office market is going to come under massive pressure. I believe a significant proportion of the office market for York Central will come from people in out of town business parks around Leeds and the M62 corridor. If you talk to the people that run those businesses in those locations there are a number problems. They are not well served by public transport. The problem they have is they cannot hold on to junior staff because people take an equivalent job in the City centre as soon as they can. Car parking is also often difficult. When owners/managers of those businesses get to a point of lease renewal and could have a new building at York Central, next to mainline station and all the social infrastructure and facilities of the city centre next door, for the same cost as renewing their lease on an out of town business park, I am convinced that York Central will be a far more compelling option.

The issue is that you can’t have these conversations until you have planning consent – you get one shot at them so timing is crucial. A lot of property is controlled from London. If you mention York they say, ‘Lovely place, don’t bother’ – it has a perception in the property sector for not being able to deliver. Talk to some of the businesses that have tried to deliver and failed. Hiscox really wanted to be here and they went through the pain barrier of getting land and planning permission, but they are an exception not the rule Getting outline planning consent for York Central will change that.

In York Central we should be looking for early wins of hotels and residential. If you look beyond York and to the wider market what we are offering is new buildings, a strong talent pool of good schools and two universities as well as proximity to a mainline train station. It is a compelling offer. Grade A on top of the station is what changes the conversation about offices in York. I worked on the economic impact assessment  of Crossrail in London in 2004, I had to assess what difference it would make in 20 years. When I went to Maidenhead, local agents were saying Crossrail isn’t going to make a difference. But it has, by increasing demand and property values by 270%. Transport has demonstratively had a big impact on property values.

Andy: Transport is always one of the most important factors in office choice.

Final questions which lack of time meant we could not address, but will follow up:-

Q: The potential role of local communities in the development? The value of community input.

Q: What does affordability mean? There are signs that the formula of 80% of market rent might not be affordable for many in York. Local affordability standards could be a follow up event.

Q: Role of the partnership and transparency in terms of the green book appraisals.

Q: Can we prove the demand? Can there be more transparency and openness?

 

 

Community-led Economic Development

Post it notes from the event, looking at links and where to go next with the discussions

2nd August 2018

One of the idea ideas emerging from the public discussions during the Festival of York was a ‘community made through exchange’. We’ve been running events to follow up and develop these ideas. On 2nd August we explored this question through looking at a variety of different approaches to community-led economic development and then discussing and make a plan for what this might mean for York Central.

Mora Scaife, City of York Council
Mora introduced her work as part of the 4CommunityGrowthYork project. The project is underpinned by the idea of ‘small steps and being hyper-local’ and connects into the
‘asset-based’ approach the council is using city-wide.

• Mora gave the specific example of Chapelfields Community Association. A group of local people were interested in developing a Community Hub.
• Mora talked about how important it is to get conversations started and that she finds fig roles and garibaldis get conversations started immediately! People love them or hate them or remember names given to them by their parents or grandparents (e.g. squashed fly biscuits). But then the conversation gets deeper. Someone might say ‘I can’t have them because I’ve got diabetes’, then it can move into a well-being discussion and then Mora is able to lever in other council services. (e.g. linking in with Local Area Coordinators).
• But as Mora put it ‘it is not just the services that wrapround there, it’s the community’.
• Mora also noted that ‘activity breeds activity. Now lots of people now want to use the centre’ and ‘services and people have to link together – you can’t do anything is isolation’. ‘We can use that ethos, bringing things together, all the parts that are helpful in building communities’.

Imelda Havers, Red Tower and Bluefish regeneration
Imelda introduced her work with Red Tower and ideas and approaches based on her work in community-led regeneration. Imelda explained the way in which the Red Tower has been reinvented bottom up as a social enterprise serving local communities. Red Tower is owned by city of York Council but the Red Tower Community Interest Company has a 30 years lease. Red Tower recently won the Community category at the York Design awards.

• CYC-owned C15 building, empty for decades on City Walls
• Taken over by local group for pop-up cafes and informal events on PAYF basis
• In space of 3 years got funding, took 30-year lease, did refit and won award at York Design Awards for making “significant contribution to local community”
• Now volunteer run as Community Interest Company, having been designed and led by local communities

• Uses embrace Community (hunger café, local group use); Visitor (Heritage Open Days, York Walls Festival) and Commercial (meeting room hire)
• Benefits: Local service delivery which is financially viable. Supports CYC’s local delivery aspirations while not costing money in longer term; part of a growing network of community enterprises across the City “more than the sum of our parts”

Important lessons from this and other community projects
• Need “alliance of the willing” to drive real change (e.g. Incredible Edible; Real Junk Food Project; Transition Towns)
• Great to focus on what is possible but we need more than ideas – we need the structures to make sure that action follows
• Need financial and other resources to ensure there is the time and expertise for community input
• Governance is critical for success, so choose the right structure depending on what you want to do e.g CIC / Industrial & Provident Society / Community Land Trust / CIO / Development Trust / Charity
• Can use powers through 2011 Localism Act e.g. Community Right to Bid or Community Asset Transfer, to take control of local buildings or spaces from public sector

York Central
• Community needs a seat around the table at partnership
• Needs to work at two levels – Strategic (overall development of York Central)
• Operational (managing and running specific areas such as open space, social enterprise space, co-operative housing)
• Could open up York Central Community Forum as starting point for organisational approach
• Will need to set up a co-operative venture and / or social enterprise structure BUT keep it simple!
• Partners need to understand benefits of community involvement e.g. Low-cost expertise; Local intelligence; Local buy-in and credibility; Collaborative funding opportunities such as crowd funding, local investment fund, bids to funders who only fund community groups or charities
• Case for a “Community Champion”? ‘We are not going to go away, we will stay and fight our corner’.

Richard Norton, Headingley Development Trust, Leeds
Richard introduced the work of the Headingley Development Trust.
• Headingley is famous for sport and students. Headingley Development Trust (HDT) was a bottom up initiative to address changes to the neighbourhood that came about due to housing being bought up by private landlords and the retail offer was being more narrowly focused on the interests of young people. These were big challenges. Headingley is not a poor community but neither is it the wealthiest and it did not have access to targeted regenerations funds.
HEART
• The primary school slated for closure. ‘We didn’t want it to become more housing for short-term residents or another drinking place. So we formed an organisation Headingley Development Trust and became part of the Development Trust Association. The school become HEART’. HEART is a kind of community hub.
• Council support. ‘We didn’t have officer support at the time but we did have strong Cllr support. Headingley Development Trust have a 125 year lease on HEART. It was a proto-community asset transfer. In the end the Council did become a major funder’.
• HDT got the keys in 2010 and opened in 2011. HEART has rooms for hire. Different rates for different people, so there is a cross subsidy. There are services which are hosted, e.g. for adults with learning disability. There is also Co-working space. There is a café and there is an events programme, local artists can sell work and if they sell work HEART takes a commission. HEART also has events music/spoken word, small-scale theatre. HEART runs at a profit but does have loans.
Headingley Development Trust structure
• HDT chose a structure that was democratic and enabled the Trust to raise money. It is a Community Benefit Society. There are 1200 members, who join with a small one-off fee. It is one member one vote, regardless of any money invested. ‘We have an AGM where we elect the board. Everyone can take part in these processes’.
• HDT have done community shares. People can invest money in and at a later stage they can withdraw their money. ‘We did it in 2007-8, £50,000 and then challenged to double to which they did £100,000. These shares enabled HEART to get a loan, but it was a difficult amount of money to repay in the agreed term and the loan needed refinancing’.
• Headingley Investment Fund – a new community shares offer. The Fund was to enable HDT to do more in Headingley, by refinancing the HEART loan and providing finance to take on other projects. Community share standard. Feb-end of May aimed for £280,000-480,000 and raised £481,000. Mostly from private individuals, Power to Change also invested £100,000 through Community Shares Booster programme. Average private investment £1300. We offered interest at 2% per annum with a 3 year lock in.

Q: How does the model work?
HEART is a subsidiary of HDT and has its own accounts. Before HEART paid money to an external lender but now it pays back the loan to Headingley Development Trust. HEART pays interest at 3% on £260,000. We now need to put the rest of the money to work. We need to earn 2% or 3% back with that money. The fall back will be to invest in housing.

Q: If you are investing in housing would you be the landlord?
Yes, we would be landlord, we can’t do social housing without public subsidy so we do instead affordable rents, sub-market rents, some properties are leased to us and we let them out. The rationale was to address the situation of housing being taken out by landlords for houses of multiple occupation. That trend is reversed as there are now lots of large scale student accommodation nearer the Universities and the licensing of housing for houses in multiple occupation has changed, which has helped.

We then moved on group discussion which produced these broad themes:

Planning and Streets

Planning – and activity at street level

Economy and work

‘Rail jobs’ ‘Living wage jobs’

The Circular Economy

‘Sustainable, ciruclar, creativie’

There should be an emphasis on conections – but certain kinds of connections:

‘Fair exchange with existing communities’

Place where community happens

‘Shared buildings and facilitaties’


Partnership – should include the community having a ‘seat at the table’

‘Section 106 is not enough’

The links that start to make things happen

‘The right people coming together’

And where do we start?

‘Do it now’!

Teardrop

Julia Davis-Nosko, 5 August 2018

I am writing after an unforgettable early evening exploration of the piece of “wasteland” by York station known as “York Central” or the teardrop site. It is maybe unknown to many, maybe most of York’s people, but one thing is certain; it has been the focus of much planning, hopes and disappointments for the whole of my adult life. For at least three decades this place (it has been named and renamed so many times) has remained simply…there – a strange wilderness of tracks and trees and urban wasteland just across from platform 13.

I went to one of my fitness/dancing groups a few weeks ago; and at the end of our session we went for a drink together to celebrate the end of the summer term. The other eight women, all from different walks of life and ages had heard nothing, absolutely nothing of this place, despite council consultations, local plans, internationally known architects visiting “the ones from Kings Cross!”. The teardrop site remains, for many completely off the radar.

But for me this site could be life-changing; with my family in my adopted city, with friends, familiar memories and importantly a home fit for purpose and a community which is constructive and forward looking, in an unbeatable location which allows me to travel across the country and beyond to carry on working in my later years. I have nicknamed this teardrop site/York Central “the trailblazer” as if well developed it will be a beacon for other similar sites across the country showing the way rather than following the way.

So, what is stopping this happen?

First; land values.

My recently sold home in York (an incredibly small terrace) needed work, had very narrow stairs, was not fully accessible and could not provide what I now need after 14 years of making do as a single parent and grandparent working full – time.

I simply decided to sell it and release the equity so that I can invest in something, I use the phrase again, “fit for purpose”. Have looked and looked again in York for the following; 2 beds, lots of light for my work, a balcony if an apartment (my practice involves writing, clay and biophilia “humans natural love of nature”), trees nearby and space where my grandchildren can stay play and roam a bit. And a lift. I don’t need it now, but in the future, I may do and I know lots of people who would need this access to see me.

This type of “fit for purpose” living is what others seek too but the flats I have seen in York and in other cities are luxury and high end and after a long time as a single grand/parent my budget will not reach to these homes. And now too, the early chest conditions I had as a child make life in cities tough with the air quality ever poorer. Battling this pollution is a daily challenge but I want to stay with the life I know and have made, within a city environment I care deeply for.

And all these things I share with so many others. Its been proven over and over that we seek to be mobile, to live with a community we know, to have a fabric of a home which is light and airy, enjoy nature and be able to get to work…and whilst doing this hear the birds sing in the early morning and experience that old-fashioned idea of evensong, watch the butterflies. Watch the children.

And so, when we talk of developing this site I look for what we can achieve:

A mix of ages, work in our creative sectors, a joy in the heritage of the railways which grew from this space and was a centre for developing ideas to fruition. This teardrop site takes in everything our contemporary planners talk about; part of one of our most beautiful medieval cities, so well connected the Romans chose it as a key stronghold; here is the opportunity for us to create a high quality of life; work, travel, play, and really strong relationships between the people living there…the people of York.

The opportunity is there for the taking but with all this earlier thoughts about what is stopping it happen?. Yes, we need to consider land values and finding a different work around for the people of York, rather than investors, to make homes and work…but there is another three-letter word which has remained a consistent barrier over three decades.

And if this one word with three letters slips into this development all the possibilities that I have written of become impossible.

Children penned in to avoid a main road running through and next to the newly developed park, health problems caused by pollution and noise, less investment from the new generation who have climate change at the top of their agenda, a same old, same old approach that creates a soulless environment to live in, and the birds, the birds tend to fly away from this three-letter word.

The word we all know. There are many who share my vision, many eager to invest and stay put and make a trailblazing site – not only for ourselves but our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

For me, if York central “the teardrop site” goes ahead without this word there will be tears of joy – otherwise its probably another city for me where I can carry on working – most likely in Europe, far away from family and kin where they are taking this word out of their vocabulary! Let’s do the same….

Heading towards the York Central Outline Planning Application

Of the 8 My York Central Big Ideas some are not going to be determined or preculded by the York Central Outline Planning application – but the Outline Planning application does represent a decision-making point for some aspects.

Throughout the Festival of York Central – via 45+ events and 3500 post it notes – a big conversation was had about the future of York Central. This was all made possible by local people bringing their understanding and hopes for themselves and their city; many with the commitment to help run events, lead walks and rides, and share their expertise. The Big Ideas and Vision developed from this process set out the building blocks for a truly ground-breaking new part of York – unique in the UK.

The York Central outline planning application will be submitted on 8th August and will set out parameters for the development of the site. Many of these My York Central Big Ideas will not be affected by the parameters set out in the outline planning application. Big ideas such as ‘a community made through exchange’ or ‘homes for living, not investment’ are ideas where we are drawing in expertise and, through events over the next month, we are seeking to build the networks that will bring these ideas to life on York Central in the future.

However, the outline planning application does represent a decision-making moment for a number of key issues, such as traffic and pedestrian movement through the site. As a result we are working with York Central Partnership to create a series of open spaces where the masterplan thinking – and the reasoning for the emerging decisions – can be publicly shared, debated, challenged and discussed. For example we have a York Central Movement: In depth and in context event next Monday, we will be explore the question of viability and how the York Central numbers might stack up, how the council’s policies (such as One Planet and Human Rights City) can be brought to life on York Central as well as events explore Community-Led Economic Development and Community-Led Housing.

Our aim – in collaboration with York Central Partnership – is that ideas on all sides (both the My York Central Big Ideas and the York Central Partnership masterplan ideas) are openly and rigorously tested before a path is settled on.

An open brief for a Hub or Exchange on York Central

Artist Julia Davis ran a workshop during the workshop exploring growth, change and exchange.

On 5th July My York Central held a drop-in afternoon / evening workshop to develop a brief for a Hub or Exchange on York central. The event was to develop further two of the My York Central Big Ideas:

6) A community made through exchange: York has enormous wealth, socially, culturally and financially. Use York Central to build a community that can build links between people to address inequalities through sharing and exchange.

7) A hub that catalyses York’s creativity and innovation: Amazing things are happening in York from media, science and technology and heritage. Develop a showcase and learning hub that challenges perceptions and fuels new ideas and networks.

There was some discussion over whether physical facilities should be one building (with opportunities for cross-fertilisation between activities) or a network of smaller buildings within a dense, walkable neighbourhood. Or indeed both with boundaries between the distributed and the centralised approaches being noted as topic for further discussion.

Below are some key ideas to form the beginnings of an open brief for an Exchange on York Central. Download a PDF.

Spaces – for activities and connection

Many people contributed ideas for specific spaces that would enable particular kinds of activity. How can a space be designed for multiple uses and different activities, and what is the right mix of dedicated and multi-use space?

Also, is there a way we can establish meanwhile use on York Central to start to explore these multiple activities? Can we learn from the experience of Spark and similar projects, and avoid having to necessarily get it exactly right first time (which would be a big ask with such a new idea)?

Governance: How to use the power of the city’s big players but in a way that is also community-engaged?

Questions were raised about how such a space should be run and who by, whether it is via community-led governance or by one or more of the city’s big players. More work needs to be done on this but – like the My York Central Big Ideas – there was a sense that money made should be reinvested in the community. This could mean the Exchange renting out co-working and meetings space or community-owned retail. There was a feeling among some that there was a big demand from specific sectors (creative/software industries for example) for clustered space which suited their needs and that this could be an income-generator.

Importance of places that make social connections

The point of living in a city is lots and lots of potential connections – but making these connections can be hard. How can we design a place where you want to spend time, you know something interesting is always going on and that facilitates the connections that otherwise are only serendipitous? How can we create opportunity for meeting and connecting? How can we use mix of use, ease of movement (on foot and bike) and communication of all sorts (via the net, via social and cultural interaction and by physical signposting) to create an urban climate where this process of exchange is actively enabled?

The power of the intergenerational

There was a clear wish to positively address the nature of an intergenerational society, one where people of all ages had something to contribute and where participation in the process of exchange – of skills, time, money etc – wasn’t restricted by simple boundaries of education, work and retirement. Mirroring suggestions for the broader development on York Central, there were suggestions that the Exchange should not just work for all, but should encourage intergenerational links and value them.

 

 

Digital… + engineering + heritage + the environment

The Exchange should be interdisciplinary and refuse old binaries of art or science; past or future; digital or analogue and make the post of York’s strengths in media, science, railway engineering and heritage. It should encourage the crossing of boundaries – both for economic benefit and for the simple joy of city life bringing surprises.

There is a challenge in moving beyond simplistic responses in heritage and the environment – brick-arched “railway-ish” buildings and simple peppering with solar panels – and there was a view that making connections between issues was the key to unlocking a richer and more successful form of development, of which this building could be at the heart.

Connect in with – and build on – what is already going on

The Council, CVS and York Timebank already are facilitating a lot of people to connect up with other people and activities – how can all this activity be better signposted to each other and ensure that any new Exchange builds on and compliments this activity rather than reinvents the wheel. It also raised the question of whether ‘volunteering’ and ‘service’ are the same as reciprocal exchange?

We need a further discussion about these different ideas and what they might mean for the York Central Exchange. In pragmatic terms this means more events where professionals working on these schemes and individuals interested in such networks can work together to co-design what it is.

York Central and provision for York’s Gypsy and Traveller communities

My Future York have been working with York Travellers Trust over the past year to explore a variety of issues related to sites, flooding and future developments. In this blog we explore the links between York Central and York’s Gypsy and Traveller communities.

York Gypsy and Traveller Provision in the draft Local Plan

In the draft Local Plan – now submitted to government for approval – specific provision is made for the development of future Gypsy and Traveller pitches. [Policy H5, Local Plan Publication Draft (February 2018), pp. 106-107]

It is stated:

Key evidence including the Equality and Human Rights Commission report Inequalities Experienced by Gypsy and Traveller Communities (2009) suggests that today Gypsies and Travellers are the most marginalised and disadvantaged of all minority groups nationally, suffering the greatest inequalities across a range of indicators.

(Policy H5, Local Plan Publication Draft (February 2018), p. 108)

Yet national legislation has had the potential to negatively affect the future of York’s gypsy communities. In August 2015 planning guidance changed the definition of Gypsy and Traveller to remove the idea of a cultural identify, ‘persons with a cultural tradition of nomadism or living in a caravan’. Since the new policy came into effect, this has meant that to be recognised as a Gypsy or a Traveller for planning purposes you had to be only temporarily settled. This has had serious implications for planning for the community’s future through the Local Plan. With this change in planning guidance, the number of pitches projected in the Local Plan went from 66 to 3.

  1. a) Within Existing Local Authority Sites

In order to meet the need of Gypsies and Travellers that meet the planning definition, 3 additional pitches will be identified within the existing three Local Authority sites.

(Policy H5, Local Plan Publication Draft (February 2018), pp. 106)

However, the council has  supplemented these figures through an active use of equalities legislation to identify an addition 44 pitches. The delivery of these 44 pitches is linked to developer duty based on the scale of housing development, as is noted in the final version of the Local Plan.

  1. b) Within Strategic Allocations

In order to meet the need of those 44 Gypsies and Traveller households that do not meet the planning definition:

Applications for larger development sites of 5 ha or more will be required to:

  • provide a number of pitches within the site; or
  • provide alterative land that meets the criteria set out in part (c) of this policy to

accommodate the required number of pitches; or

  • provide commuted sum payments to contribute towards to development of

pitches elsewhere.

The calculations for this policy will be based on the hierarchy below:

  • 100 – 499 dwellings – 2 pitches should be provided
  • 500 – 999 dwellings – 3 pitches should be provided
  • 1000 – 1499 dwellings – 4 pitches should be provided
  • 1500 – 1999 dwellings – 5 pitches should be provided
  • 2000 or more dwellings – 6 pitches should be provided

(Policy H5, Local Plan Publication Draft (February 2018), pp. 106)

What does this mean in terms of York Central?

This means that for York Central, with the current plans for 2500 dwellings, 6 pitches will need to either be provided on the site or alternative land or payments will need to be planned.

My York Central will be working with York Travellers Trust and to explore how this provision can be delivered. The draft Local Plan clearly offers York Central the potential to explore how one of York’s long-standing communities can become part of what will become the city’s newest community.

Here is one vision from Violet Cannon, Director, York Travellers Trust of how gypsy and travellers could become part of the new community on York Central.