Crowdsourcing a Community Plan for York Central

My York Central generated Big Ideas, a Vision and Principles for York Central. Some of these ideas made their way into the masterplan and are reflect in the outline planning consent granted in 2019 but many did not or where not foreclosed.

Out of My York Central came York Central Co-Owned (YoCo), a community group that aims to carry forward the ideas from the public engagement process and develop a co-owned neighbourhood on York Central as a model for the rest of the site.

In order to develop the ideas, networks, profile and momentum to really ensure York Central is what the people of York want and need it to be we have set up a collaboration with Demos we’re calling Crowdsourcing a Community Plan for York Central, using an approach they call Combined Choice to manage a processes of community action to develop alternative plans and – through a digital platform – the ability for a large number of people (up to 10,000) to express preferences/vote/comment on the emerging plans.

Crowdsourcing a Community Plan for York Central launches on 2nd October 2021 and will run for two months.

To find out more or get involved see the YoCo website or come to the launch or one of our Meet Up events.

Co-Owned Neighbourhoods on York Central – Shaping a way forward

Co-Owned Neighbourhoods on York Central – Shaping a way forward
Thursday 28th November 2019
Friargate Quaker Meeting House, Lower Friargate, York, YO1 9RL

Book a place

Our York Design Week event identified a range of issues – from sharing to wildness – and collective discussion of these flagged up a number of initial steps on the path towards a community partnership that could shape York Central and create homes, work, culture and play there. This event will look at these steps and we’ll start working out…

what sort of body should we establish to carry this process forwards?
how can we work towards a range of types of housing and tenures on York Central?
how can we shape wonderful, wild, open space in an urban environment?
how do we bring on board partners who will connect York’s amazing education and culture with learning, creativity and work?
how can we ensure the development responds to the climate emergency and zero-carbon commitments which York has made?

Come along and collectively take this forwards. An evening of sharing of ideas and knowledge, planning and setting of goals. If you’re new to York Central and the community’s vision for it, then take a look here.

Traffic Impact and Modelling – Notes from Workshops 1 and 2

My York Central – workshops on traffic impact and modelling – 14th and 20th September 2018

Introduction by Tony May

This and the planned subsequent workshop came from questions raised at previous workshops, suggesting there were questions from the public about the modelling assumptions and data. The aims of the session are:-

  1. To inform comments on the current and imminent planning applications (and it was pointed out that all comments / objections / etc should be directed to the planning authority, not to Arup /Tony / MYC)
  2. To frame possible further public input following approval of the application.

It was discussed/agreed that further modelling could not be carried out at this time (current data forms part of planning application, and Arup have no brief to carry out further work) but that existing modelling may easily yield further information, if requirements can be identified.

Notes taken during workshop 1 presentation 14th September 2018 by Anna Vickers.

The modelling approach uses a SATURN model of traffic movements for a morning peak hour and an evening peak hour. The base year is 2016/17, but they have used CYC’s 2033 model, which includes all of the effects of draft Local Plan developments and known road improvements such as the outer ring road. Their “do-minimum” has York Central and its access road stripped out; “do-something” involves adding it, with the assumptions described below.

Question about 2033 conditions: it was noted that the “do-minimum” reflects high levels of congestion resulting from the new developments anticipated in the Local Plan.

Assumption 1: The access road is provided, with the three variants for the Leeman Road Tunnel.
Assumption 2: Existing vehicle trips are maintained. This doesn’t mean parking is being re-provided for all uses. Approach was agreed with CoYC.
Assumption 3: Modelling based on max residential and max commercial development numbers combined (More than is actually possible). Arup are able to provide actual maximum combined possible numbers.
Assumption 4: Overall trip rates from new developments are estimated. Trip rates used are based on existing survey data for journeys made and modes used. CYC specified this approach.
Assumption 5: Total trip numbers from all new developments are calculated. While estimates of journeys for all modes are generated, only car trips are included in the model.
Assumption 6: Trips are assigned destinations, so that they can be loaded onto the network. This uses the approach adopted by CYC for the Local Plan.

Questions/responses re multi-storey car parks (MSCPs):- One is for station which is to replace part of existing provision and one is new provision for commercial development.

Point made re downsides of building more car parking (air quality etc) – Phil White explained rationale for number of spaces to be provided. TM summarised discussion:-
1. Should we replace existing parking like-for-like?
2. Much of the current car parking on York Central is associated with car-related business (hire, fleet, etc) which will go when site is developed.
3. Assumptions are being made about required provision for commercial development.

Questions/response re mode shares assumed in modelling. Vehicle (driving or passenger) split is 37% + 4% for residential area and 34% + 5% for commercial area. Question raised about mode share and CoYC policy; Trip rates and mode shares are based on standard methodology. Residential trip rates on surveys at nearby Phoenix Boulevard, commercial trip rates based on national database. Mode share is from 2011 census data. Trip rates don’t take into account future reductions in car trips resulting from policy changes.

Also noted modelling is separate from process of design. Parking spaces determined on basis of benchmarking of CoYC policy and recent developments across other cities, all in agreement with CoYC.

Question on variable traffic conditions: the model represents an average weekday.

Question on potential for reducing car use: the approach does not attempt to reflect the effect of other transport policies. It is thus a worst case assessment.

Anna Vickers then presented the results generated for Options 1, 2 and 3.

Impacts on ring road were discussed; uncertainty about how much impact any increased numbers represented (actual base figures not shown).

Difference in impact between Option 1 (Leeman Road tunnel as is) and Option 2 (Leeman Road tunnel revised to give signalised single vehicle lane) insignificant, so Option 1 dismissed as Option 2 gives benefits to walking/cycling.

Diagrams showing modelling of specific journey delays for vehicles on Poppleton Road / Holgate Road and Clifton / Bootham discussed. Again no assumption of mode shift. However, Arup view is that mode shift would be influenced by a number of factors and the modelling cannot definitively be stated to be an “over estimate” at this time.

Concluding discussion about further information requested:-

Lindsay Cowle asked about Bootham/Gillygate junction and modelling.

Dave Merrett asked about modelling for Lendal Gyratory.

Jonathan Tyler asked about strategic level issues:- the modelling shows there will be impacts on the city as a whole, but what can/will CoYC do? TM noted that York Central issues are actually Local Plan issues – all already evident in the 2033 “do minimum” analysis. DM commented that he felt all modelling for any planning applications will be based upon a deficient Local Plan.

Following the meeting TM drafted a list of requests for further information:-

  1. volume-capacity ratios in both peaks in the base and options 2 and 3 for their junctions 1, 4-13, and the five additional junctions: Bootham/Gillygate; Lendal Gyratory (two junctions); Clarence St/Lord Mayor’s Walk; Walmgate/Lawrence St (the latter two to show any impacts of re-routing around the inner ring road);
  2. the data on “impacted” junctions split by whether the impact is a 50 veh/h flow increase and/or a volume/capacity ratio of over 80% again for both peaks for the base and options 2 and 3;
  3. select link analyses either inbound in the am peak or outbound in the pm peak for Poppleton Rd, the new access road and Clifton, again for the base and options 2 and 3;
  4. pcu (passenger car unit)-km for the whole network for both peaks for the base and options 2 and 3 (to complement the data which they have already provided on delays and travel times);
  5. pcu-km, pcu-h and pcu-h in delay for the area within a cordon surrounding York Central and the city centre, for both peaks for the base and options 2 and 3 (to provide a clearer idea of changes in levels of congestion in the immediate area).

Anna Vickers had indicated that all of these should be possible, but later confirmed that (5) would take longer to produce and would not be available for the next meeting.

TM noted that Arup’s excellent presentation included more information than in the Transport Assessment. Phil White agreed urgently to check whether the presentation could be circulated and, if so, to do so as input to the subsequent meeting on 20th September.

DM and TM (and all present) noted appreciation for the work put in by Anna Vickers / Phil White / Susie Bathe in preparation for both these workshops.

…and here is a link to the Powerpoint presentation used by Susie during workshop 2 – which includes the presentation used by Anna during workshop 1 (many thanks to Arup for providing this and York Central Partnership for authorising its use):- Traffic modelling workshop 1-2 PPT

Policy into Practice

Policy into Practice – workshop on 16th August

Run in Partnership with York Explore

Our aim with this event was to look seriously at key policies held by the council which reflect the principles and aspirations of local people and their representatives. We are a One Planet city which implies a broad set of principles; there is a commitment to a transport hierarchy that puts pedestrians, people with mobility problems and cyclists at the top; we are a Human Rights City and also a UNESCO Creative City. We were interested in using this workshop to explore what this might mean for York Central.

But how? We decided that the key indicator was a simple question:- “if you woke up on York Central in 15 years time, how would you know this policy had been fully realised? What would you be doing? Who would be there? What could you see? What could you hear? How would it feel?”

Opening presentations were given, and discussions around four tables were facilitated by:-
Chris Bailey speaking on UNESCO Creative Cities
Liz Lockey speaking about York: Human Rights City
Mark Alty speaking on One Planet York
Phil Bixby standing in for the CoYC transport team and outlining York’s agreed transport hierarchy.

Discussion was lively, and Post-Its from the discussions can be found, as with all our Post-It-based input, tagged and sorted on our Flickr site.

Following the event, Chris Bailey wrote a short but thoughtful piece which references the UNESCO designation but notes that human rights should be at the heart of thinking about everyone’s life and creativity:-

Just ‘living life’

Looking back at 2014, when we won the title of York UNESCO City of Media Arts, I must admit many of us wondered how this relates to our beautiful, historic city.

Part of it is that we got off to a false start. Like all councils, York thought mostly in terms of priorities, things they have to do (inevitably with too little money!) to avoid doing harm or to fulfil a Government inspired target. No wonder they always looked for the ‘quick wins’. The connection to the way people actually live their lives often seemed remote, even when the policy was something vital, like providing good housing. The ‘services’ on offer, we lazily thought, were meant for someone else, someone less fortunate than us. The problem is that, at some point, that ‘someone’ actually is us. Why should what we want for others, be different from what we want for ourselves, or our children?

A conversation back in 2018 put us on the right track. We don’t ask to have things go wrong in our lives but we live with the consequences of disabling illness or injury, or worsening conditions. If you have to use an electric scooter to get about then decisions about urban design can easily cut off your potential to be parents, productive workers, or valued friends. This is bad for our wellbeing, and for the community as a whole. The technology that gives the benefit of shopping online also gives us the challenge of streets clogged with delivery vehicles, and hours trapped at home awaiting a vital delivery. Technology must be transparent in operation and accountable in its application.

We realised then that policies should always start from our potential as human beings, as people and as citizens. A truly Creative City seeks to develop the talent in everyone, and to provide space for participation. It also ensures that our leisure and cultural organisations are responsive to the wishes of the community and reflect their identity and traditions.

And in the spirit of Paul Osborne’s wonderful bit of future thinking for the 2018 Festival of Ideas, Phil Bixby condensed discussion at his table into a brief description of life on a future York Central with a transport hierarchy:-

The joy of a blank sheet
We’ve often made excuses for poor transport in York – the historic city, the narrow roads. But York Central was a clean sheet – a chance to design a piece of city from scratch. It cried out for radical ideas. Why didn’t Network Rail take a lead in proposing rail-based transport? It’s a mystery. We needed ideas which would appeal to the next generation – where you get the kids excited and they pass it on to their parents.

Behaviour change
We needed to break down the barriers between modes of transport – it’s not about “being a cyclist” or “being a driver”. I have a car, but I don’t use it in town, for all sorts of reasons. Some of the radical ideas make me smile – when deliveries turn up by pedal power for example. And people have changed – a friend now does the school run with her kid in a cargo bike. He thought he’d be a local celebrity but in fact there are so many of them now he just waves to other kids in cargo bikes!

That process of change was interesting – it took a measure of nastiness to stop “those journeys which weren’t necessary”. The car to the corner shop, the school run because walking meant leaving ten minutes earlier. Congestion charging was considered but rejected as being unfair to the poor. In the end it came down to making things visible – they fitted a big interactive sign on all the main roads into York showing pollution levels and pictures like on fag packets – clag pouring out or arteries and stuff – and it worked. There was talk about pumping some sort of chemical into the air which made the pollution visible – instant smog – but in the end people got the message before it happened.

Walking and cycling
I can walk to the station along good, car-free routes – not just back alleys but main walking routes – which connect up and make a permeable area. The footways are level and wide, so older people and wheelchair users actually use them, and in winter the snow is cleared on the footways (and cycleways) before the roads.

Junctions are designed for pedestrians and cyclists – all traffic lights have a cycle-only slot at the start of each light change which gives cyclists time to leave the junction (not just a couple of seconds head start). Traffic lights give equal time to pedestrians too – I recall a few years back counting 21 pedestrians waiting to cross a junction, and there were fewer occupants in the cars which the lights let through. How was that a hierarchy? There are so many more cyclists now, and all sort of different bikes – real signs of change.

Public Transport
I can get a bus easily too – with genuinely useful connections across the city – not just the radial routes. They’re reliable because there are fewer cars clogging the roads, and many more bus-only routes. They’re cheaper too, which works because they’re well used. They work well – they once again have space for luggage, and are comfortable, like coaches. They have enough time on their routes to actually let older people sit down rather than tearing off as soon as the last customer is past the ticket machine.

The other big difference is that they’re in public ownership, so social value is built into all contracts, and drivers are properly paid (lives depend on them, after all).
A transport hierarchy was never just about making everything easier, but about making choices. Until driving was made less convenient, sustainable transport never stood a chance, but now it’s the way we all get about, most of the time. And when you do need the car – you may have to go further but the roads are so empty!

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.

Two workshops looking at traffic impact and modelling

A chance to understand the work being done to look at traffic impacts, and to question the assumptions on which it is based.

One of the eight big ideas which came out of public input at the Festival of York Central was “People, not Cars”. There has been a huge amount of discussion about how York Central Partnership’s aim of encouraging sustainable transport and reducing car use can be made real in the masterplanning proposals, and this has included debate about segregated walking and cycling routes, parking provision and location, and connections with the existing road network.

A central question in this latter issue has been around Leeman Road tunnel and whether this should be open to general vehicular traffic or restricted largely to busses and taxis. This effectively makes the main spine road either a through route or an access-only route into York Central. The importance of this decision has been acknowledged by traffic engineers at Arup having been commissioned to carry out extensive traffic modelling, which has informed the current outline planning application.

Like all modelling, the predictions are built upon assumptions – about future trends, human behaviour, implementation of planning policy. These are technical issues but also ones where residents of the city may have their own views, based upon their own experience and expectations.

We have set up two public evening workshops to give people with an interest in transport and movement – or simply wanting to know the impacts on their part of the city – a chance to get involved.

The first, at 6:00pm – 8:00pm on Friday 14th September in the Clementhorpe Room at Priory Street Centre, is a chance to look at the current traffic modelling in more detail with guidance from Professor Tony May, and to jointly develop understanding and questions about this, and propose alternative future scenarios for investigation.

Please book your free ticket using Eventbrite here.

The second, at 6:00pm – 8:00pm on Thursday 20th September in the Penn Room at Friargate meeting house, will be for the transport engineers at Arup to report back on findings from the alternatives and to discuss the implications and possible next steps which they suggest. Professor Tony May will again assist with interpretation.

Please book your free ticket using Eventbrite here.

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


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




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


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



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?



Movement: York Central Outline Planning Application Workshops

Movement workshops, July 2018.

Two workshops were held to explore the Movement in the Outline Planning Application, 18th July 2018 and 30th July 2018..

The first introduced the movement options here.

The second was a chance to investigate the different issues in more detail. You can read the notes from this event here.