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.
• 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’!


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….

So, what does “a community made through exchange” actually mean?

We’ve talked of York Central as a community made through exchange; this implies a place where people choose to live and/or work because it brings together people and capital of all sorts in a way which encourages the interactions which can make cities great places to be. It would be a conscious community – designed on the basis of high density and mixed use, giving neighbourhoods where most of the resources needed for life are within walking distance (and with easy links to public transport or good onward walking/cycling routes) and where that process of life and work animates the place – streets and places are busy, and life and culture shape the experience of being there.

To enable this to happen, buildings, infrastructure and economic structures need to work together. In addition to this walkable density the economics of the place need to be shaped in such a way as to allow accessibility and opportunity. Recent graduates should be able to live there, in apartments which allow workspace and also give proximity to employers and shared facilities. Families should be able to live there to bring stability to the community and to bring life to streets and public spaces. Older people should be able to downsize there – swapping an oversized family house for a really high-quality apartment with no heating bills and a high standard of year-round comfort, but still leaving them with spare capital.

One way in which this might work is for those moving into York Central to invest in the community. For example, the down-sizers might be able to invest in joint ownership of ground-floor commercial space – an opportunity to foster economic development by helping business start-ups which in turn contribute to the neighbourhood. The young professional in the rented unit then brings trade and life to the corner café, which also rents out meeting space when needed; they run occasional classes or late afternoon sessions to teach skills to local teenagers. Retired professionals have opportunities to pass on a lifetime’s experience to people starting out, and the young parent who needs a free afternoon for work gets local childcare.

There is an opportunity within this to create a place where additional resources help drive this process of exchange. A building where business incubator space attracts knowledge and skill, where flexible space provides for meetings / workshops / learning and where shared equipment allows boundaries to be pushed. Plus where facilitation and sharing of time and skills gives opportunities for people who need them and where inequalities can be addressed. Where young and old can teach and learn, where arts and culture can interact with making and technology. A place where York’s rich mix of bodies involved with learning and economic development can work together.

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.

St.Peter’s Quarter and a positive vision of a future York Central

Briefing notes from workshop 28th June 2018 / St. Barnabas Church

We ran a workshop session for residents of St.Peter’s Quarter where we asked participants to “describe a day in your life in ten years’ time and how the development of York Central might make living in St. Peter’s Quarter different, and better, to today”. Narrative was noted on Post-Its and they were then grouped by theme and discussed further, with additional comments and ideas being added on further Post-Its. This blog is based on the final, grouped Post-Its. The brief is linked throughout to the My York Central Big Ideas that emerged from the Festival of York Central.

Briefing notes by theme:-

Culture & Community (relate to MYC Big Ideas “Exploit the benefits of high density” and “Public spaces that enable people to be collectively creative”)

  • York Central to provide rich culture on the doorstep of the city central and SPQ – to be a destination in its own right. “I want to turn left out of SPQ for my entertainment, not just right”.
  • Local people should be able to think of “ten things to do in York Central” and this should be a 24/7 place with no time barrier and no dead times. There should be larger-scale activities (markets and craft fairs) and smaller informal activities (busking / “take over” activities).
  • There should be free / cheap activities and the public space should encourage use – “there should be no signs saying NO” (e.g. No Ball Games). From public picnic tables and BBQs to play areas and park space with goalposts which stay there all year.
  • Public space should have an element of the unexpected; there should be places which feel a little wild, opportunities to explore and discover – from orchards to places with hidden narrative to be discovered.
  • Local shops and cafes that bring proper city living to SPQ – independent coffee shops for a morning walk, “shops like Bishy Road” and the ability to pop out for a drink rather than it being a lengthy trek.

Work and Life (relate to MYC Big Ideas “Beyond Zoning” and “A community made through exchange”)

  • The layout of York Central should encourage exploring on foot and bike – “less zoning means more reason to wander”. Mixed use planning “shouldn’t drag you into the centre all the
    time” and “spreads the spending power”. Mixed use also avoids the “zombie” landscape – empty of people during day or evening.
  • York Central should function well for people working from home – neighbourhoods should reflect the fact that people may live much of their daily/weekly life very locally.
  • York Central should function for all ages – by providing for all stages of life it builds community as people have less need to move elsewhere. There will need to be everything
    from nurseries and childcare through to reasons to want to live there in retirement. No-one should feel alienated – the place should feel unthreatening with opportunities for all ages to
    mix, and reasons for teenagers to “buy in” to the community and place.

Connections from SPQ (relates to MYC Big Idea “Exploit the benefits of high density” and “People, not more cars”)

  • York Central must open up new connections with SPQ – “if you want to embrace a
    community you have to open up”. This requires avoiding any “them and us” attitude and
    would bring benefits such as residents being able to “walk straight out into the park” and the
    protection of collective space and property by “more eyes, more children, more dog

Movement (relate to MYC Big Ideas “People, not more cars”

  • There should be improved movement around York Central and the surrounding communities without adverse impact. Air quality should improve and the feeling of danger brought about by fast traffic next to narrow footways should be eliminated. There should be no parking on pavements, smoother routes for the disabled, and places to perch and rest. Walking should be “so pleasant it gives no-one an excuse to get a taxi”.
  • There should be an improved route into the city centre through the NRM and onwards using shared space and free from cars. The new square in front of the NRM should be “free of queues of cars” and be pleasant and free from stress. Direct access from SPQ to the city centre and the station must be 24/7. It must feel safe and be well-lit, well-looked-after and well-used by others
  • There should be improved routes from SPQ / Leeman Road into York – a new pedestrian/cycle access across the tracks linking SPQ and the NRM to the riverside and links with river taxis and water activities which encourage riverside use.
  • To the south there should be a cycle-friendly bridge to Holgate – “like the Millennium bridge”.
  • York Central should provide a proper integrated transport network – there should be little need to drive through. This should include local provision (maybe bike share for SPQ and other communities) and clear, legible bus routes which actually go where people want to go (not just the city centre) plus broader thinking about investment in rail to encourage sustainable commuting both in and out of York. Public transport should be so good that it becomes “cool” – the preferred way to move.
  • Parking should be dealt with creatively. A mixed-use development should allow sharing of space so workers and residents don’t both need dedicated spaces. Shared parking encourages informal negotiation between users – whether they live or work there or are visitors.

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.



A Day in Life on York Central: Sharing York’s Gypsy Traveller Heritage

When we started My Future York one of the first things we did was to ask people to imagine two Days in their Lives, one that year and the second in ten year’s time. Every one contributed was rich, memorable and gave very specific ‘briefing’ pointers for lots of different parts of the city, not least York Central. When we went visit York Travellers Trust (YTT) to discuss York Central, we mentioned this technique and Violet Cannon, Director of YTT said she’d give it a go. in 2028 there is a vision – as is included in the York Central Big Ideas – of sharing and exchange.

Violet Cannon, Director, York Travellers Trust


I love York, I want to live here. Its one of the places my family call home. I say one! As a Romany Gypsy who lived roadside for most of my childhood, home was a lot of places within Yorkshire. Mainly it was split between Bradford, Harrogate and York. I settle for living in Selby and making the commute into my office in Falsgrave Crescent. I love my office. It’s not as majestic as some of York’s other buildings. But the old Girl stands proud in the middle of the other building around her.

I’m the Director of York Travellers Trust, the Trust is the longest running Gypsy Traveller Charity within the UK. (as far as my research as shown) and apparently the first Gypsy Traveller organisation to appoint a Gypsy or Traveller to the most senior paid role. I digress, but feel you need to know where I am. I am a Yorkshire lass, who happens to have been born Gypsy. Its my ethnicity not my lifestyle. York doesn’t have many options for me to live within its boundaries right now. I currently live just across the way, On a family development. York itself doesn’t seem to welcome private developments. Having only 3 sites and they are all Local Authority, and to be honest I don’t fancy paying nearly £100 a week for a slab of concrete and no rights as a tenant. The site residents are given licences not tenancies. I want a forever home. I’m thinking about getting married starting a family, somewhere kids can have safety and security. Yet still be connected to our rich heritage. I want a home I own or at least have some legal right to.

So, as I sit here in my little office space reviewing the York Local Plan and our objections, I dream of the day I can cycle back home, past York’s stunning architecture on a warm summers evening. Where 10 minutes is enough time for any journey. Suddenly I realise I have an appointment with the Housing Department and then at the York CVS I jump in my car to make the 1.5-mile journey to tanner row carpark. The meetings not for another 30 minutes, just hope I’ve allowed enough travel time!


I wake up to the alarm, alerting me its time to ensure the children have their breakfast! They are already up. The kids from the house opposite my chalet are helping mine feed the horse, as the little girl brushes down the side of old Peggy, the little boy helps my Tom struggle with a bucket of water.

I pull on a robe and wander to the door way to tell them breakfast will be 20 minutes, I catch the old man from in the assisted living struggling by with some bags. My little Tom drops his side of the bucket and goes to help him. Tom is thanking him and coming back with the bags.

“Apples from the communal garden mam, he said you wanted some for an apple pie and we could have the rest for the horses!”

I wave to the old man and ask if he’s coming into The Shared Heritage centre later for the skills sharing café. He nods and waves.

I walk back in and get dressed, no rush for me. The kids school is just down the road, I don’t need battle with rush hour traffic. They go with the other neighbour’s kids on the walking bus, thankfully we are only go on the supervision rota once every 2 weeks. I do love to hear my kids having fun and talking to the Gorja Children. None of them see difference. Gypsy isn’t a negative in York Central. They think my kids are cool, they have a horse, their mam runs the heritage centre and their dad tells stories and plays music around the community camp fire! The neighbours loved when we had the Vardo and horse and took them all around the York Central green. I start making the breakfast as I think of my day ahead. I need to follow up on some emails and make sure we have lunch for the skills sharing, today one of the older Gypsy men is teaching how to make wooden pegs and one of the ladies is explaining how the new virtual pcs work! All very confusing to me, but she’s a retired I.T expert and apparently, they are like second nature once you get used to them! Give me the good old days of touch screen and siri!

A bit more on the Hub for Creativity and Innovation event

A Hub for Creativity and Innovation?

Drop in to Friargate Meeting House, 5th July between 3pm and 8pm to explore what ‘a community made through exchange’ might mean for York Central and York more generally. And bring an idea, skill or game to share… and plan to learn something new in the process!

Based on the conversation during the Festival of York Central we drew out 8 big ideas. Two of the ideas were:

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.

We’re going to be explore more what these might mean for York Central and for York in general on 5th July. We running a drop in event 3-8pm, Friargate Meeting House. You can read more about the event here and tell us you are interested here.

We plan to use the event to enact and try out what a Hub might be and feel like, so we hope those that come will bring something they might like to share (an idea; a skill; a card game; a joke!) and come open to learn something new from someone else too!

Throughout the day and via social media we’ll ask:

  • What do you want to be able to share and exchange?
  • What is needed to make a ‘community made through exchange’ possible?

And, like all our events, we’ll be seeking to draw out a working brief and work out what we need to do next to develop the idea further and start to bring it to life!

Sustainable Construction on York Central – let’s do it!

A brief report and some links from the evening

The Sustainable Construction evening – like most My York Central events – had a varied audience which included interested local residents, students, council officers plus one Passivhaus client and one Passivhaus Designer. We had three presentations, each followed by a Q&A session, and then a chance for people to list – on the basis of what they’d heard – three things they’d like to see happen on York Central. The results of this – in the form, obviously, of Post-Its, are here.

Chris Thompson from Citu talked us through their journey from conventional approach to housebuilding through their Kelham Island development in Sheffield to Leeds South Bank – a journey into high-quality, off-site-manufactured construction driven by a desire for efficiency; the best of the UK conventional construction industry is about 40% efficient in use of resources, so there are gains to be made. The South Bank development will double the size of Leeds City Centre over 20-30 years, and Citu are building around 750 homes across two phases (York Central will have between 1700-2500 homes, for comparison). In addition to being the first new homes in the city centre for about 90 years, Citu are building family homes – and also working with a local provider to build a primary school to serve this new demand. Key points are that all freehold and energy assets (PV arrays and distribution) are owned by a Community Interest Company. If this all sounds too edgy to sell, well – they had buyers camping overnight outside their sales office before it opened. Chris’ presentation is here.

Rachel Trend from Native Architects talked through the work of the practice and, importantly, their willingness to put their money (and their staff) where their mouth is – with use of natural materials in renovation of their own office (work carried out by themselves) and a number of very fine buildings for practice members and key clients. Strawbale – both loadbearing and the Modcell modular system (as used by Lilac in Leeds) featured, and Hempcrete (hand-tamped, sprayed and pre-cast), plus timber and rammed earth. Rachel made it clear that natural building materials often punch above their weight by performing better in real-world use than other more apparently-sophisticated alternatives. Her excellent presentation is here.

Phil Bixby is an architect and Passivhaus Designer based in York, and he ran through what makes a Passivhaus different, what benefits this approach to construction brings, and specifically how the Passivhaus standard makes a good launch pad to go to zero-carbon construction. Data from recent completed schemes shows how households can generate more energy than they use, and how even electric car ownership needn’t tax the grid if homes are designed for solar from the start. Phil’s presentation is here.

Take a look through the Post-Its to draw your own conclusions on people’s priorities, but there was a clear feeling that we should be bold, and create a new part of the city which used sustainable technologies – of all sorts – to create a place where anyone would want to live and work.