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.

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.

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!

What tagline should we choose for a Re-imagined York?: My Future York at the Festival of Ideas

‘Reimagining the City’, 17th June. Part of the Festival of Ideas.

On Sunday 17th June My York Central is taking part in an event ‘Re-imagining the City’ as part of the University of York’s Festival of Ideas.

We’ll be inviting participants to reflect on what the panel talks and discussion might mean for York. We’ll be doing this during the day with our trusty post it notes but also online.

You can take part in the discussions via this link.

We have an overall question:

The tagline for Las Vegas is ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’. What tagline should we choose for a Re-imagined York?

And then two questions for each session. One quick fire ‘in three words’ and one more open question.

For the ‘Technology and Transport’ session which explores ‘how architecture, technology and transport underpin urban living and how they impact on the environment, our lives, health and happiness’ we’re asking:

What does ‘city living’ mean in a city like York?

In three words: How would you like to be travelling in York in ten years’ time?

For the ‘Building Sustainable, Successful Communities’ session we’re asking:

Who needs to be involved to build communities in York?

In three words: What does ‘success’ mean for you in your communities?

And for the final ‘Re-imagining York’ session we’ll be asking:

What aspect of York needs the most re-imagination?

In three words: You are in York in 10 years’ time, what do you see and hear?

Book your tickets to come to the event.

Sustainable Construction on York Central

13th June 2018, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
York Explore
Book your free place

During the Festival of York Central many people expressed a wish for development on York Central to be of the highest standards of sustainable construction; for it to be an exemplar which went beyond statutory requirements and demonstrated the benefits of higher performance. But what does “sustainable” mean and how can high standards be guaranteed when the word is so often casually applied? How can we use a mix of well-tried good practice and genuine innovation in order to create buildings and places which will guide York in its commitment to being a One Planet city?

This workshop session will feature presentations by experts on three themes:-

Innovative Development – Chris Thompson and Jonathan Wilson of Citu will explain how Citu build ultra-low carbon places at the cutting edge of sustainability, with a focus on building for people, not cars (or investors!). They will be sharing how Citu’s people first approach is taking shape at the Climate Innovation District
Sustainable Materials – Rachel Trend of Native Architects, looking at new uses for natural materials including strawbale, hempcrete and woodfibre insulation
Passivhaus and beyond – Phil Bixby of Constructive Individuals, exploring how Passivhaus design and construction plus renewables can bring really low-carbon, comfortable living

My York Central’s eight Big Ideas include “build in low running costs through high standards” and our underpinning principles include community engagement and co-design. This workshop will give a chance to gain knowledge about current technology and practice, to discuss ways in which those high standards can be implemented on York Central, and how you might be able to help this happen.

This event is held in partnership with York Explore

The Role of Arts & Culture in York Central

Monday 30th April 2018, 6:15pm – 8:00pm
York Explore, Museum Street
Book your free place

Good design should seek to add to the city’s overall cultural qualities as a place, and also enhance its cultural capacity — its ability to create opportunities for cultural creation, expression, learning, sharing, and enjoyment….”

So says York’s draft Local Plan. But why is it important to consider and plan for the arts and culture in a development like York Central, and in a city like York? And if it’s important, how can we make it happen?

Facilitated by Hazel Colquhoun and Robert Powell, this event will include presentations and discussion, and help lay the groundwork for further activities and action in the future.

Robert Powell is a York-based writer and poet with over 30 years experience in the arts and place-making. From 1997-2015 he was Director of Beam, a company dedicated to promoting the role of artists and communities in designing and improving public spaces and places.

Hazel Colquhoun has worked throughout the UK as a consultant on arts and cultural projects for over 20 years, with a particular interest in working outside formal arts spaces, public art and place-making. Based in York, she has recently co-curated “Look Up” the major temporary commissioning programme for Hull 2017, UK City of Culture.

David Rudlin: ‘Grow your own Garden City – Uxcester and York’

An illustration of the Garden City ‘snowflake approach’ where development creates new large and very well connected urban extensions in order to grow a city.

5th April, 7-8.30pm

David Rudlin joined us as part of the Festival of York Central to share work he did with Nicholas Falk on a new generation of Garden Cities (the recipient of the 2014 Wolfson Economic Prize). In this write up of the event, we post links to the report and a number of useful summary articles as well as some of the current work influenced by the Garden City report that David and his group URBED are involved in.  This work was based on a fictional historic city called Uxcester, but to give them a base to work with, David and Nicholas choose York (twisted it a bit on the map). So while their work is of enormous relevance to many small cities in the UK, it is of relevance to York in particular.

We then have written up the Q&A. We were very interested in the questions that came from the York audience as they point to ways in which we might locally work with David’s analysis of the issues (not least with the planning system itself) and with the Garden City ideas.

To give a flavour of the David’s overall analysis of the issues, here is an extract:

The country that gave the world the Garden City is now building around 100,000 fewer homes each year than it needs to. What is more, the quality of the housing that is built, while better than it used to be, is still poor compared to other Northern European countries, in terms of space standards, environmental performance, layout and infrastructure. For many years URBED’s Nicholas Falk has led study tours to cities like Freiburg, a German city near Basel of a little over 200,000 people that has built two large urban extensions at Vauban and Rieselfeld in the last twenty years. Walking through these new neighbourhoods with UK politicians, professionals and community activists, past the shining trams, high-quality housing and generous green space, the question asked is always; why can’t we do this? The answer is not that we in the UK lack the talent or commitment, but rather that our system makes it if not impossible then at least very difficult.

Then the report – set out by David’s talk – sets out series of responses to the systemic issues, which you can read in summary and in full here. Here are some of the key elements:

Vision: not to build new towns and cities but to graft new growth onto existing places. The report looks at doubling the size of a city the size of York.

‘The Garden City extensions are based upon some simple geometry; tram stops that are within 20 minutes of the city centre, neighbourhoods that are within 10 minutes walk of these tram stops, each of which supports a secondary school and its feeder primary schools, and urban extensions made up of five neighbourhoods that have sufficient scale to support a district centre and employment use’ (pp. 2-3)

Popularity: development is not always popular to say the least, the report sets out a way forward that poses a deal and underpins a social contract:

‘We propose a ‘deal’ by which we lift the threat of development around all of the

city’s existing suburbs and villages by concentrating growth in a few large urban extensions. […[ This deal will be backed up with a ‘Social Contract’ which undertakes that the Garden City extensions will be built in areas where their impact is minimised. This contract will also cover the creation of 3,000 HA of accessible public open space and investment in new transport infrastructure and city centre facilities to benefit the whole of the community. Our aim is to reframe the argument by making the Garden City an attractive solution to a set of problems that the city cannot solve on its own’ (p. 3)

Economic Viability and Governance: based on the analysis of the current problems set up by the planning system, David’s presentation and the report outlines a response.

‘In the final part of the essay we describe the process by which Uxcester Garden City

would be built through its seven ages. This starts with a Garden City Act being passed by the new Parliament as enabling legislation to create the planning and compulsory purchase powers that each Garden City would need. Cities would then be invited to bid to be designated as a Garden City in order to get access to these powers. The successful places like Uxcester would establish a Garden City Foundation as a partnership between the local authorities, the Local Economic Partnership, the community and other partners. This would be vested with the Garden City powers and would be responsible for masterplanning, acquiring the land and acting as planning authority. The land would be vested in a Garden City Land Company, the majority shareholder of which would be the Foundation but a minority shareholding sold to investors’. (p. 4)

After David’s talk there was a Q&A with questions and contributions from the floor:

Q: What about employment?

The first thing to say is that homes create jobs (e.g. schools, shops). One issues for cities is how to retain graduates. Here public transport links are crucial (as often professional couples work in different places). In the Garden City, the tram takes you into town and to the train station. We are also interested in Open Source Planning where people can turn houses into workplaces flexibly.

Q: What are the benefits of trams? How many new houses make a tram system viable?

Trams are more effective than buses, everyone is prepared to use a tram but not everyone is prepared to use a bus, in large part because travelling off road is quicker. There is something about the permanence of the tram infrastructure, knowing there will be public transport long term, whereas bus routes can just disappear. While trams are especially effective, you can get 50/60% of the benefits from bus rapid transit. 5000 homes would not be enough to fund a tram. It’s not possible to give a specific answer as financial modelling would need to be done, but I would assume you need 20,000+ to make a tram sustainable. Trams are mark of civilization, it is just about whether we choose to spend our money on it.

Q: In the centre of Ebenezer Howard’s diagram was a question: ‘where will all the people go? We are in a period where some cities are in a fight for ‘winner takes all growth’, can we think of the Garden City model as making cities of optimum size that will become something closer to a steady state (of growth)?

There is work going on about where young educated qualified people are choosing to live. Business parks are struggling to attract people out in the sticks because young people are more attracted to living in cities of a certain size. York might be big enough to count. The purpose of the Garden Cities approach was that we were expanding places where young people wanted to live because cities give them access to what they want.

Q: Your housing market diagrams shows the demise of the local authority house building and the rise of the market.  Larger cities than York seem to be able to make the decision to create infrastructure, is it more difficult for somewhere like York?

In London, Crossrail has created a 15% uplift in value generated for property owners near the new stations. All that uplift was created by that public investment – those householders benefit, but none of that benefit went back into public infrastructures. What we need is a way of capturing that uplift to invest back into infrastructure. The public sector has become disempowered – we need to change that.

Q: What about build out rates? People don’t want to be living on a permanent building site.

Build out rates are the great mystery of our time, a developer takes a site, builds 50-100 a year and sells 1-2 a week. People say to them, ‘you are restricting supply’. They say, ‘we spent £20m bring the site to market, why would we not want this back as soon as possible’? But they all have their own brickies, and it is very slow. We will never build 300,000 homes (the Homes England target) that way. We need to get over the build out rate constraints. In France 60% of housing is self-build, people buy a plot and commission a builder to put the housing up. A completely different model.

Q: There is something fundamental here: is anybody in the country thinking this through and ready to act on it? Is there interest in Labour Party, anyone ready to make this change? The conclusion from your talk is that something fundamental needs to shift.

The Lyons Housing Review says all the right things including about land value capture (commissioned under Ed Milliband) but Labour baulked and took out the land value capture.

Lord Taylor, a Liberal Democratic Peer, who wrote the National Planning Policy Framework is working on this. There is a sense that the Government is nervous about the politics, they will change things behind the scenes and try not to draw attention to themselves. The bad news is that doesn’t suggest radical change quickly. But people do get the argument at least.

Q: What about the wiki house concept where people can design and manufacture their own houses?

That is part of Open Source planning idea. We’ve been working with Igloo on custom build, one version of which is the wiki house.

Q: What about the aesthetic of custom build?

You can set the size of the lots, so you have already pre-constrained it. Then you can give a plot passport, you can set footprint, where on plot the house can go and what height. But in places where this has been done (for example Almere in the Netherlands) the experimental people are drawn together and the more conservative people are drawn to the more conservative bits. The planning office can pre-approve the housing types, can see them all in advance, but you do need to let go a bit and trust people. All villages were built like that.

Q: You’ve painted a very clear picture of the what the future of somewhere like York can be and I think there is a fair amount of buy-in here. But if the world doesn’t change it ain’t going to happen. What are the barriers that need to be demolished?

1)The government has already changed the local government finances. From 2022 local authorities will be depending entirely on their tax base, so they need to grow in order to add to the tax base.

2) The planning process is unworkable. It is based upon an adversarial system. It becomes a  feeding fest for planning consultants. They do very well out of it. In Holland, they say ‘why do you consult all the time, we consult on the plan and then we do it’. The system itself is not working, planners need to be given more power not less, so they can be more decisive.

Connecting York Central and Holgate

6:00pm – 7:00pm Friday 13th April

Wilton Rise railway footbridge

One of the key issues that has emerged from conversations within the Festival of York Central has been connections between the new development and existing surrounding communities. It’s recognised that the existing footbridge across the goods line which connects Cinder Path and Wilton Rise is not ideal, and the masterplanning team are exploring options to improve this connection. These include replacing the existing bridge with something better in the same location, providing an improved connecting route, replacing the bridge in a new location, or doing nothing.

What would work best for you? Come and take a look at the options and walk the routes with us at 6pm on Friday 13th April. We’ll meet at the footbridge on the Wilton Rise side, and there will be an opportunity to discuss the proposals and to feed back into the masterplanning process.

Living and Working Creatively on York Central – A workshop to develop ideas and networks

Post its of the discussion captured the big ideas

Wednesday 4th April
7:00pm – 9:00pm

As part of the ‘Work’ week of the Festival of York Central we collaborated with York@Large to develop a discussion about living and working creatively in York Central. Some new themes emerged, such as how to connect across scales of economic activity and how to make the city’s generational and class wealth gap work for York. We were also able to deepen and extend our discussions about some key themes – such as affordability and mix of uses – that have shot through many of the Festival of York Central discussions so far.

‘It is easy to build homes, office and hotels. You can’t build community. To get community you need to invest in people. We need to bind York Central to the city and bind York Central to the people of the city’.

Hubs of similar businesses

‘A hub of people doing the same things helps everyone thrive’

In Swinegate there are a small creative businesses above almost every shop. Rather than see each other as competitors, this hub and community was seen as positive and something to consider for York Central.

Creative industries were seen as ‘making good neighbours’…

  • With each other (for networking)
  • With other uses (they’re low impact)
  • They are often “first floor” businesses.

There is a shortage of flexible space – Hiscox local hub was oversubscribed by factor of four.

What makes for good work space?

York was seen to be doing ok in terms of creating space for very small business. The benefits of above the shop workspaces were seen as being ‘cheap and centrally located’. Clients often travel by train, so being in the centre or closer, as York Central would be, to the station was seen as positive. First floor work spaces was acknowledged as cheaper because there was no street frontages, yet it was suggested that ‘giving up the ground floor might be a mistake’ as lively inviting shop frontage might give a chance to show and showcase the work going on in York.

Middle sized businesses

‘We used to have industry, the carriage works and chocolate, but nothing replaced it’.

‘Retail and tourism has soaked up a lot of that… but there is that missing middle layer of better paying jobs’.

There is a missing “middle band” of size of business and premises for them SCY Creative strategy discussions suggest this is true for creative industries, where there are start-ups and some global mature businesses, but trading conditions are less ideal for medium sized (ie small) creative businesses. This conclusion is supported by the demographic analysis in Cities Outlook 2018 from Centre for Cities (Population Aged 30-44, percentage point change 2012–2016)

‘This is not about trapping businesses in York but we need to recognise that those middle band businesses are not thinking of coming to York’

An example given was that of architects with staff of ten in an office which fits seven with no space to expand beyond that. If middle-sized businesses do want to stay in York they are forced out to Clifton Moor. ‘If you bring a client to the centre of York, that’s great – Clifton Moor… not so much’.

If we’re building 3/4/5/ storey buildings adding “a floor for business” is a relatively cheap addition – just four extra walls since foundations/infrastructure and upper parts/roof would be built anyway.

More on mix of uses

‘Having a variety of spaces which allow different uses is powerful’.

Mixed uses has been a theme of the Festival of York Central discussions. The idea of York Central as a place where there is always exciting and creative things going on was discussed. How to make this happen was debated, the idea of spaces where things could happen was a key idea.

Ecosystem of economic activity (how it works across different scales)

‘We need to grow our own talent. Grow our own base’.

‘York is a relatively small city, we’re not about to become Manchester. We need to stay the right size city, which needs the right grain of development and link up with other cities of a similar size’.

‘Do we need to attract a couple of big employers?’

There was a lot of discussion about the wider economic ecosystem for York. The issue with the middle band of business was not simply seen as being about space but that there just isn’t the economic activity to sustain businesses once they get beyond start-ups. This was noted not just as a York issue but is region-wide issue. ‘Economic growth in York needs to “ripple out”’.

‘York Central needs to bring something to the broader table’. It was suggested that we need big economic drivers in York to create demand for smaller services. Ideally companies which make stuff and have big supply chains. We also need co-dependent businesses.

‘Media City in Salford has lifted the whole region but took time and required big investment’.

Generations and Class: York’s young people, keeping the city’s graduates and older people retiring to York

‘Young people feel York is for tourism and students’

‘I said to someone under 30 you need to be involved in York Central – this is the future of city – and there was this blankness’

‘You look at those pictures and you can’t place yourself there’.

‘People under 30 don’t believe they’ll ever buy a house or have a pension – so York Central feels very much like it is for someone else, someone older and more affluent’

We discussed the issue of how York can keep its graduates. This is seen as crucial to growing York’s own talent. It was seen as intimately connected to housing costs, graduates can’t afford to take risks because housing costs are so high. Graduates have to work so many hours to cover living costs, so there is a greater hurdle to jump in terms of getting starts ups happening.

But there is also an issue for York’s young people who do not go to University.  How do we create pathways from school and college. ‘We need to have a layering of the skills base – how do we develop this?

It was noted that there is a trend of people wanting to retire to York. As is often noted in UK-wide policy debate, the ‘baby boomer’ retirees can be comparatively wealthy and capital rich. This trend to retire to York is one dimension driving York’s housing costs and making it harder for young people from York and graduates to stay. As a positive response to this, we discuss what a ‘circular economy’ – cross-generation – might look like. This could include  learning from each other – (this brought to mind Ivan Illich’s classic Deschooling Society) – sharing skills across generations and making the most of the professional skills and networks of York’s new retirees. It also linked to ideas emerging from the Forever Affordable event about co-operative, mutual approaches to development, where funds for community-led development are raised though a community shares issues (see Headingly Development Trust for an example). This could also be a way of asking those that benefit from the tourist economy to give back to create facilities and housing for local communities (second homes owners / holiday home owners / big hotels).

Making the most of what is already going on

‘York doesn’t celebrate these things’

‘York Science park needs to be part of the city’.

There was a feeling that so much amazing work is going on in York but York doesn’t shout enough about it. ‘The Universities tend to keep stuff to themselves’.  Church Fenton was given as an example – ‘can we create a York post-production hub? ‘Or a centre for the interpretative arts – how good would that be?”.

The York Psyche! How to ‘break the spell’

‘York needs to pull its socks up a bit’

‘York has somehow got to sell itself, it has to be audacious’.

‘Sometimes feel like we ned permission for things to happen in this city’

Can we make a bold move in one area to “break the spell” – medical robotics?’

‘York’s reputation has allowed muddy thinking to persist’.

Throughout the conversation comments like this were made… with the positive flipside being some of the ideas around the idea of a development trust and ‘making it happen ourselves’.

Narratives for York Central

It was felt that narratives for York Central were needed. Could local businesses be involved in developing York Central. For example, like the example give at the Forever Affordable event, could a factory be onside to build the buildings (e.g. passivhaus). Then ‘how the site is developed becomes part of the ongoing story of the site’.

Areas to follow up:

  • How do we get the Universities involved in York Central?
  • Can we have an experimental Planning Order to enable flexibility of use/activity?
  • Can we create a development trust for York? Can this make the most of the circular generational economy?






Housing Histories, Housing Futures: What can we learn from looking back at York’s so called ‘slum clearances’?

An image from the Hungate archive, used as part of Housing Histories, Housing Futures workshop.

Housing Histories, Housing Futures: What can we learn from looking back at York’s so called ‘slum clearances’?
Saturday 24 March, 1.30pm-3pm
York Explore Libraries and Archives

The Housing Histories, Housing Futures event in collaboration with York Past and Present and York Explore Libraries and Archives was based on work done in 2015 and 2016 on the histories of housing in York and especially looking at the Hungate inspections and clearances.

We opened with Introduction to York Central. A key focus for York Central is homes, with both the Council and Homes England as members of the York Central Partnership which have a specific policy interest in house building. Throughout the session – as we looked back – we kept returning to this question: what principles can we draw out for how government and communities should work together?

We looked back two key moments in the Hungate clearance. Catherine Sotheran had explored the 1911 Census, revealing a wide diversity of occupations not quite what might be expected from a ‘slum’:

The majority of adults are in work, the most common occupations being in the Chocolate industries, general labouring jobs, laundry and other domestic type jobs, trades like painters, joiners, wheelwrights etc. but also a few more skilled jobs like a hairdresser, midwife, auctioneer, book binder, dressmaker, druggist and antique dealer. There also seemed to be quite a few people involved with fish, either as dealers or fish fryers.

We then went on to look at some examples of health inspections which were used to underpin mandatory improves, leading even to the authorities just making changes and sending a bill through. Even, as Catherine found out, they didn’t know exactly who owned the house in question!

In the 1930s the improvements had led to being clearances as people were moved to new housing in Tang Hall and Clifton. Here were found some personal stories creeping soon, a woman who was forced into an institution, a story found by Sue Hogarth, and as you can read below, a letter from a man who was the last on their street.

‘I am the only one left on the street’ the letter reads.

Reflecting on how we could see the authorities and people interacting – often individuals seemed very much an afterthought in the 1930s – we skipped forward to the 1970s where a different mood was in evidence.

1970s in Layerthorpe. Housing in red, slated to be demolished.

In our 2015 project Carmen Byrne had  found a series of correspondence between a woman in street due to be demolished in Layerthorpe, we went back and read parts of her blog written at the time:

One tenant from Eastern Parade wrote to the Public Health Inspector in January 1973 requesting further information as she’d “held back a week’s holiday which must be taken before the end of the financial year”, so she was “naturally anxious to know if we are likely to move in the near future”. The resident’s uncertainty stemmed from having no news since she visited the Inspector’s office around one year earlier and her concern about a series of “cleaning and replacement jobs which must be done if we are going to be here longer”. This would suggest that there was little transparency or communication with the residents during the process, and again reinforces the lack of ongoing investment into properties already resigned to demolition.

Buckingham Street in Bishophill was to be demolished and were saved by the activism of local residents as part of the Bishophill Action Group

We then looked briefly at the Bishophill Action Group and there work to save streets which were planned to be demolished to make way for multistorey car park. This activism evoked quite a different relationship with the local government that was visible earlier, as one member of the Bishophill Action Group group put it in a press article: ‘if the corporation had wanted the street, they could have got it a lot more easily than by calling it a slum. This has put our backs up. We feel they are using underhand methods.’ 20th September 1972

We then ended by reflecting on these histories… what principles can we draw out for how government and communities should work together?

Changing expectations of involvement

We noted that in the two major cases of 1911s and 1930s and the the 1970s, that between this period people clearly had come to expect to have more control over their lives.

A post it note from the event

Problem of jargon – and the need for shared language

This lead to a lot of discussion about how to build shared language and respect the expertise that comes from living somewhere, not just professional experitise/

Community is fundamental not just brick and mortar: ‘They treated housing like a problem to be fixed and ignored the problems they created in terms of lack of community’

An interesting insight from the discussion was the way on which the authorities treated housing as a problem that need simply to be fixed with improvements or new housing. This had the effect of ignoring all the other aspects of ‘home’, ‘belonging’ and ‘community’.


Need for government intervention in the market, but with involvement of those affected

There was however a strong feeling that govenrment is not in itself bad – nd that we needed interveiton from the public bodies involed in York Central. But with greater involvement from local people.

Community involvement in designing and building?  

This lead to a discussion about how communities could be actively invovled in design and build of housing.

Slum then, affordable now?

We concluded with a very interesting discussion – building on the discussion above about language. It would be rare to hear the word slum now – it is considered a negative and pejorative word as the Bishophill Action Group pointed out above. Yet, it was asked, is is possible that affordable does similar work today in that it categorising certain groups and seperating them off from others?