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.

Vision Workshop 12th May – loooking at “how”.

These are notes from our open workshop, elaborating the Big Ideas and looking at next steps which we could collectively take to turn the ideas into reality.

Feedback on the Big Ideas

Homes for living, not investment:-

  • What kind of social contract works best to keep housing for homes forever?
  • Living on York Central doesn’t have to be about ownership – renting could be good.
  • Who will be the developer and what would work best? Homes England? The council?

Exploit the benefits of high density:-

  • Can imagine it feeling similar to behind Kings Cross – businesses at ground level, green spaces but also hardwearing finishes.
  • Site should have facilities for local people – supermarket for example – so no need for a car.

Build in low running costs through high standards:-

  • Is there an assumption it will be there in ten years’ time?” – are we building for the long term?
  • Can we build for true long-term sustainability by building for disassembly and re-use of materials? Considering flexibility, re-assembly?
  • How can we make service charges affordable? Would there be ways of doing this through community involvement?

People, not more cars:-

  • Need to create more connections to the riverside – cycle and foot paths.
  • We need to see pollution statistics to really know what the problem is.
  • Let’s make walking and cycling attractive and safe – the first choice – and make cars “possible but inconvenient” to use. Direct cycle routes are first priority. Let’s invest on things which make cars/parking irrelevant. Best intentions are not enough – need to think *how* we reduce car ownership.
  • Make the new station entrance work for cyclists – secure storage, well lit.
  • York Central should not be used to resolve congestion elsewhere.
  • Can we have multi-storey parking for station and NRM on the outskirts of the development to remove need to drive in?
  • Learn from elsewhere – good and bad. For example look at what went wrong with public transport at Derwenthorpe.

Beyond zoning:-

  • Can we enable people to downsize yet stay accessible?
  • Different layers of building can provide different uses to reduce zoning.
  • How about living units with networking space, meeting space, co-working space included/nearby?
  • How can we integrate York Central with the communities around it?

A community made through exchange:-

  • Can we set up Park & Ride so the profit is shared?
  • How do we build in ways for shared ideas to be developed and succeed?
  • What form of local governance would work best, and can York Central act as a catalyst for this across the city? How can this be open and accountable?
  • Can we achieve cross-party consensus?
  • We need to create a place which is serious about economic activity.

A hub that catalyses York’s creativity and innovation:-

  • How can we create a place to live and work for creatives coming out of York’s universities?
  • Can we create a learning and skills exchange?
  • Gallery / museum space?
  • Small / indie businesses are characteristic of York – we don’t need Google like Kings Cross. How can we take the success of Spark into York Central?
  • Can we also provide affordable space for existing businesses under pressure (rail industry)?

Public spaces that enable people to be collectively creative:-

  • Opportunities presented by the river shouldn’t be missed – recreation on the river provides recreation for others watching it. How about a watersports centre on Leeman Park with upper floor bar and viewing? A new home for York canoe club?
  • Allotments can be a place for sharing and learning
  • Ownership and control of public space must allow / encourage community use. How can it be adaptable to change with the seasons – eg water fountains (summer) and markets (winter)?
  • Can routes become experiences of art / creativity? “Paperchase” or art on the route? Public space should set high standards – quality street furniture etc.

…and how we move forward:-

  • Can we set up a body which allows for inclusion / investment, and can this be done soon? Can this include housing within its remit but also broader issues of economic development and inclusive governance? Can we hold events to inform and engage people?
  • Can we get involved in the discussion about cars and transport on York Central, with the same information on transport modelling which is available to the Partnership and council?
  • Can we broaden the thinking to go beyond York Central, and use the vision developed for York Central to also guide British Sugar site etc?

My York Central | Big Ideas, Principles and Vision


Summary of the ideas, principles and vision emerging from the My York Central Festival of York Central

In March and April 2018 we ran the Festival of York Central. We kicked off by calling for any questions anyone had about York Central. We then used the questions to develop four weeks’ worth of events exploring York Central from lots of different angles. You can read about the events and what happened on our blog.

From these events we ran weekly open anyalsis workshops to pull together Open Briefs – working documents around key areas: Public Space, Home, Work and Movement.

Following the end of the York Central Exhibition we used the thousands of post it notes to draw out a Vision, a Big Ideas summary and key Principles to guide the development of York Central. You can download the whole document.

You can also read it online via these links:

York Central Partnership Prelude: How will the York Central Partnership use the My York Central summary?
My York Central: How were the Big Ideas, Principles and Visions produced and how will they be used?
Big Ideas: My York Central
Principles: My York Central
Vision: My York Central
York Central Partnership Annex: Planning Application Engagement context

YORK CENTRAL PARTNERSHIP ANNEXE: Planning application engagement context

Since late 2017, York Central Partnership have developed opportunities for the public to engage with, and input into, the proposals as they have developed as follows:

• Stage 1 – YCP met with local groups and organisations and held three public pop-up events to hear thoughts on the emerging principles for the York Central masterplan.
• Stage 2 – YCP held a series of workshops with members of the community to discuss key themes for the emerging York Central masterplan. The workshops allowed YCP to explore issues raised in Stage 1 in greater detail which has helped to progress key elements of the masterplan.
• Stage 3 – The Festival of York Central – a comprehensive process involving an exhibition and dedicated website, as well as a series of events and activities to promote deeper understanding and engagement. This six week process finished on 29 April 2018.

Purpose of stage 3 – Festival of York Central

Following a focused and intensive period of design work, technical studies and engagement with local people over the past six months, YCP identified five main objectives for the stage 3 engagement:
1. Provide a clear overview of how the emerging masterplan is evolving.
2. Hear your views on the overall approach, vision and key principles.
3. Understand your thoughts on more specific elements of the proposals including site access and open spaces.
4. Deepen the level of involvement and understanding of the site through conversation and dialogue to enable long term community involvement in the site as it evolves.
5. Enable a masterplan that better meets the needs of the York community.

My York Central – Background Context
During Stage 1, respondents asked YCP to look at the My Castle Gateway project as a best-practice example of good engagement. The same team created My York Central (MYC). MYC goes beyond conventional community consultation by enabling all those interested to become part of a sustained long-term conversation where influence comes through sharing responsibility for the area and its future. Throughout the festival MYC has worked to make getting involved active, challenging and fun.

The purpose of this note is to summarise the feedback and discussions which took place through the events and activities which took place through the My York Central process alongside the exhibition. It is important to note that responses were also received via the Commonplace platform and main project website, and hard copy questionnaires.

YORK CENTRAL PARTNERSHIP PRELUDE: How will the York Central Partnership use the My York Central summary?

The following summary of feedback is being considered and discussed with YCP and the masterplanning team. It will help to refine and inform the masterplan and the various components of the planning application which is due to be submitted in August 2018.

In addition to the My York Central and wider stage 3 consultation feedback, YCP and the masterplanning team will consider the following:

• Further design work;
• Ongoing technical studies and assessments;
• Ongoing discussions with statutory consultees as part of the pre-application process; and
• Any subsequent targeted engagement as part of stage 4 of the planning application engagement process in advance of the submission of the application(s).

It is envisaged that these workstreams will assist YCP in progressing the following:
1. Refinement of the overarching vision and objectives for York Central.
2. Refinement and evolution of the indicative masterplan and further illustrative studies and materials.
3. Preparation of a set of planning application material which will inform the basis of the consent. As set out

In the exhibition this is likely to include a development schedule (the uses and amounts of development proposed), parameter plans (plans showing the limits of proposed development such as heights and layouts of plots) and design guidance (a guidance document against which future detail planning applications will be assessed).
4. Identification of other topics of discussion which are outside of the remit of YCP or the current planning application. These will be shared with other organisations (e.g. City of York Council) as appropriate.
5. Considering the ongoing approach to engagement beyond the immediate planning application.

My York Central Vision

Read more about how the Vision was produced and how it will be used, the Big Ideas summary of the Vision and the Principles for how York Central should develop from here. You can also read about how the My York Central work fits into the York Central Partnership’s next steps.

York Central as an integrated part of York

The development of York Central should bring to York elements which it needs to function better as a whole – it should “add something extra” and avoid harmful impact on existing elements of the city.

  • Thinking City Wide: Looking at patterns of life and work within the city as a whole, and how these can be helped to function better. How will York Central fit into a broad process of improving our current housing provision? What do we do well economically and how can York Central strengthen the city’s economy and provide new opportunities? How can York Central’s transport infrastructure help to shape city-wide integration and improvements in sustainability? So, if a broad, seamless public transport network is required to give an appealing alternative to car ownership, should we be looking at a “Transport for York” umbrella body in order to shape and coordinate it?
  • Combining different ways of knowing for change: Gathering and combining different information in more subtle ways. This means, for example, combining transport modelling with people’s own sense of their future behaviour. Yet this needs to be done not just as “knowing about: the current situation, it should be part of an active process which allows us to openly ask “what-if” and to consider change.
  • Heritage as creativity and innovation: For the development to be informed by the past – of the city as a whole and of the site itself – but for this heritage significance (why the past matters in the present) to shape the development in creative and exciting ways.

A New Community on York Central

York Central is not just built form and space. There are examples in York where recent new developments are devoid of life and culture. The planning process needs to move beyond simply allocating land for development within a rational 3D structure. Placemaking needs to consider the narrative of the future place and to engage with people and society. This needs to be part of both the process and the physical form.

The process and form of development needs to provide for the lives that local people want to create there for themselves. Ongoing opportunities for them to shape and re-shape both the physical form (buildings and spaces) and the governance and financial structures (ownership and economy) need to be built into planning. The development should allow for how people want to live, not just reflect what we have done in recent decades.

  • Inspiring ideas that open up possibilities: We should look for inspiration and practice elsewhere (for example Freiburg Vauban and Heidelberg Bahnstadt) for creative ways to deal with the management of car use and how this impacts on built form and the lives of inhabitants.
  • Creating a community to bring the York Central community into being: We should be prepared to question accepted wisdom in respect of what brings value and marketability to development and should give consideration to the process of “buying in” to a type of community (in the way it has worked at Derwenthorpe). So, the basis for decision-making on car use/ownership should move from whether we dare deviate from the status quo (“most people have cars, so we design residential areas for cars since moving away from this would result in resistance”) towards consideration of alternative possibilities (“there must be lots of people for whom a car-free neighbourhood this close to the centre would command higher house prices”).
  • Community-Led Approaches to Development: We should ensure routes for a wide variety of tenures and built form, through community-led homes, investigation of CLT models and other innovative routes. This process should also investigate long-term affordability and how this can be ensured.
  • Positive benefits of high density through co-design: We should explore a range of models for family housing which go well beyond “a house with a garden” and look at the benefits of higher density and high-quality shared facilities. One comment was that downsizing to a flat in York Central would only be a possibility if it was very, very nice. So, people considering downsizing or moving to York Central should be involved in briefing and designing for that quality.
  • Real and long term affordability: Affordability was a key issue during the community engagement process. Many people question the official definition of ‘affordable’ and called for greater ambitions in targets. York Central may not be able to “cure” York’s housing affordability problem, but is can demonstrate a methodology to start to address it.
  • Public space which serves purposes: Home extends beyond the front door, and public space must be thought of as a key shaping tool in creating neighbourhoods, both spatially and in terms of social value. Public space must balance being truly public, with encouraging “ownership” by neighbours and users. There should be a continuum of types of space from playstreets to hard-surfaced urban shared space, gardens and parkland to wilder areas which encourage wildlife. Public space does not, importantly, all have to be at ground level.

Mixed and Thriving York Central

Affordability (of housing and space for commerce) should facilitate the growth of a mixed community, one where a local economy can thrive with links to the city as a whole.

  • Mixed uses for a vibrant York Central: The need to zone commercial development away from housing was questioned and there was much discussion about whether a vibrant urban area needs mixed development and mixed uses. One quote was to “think 3D” – suggesting there might be benefits in having shops, social and commercial at ground level, offices at first floor and flats above to avoid the ‘ghost town’ effect and drive life in the public realm.
  • Living + Working: We should question the need to zone or separate living and working Many small-ish creative businesses are both good neighbours to each other (as they often collaborate) and also good neighbours to other uses – including residential – as they create little nuisance. In fact there were benefits in having the kind of activity throughout the day and night that happens when work and homes are linked.
  • Ways to contribute beyond work: Many people the future will simply not have jobs and they will be looking for creative ways of spending time and contributing and the design of the city should facilitate this, again pointing towards a mixed environment rather than one where work and homes are strictly zoned. There could be exciting possibilities for older residents wishing to have the option of inclusion within economic life, with the option to “invest” capital or time (or both) in neighbourhood economic activity.
  • Graduates need affordable housing too: Keeping graduates is seen as crucial to growing York’s own talent. Without affordable places to both live and work, graduates will be unable to afford to take necessary business risks, and there will be too great a hurdle to jump in terms of getting starts ups happening. Affordable housing is not just a “housing” issue, but has an impact on economic activity.

The new community on York Central will be dynamic. From the simple fact of long-term development (a scheme which may take 20 years of more to complete) through to uncertainties about future trends in transport or employment, the process and physical form should “leave open doors” for different narratives and opportunities. So, for example:-

  • Open Source Planning: A popular idea from David Rudlin’s talk on Grow Your Own Garden City was open source planning where a planning authority could pre-approve a variety of possible uses for people’s homes so they could turn them easily into small scale workspaces (open a hairdresser / set up an office).
  • Neighbourhood Planning?: This is an issue which leads immediately to consideration of Neighbourhood Planning – what will be the status of York Central, and how will neighbourhood planning issues be dealt with as the community develops?

Learning and Working on York Central

Through the public engagement process it became clear that the nature of York’s educational and commercial infrastructure – with two universities and a hugely successful creative industry network – offered opportunities to consciously build new physical and organisational structures which would drive a new phase of economic and cultural development. This would be a high-density mixed development within walking distance of the station (and sufficiently compact to be largely walkable within) where people could live and work.

  • Build for local business growth: It was also clear that there is a need both for provision for new businesses (supported shared space or incubator provision) and medium-sized growing businesses (10-12+ staff) in order for existing networks of interdependence to develop and grow.
  • Large employers – but not as a primary driver: This does not rule out new larger employers moving in to York Central, but it suggests that these incomers should not be the primary drivers in terms of the shaping of development.

Another issue which has been highlighted by the community engagement process is that of drawing creative contributions (whether formal or informal, paid or unpaid) together.

A Social Contract for York Central: Spreading benefits, underpinned by human rights and creatively addressing inequalities

York Central should build upon York’s tradition of pioneering development (with New Earswick, radical 1940’s housing and JRHT’s Derwenthorpe) to ensure a new community which addresses human rights and inequalities. Processes of development should ensure wherever possible that houses become homes rather than investments. Affordable public transport should ensure that access across the city is available to all, and as far as is possible at all times. Creative approaches could be developed to enable intergeneration ‘circular economy’ exchanges of resources of time, expertise and capital.

  • A “Social Contract” to spread benefit: Careful consideration of the process of development in relation to neighbouring communities and implementation of a “social contract” which allows existing communities to benefit from, and contribute to, York Central itself. For example can community infrastructure be located where the development meets existing communities – or even within those existing communities – to forge links and ensure a fair distribution of benefits of investment? How might community-led development approaches enable people to share time, expertise and financial resources to open up shared benefit.
  • Prioritise pedestrians and cycle users: Transport infrastructure should reflect the agreed hierarchy of priorities in York where there are rewarded for those choosing not to use cars. This means good, direct routes for pedestrians, those with specific mobility needs and cycle users. Space is always limited but planning should ensure these highest priorities are allocated adequate space, minimising the conflicts which occur (for example between pedestrians and cycle users) when space is cramped. Routes for pedestrians and cycle users should be safe at all times and in all seasons.
  • Playful and social streets: Transport infrastructure should be designed to facilitate the safe use of public realm by everyone. Car movement and parking should not impinge upon use of streets for play or social activity. All streets adjacent to homes or separating homes from green space should be “liveable streets”.
  • Sustainability and affordability should go hand in hand: Quality of construction and environment should benefit everyone. Equally-high standards of energy-efficiency should apply throughout, so that those in most need have low fuel bills and avoid fuel poverty, and high standards of construction should protect all from noise nuisance. Low car use should ensure good air quality
  • Community benefit – for existing and new communities: The entire development should be designed so that investment benefits existing neighbouring communities. Overall connectivity improvements should balance any additional burdens imposed by incoming population (residential or commercial). The overall value of the development should always be the guide in respect of viability of provision of community benefit. This takes us back to the idea that York Central should be guided by a ‘social contract’ that benefits new users of the area, bordering communities and indeed the whole city.

Read the York Central Partnership Annex which sets out the background context to the My York Central Big Ideas, Principles and Vision.