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….