Responses flood in over city homes scheme

A CITY-WIDE consultation to glean the public’s views on controversial plans to construct 22,000 homes in York has witnessed one of the biggest responses in the modern era as opponents claim the house-building programme will swallow up the historic city.

York Council has been inundated with responses to the major consultation on the initial proposals for the first development blueprint to span the whole of the city in more than half a century.

The consultation ends next week, but the authority has already received more than 1,000 responses, with meetings yet to be held with key organisations including English Heritage, the York Civic Trust and the Highways Agency.

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Council leader James Alexander maintains the 15-year planning vision is vital to addressing the affordable housing crisis in York, while also setting out plans to attract a wave of new enterprise by developing 20 sites which could bring as many as 16,000 new jobs.

But political opponents have claimed that the huge response to the consultation is a clear indication of the deep concerns over the controversial proposals, which include building on vast areas of greenbelt land.

The leader of the council’s Conservative group, Coun Ian Gillies, told the Yorkshire Post that public meetings had been attended by as many as 300 people, the majority of whom had voiced their fears over the proposed Local Plan.

He added: “There has been a lot of people at these meetings and almost to a person they are opposed to the plans. This is not about Nimbyism as questions have been raised about the methodology behind the Local Plan, and people are concerned about the impact that it will have on the city.

“There is no doubt that we have to provide more housing and building on green belt land has to be considered. But it needs to be done in a measured and sustainable way, looking at bringing actual benefits to the communities affected by securing funding for facilities from developers.

“This should be about enhancement not destruction, and the council needs to take the public’s views on board.”

House building in the city has fallen dramatically from a high in 2005, despite the city being one of the fastest growing locations in the country.

The scale of the affordable housing crisis has been illustrated by the latest data from the National Housing Federation which has revealed the average property price in York was £201,331 in 2011 compared to the regional average of £155,303.

The 20 employment sites identified for development in the new Local Plan up until 2030 include one of the largest brown field sites nationally, York Central, which encompasses redundant land around the city’s railway station.

The city centre has also been earmarked for the economic development, although the draft Local Plan highlights the need to maintain York’s world-famous heritage.

Two sites have been identified for the majority of the house building, with Holme Hill to the south-east of York having the potential for 5,580 new properties over the next 25 years. Clifton Gate to the north of Clifton Moor has been earmarked for 4,020 new homes over the next quarter of a century.

The council’s head of integrated strategy and the Local Plan, Martin Grainger, said: “The importance of the Local Plan cannot be underestimated.

“The plan will affect all future generations, so it’s extremely important that we can gain as much feedback as possible and we urge all 90,000 households to let us know what they think before the end of this month.