I would be very interested to come and hear the views of your committee and the Action group about the future of the site. I was interested to read about the conference you held just a few days before I was selected as the Conservative candidate for York Central, and do hope there may be other opportunities in the future to come and meet your group and hear your views.
This site is a huge opportunity for our city and it is crucial that we don’t let it slip. We have been waiting too long already for progress on this – and other – brownfield sites across York, and my first focus if elected as York Central’s MP would be to do everything possible to help move it forward. It is not just that this site is large; it is also that it is incredibly well placed and can play a huge part in terms of strengthening our society and economy for the future. The Enterprise Zone status is vitally important in terms of making sure the development can be delivered, and I am pleased that the Conservative Government and the Conservative-led City of York Council have given it this boost.
I am very keen to make sure that the views of all local groups and community members are understood and heard as we develop the site. While specific responsibility for developing the site lies with the Council, I will do everything I can to help support the responsible and sustainable development of the area – focusing in particular on the need to bring more housing, good jobs, new businesses, and stronger transport links to our city. It is also crucial that we do so in a way that protects our environment and strengthens York’s schools, economy and social fabric.
You won’t be surprised to hear that one of the key issues I have heard when talking to people has been how the proposed access to the site would impact the Upper St Paul’s Play Area and Community Garden. I think it would be a blow to lose this area and I therefore welcome all the work the Conservative Council leadership has done to look into other access routes.
More generally, and as we discussed this evening, we cannot see jobs and housing as separate issues. We need action on both in order to get a real balance of affordable homes in our city. As you might have seen, I talked about these issues in an article for the Yorkshire Post last week, and set out one very specific opportunity I see for York Central. Below is the relevant extract:
“Today, York is a fantastic, beautiful, successful city. We have great schools, universities, new digital industries, and some world-class businesses. But we’ve also got problems – traffic, a lack of housing, a gap between wages and house prices. Tourism is vital, but of the 7 million visitors to York annually, fewer than 2 million spend the night. We’re also losing out in the race to build the Northern Powerhouse.
The reality is these problems aren’t new. We’ve been talking about some of these issues ever since I was a child growing up here. The question is: why haven’t we made more progress? My answer is – particularly in the last two years – we’ve had an MP with no clear plan for our city. They prefer to march, shout and complain.
Take housing. The brownfield site behind York station is one of the largest brownfield sites in Europe. People have talked about developing it for years. You couldn’t ask for an area with better rail links, or more potential to bring new jobs to York.
So why hasn’t our MP been slogging their guts out to help drive the development forward – and banging a few York heads together to get those issues sorted? We can do it. But we need a leader, not a bandwagon follower.
In the last few weeks, local Conservative Candidates have launched a campaign to bring Channel 4 from London to York. Our number one priority is to get Channel 4 to Yorkshire. But we should also be pressing for it to come to York. The station site would be ideal – just two hours from London by train. I’ve already invited Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, to York to visit the site and discuss our bid.
But we need more than new offices. We also need new homes. We all know that the cost of housing is hurting young families. But the problem is not just that houses are expensive. It’s also that we need York wages to grow. That’s why, to making housing more affordable, we need to bring good new jobs to York.
And then there’s transport. Ever since I was a child, York has been ground down by gridlock. There are some key things we need to fix: upgrading the A64, improving the Outer Ring Road, and replacing old regional trains. Two weeks ago, the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling visited York and pledged to continue investing in improvements across York’s transport network – including replacing the old Pacer trains on the Northern rail network over the next two years.
I do hope you find this clear and helpful. As I said, I am very keen to hear your views on this area and would be very pleased to meet at the earliest opportunity if elected as your MP on 8th June.