York Central provides a major opportunity in the heart of my constituency to develop a strong economy, infrastructure and vital homes for people across the city of York. The York Central site should be underpinned by the principle of putting the people of York first, a ‘York First’ principle, so those living in the city will have their housing needs met and the opportunity to engage in good sustainable employment through this development.
The ‘York First’ principle should first make an analysis of the housing crisis in York and the sustainable homes that are needed to be developed to address this. Likewise, the development of the enterprise zone must first seek to provide the skills and jobs to rebalance the local economy. The 72-hectare development should provide opportunities for local people. Building infrastructure, addressing the congestion challenge of the city and creating a strong sustainable environment is all vital for the site, while also promoting tourism through the National Railway Museum expansion plans.
The development plans for the station are vital to secure a strong gateway to the city. The opportunities to develop the transport infrastructure and integration around the York Central site are important if we are to make York Central a success. Not only is it necessary to get York’s current traffic infrastructure functioning better through the new station design, but it will also be important to ensure that bus, rail and other forms of transport integrate well, including safe routes for pedestrians and cyclists.
The opportunity to open up the space to the west of the station will not only bring people into the heart of York Central but also create new opportunities for the National Rail Museum and new business community to connect with the rest of the city.
Whilst it is vital that pedestrians and cyclists are integrated well into the York Central transport infrastructure, good parking facilities around the York Central site are also crucial. Rail is clearly at the heart of the site and with upgrades of the Trans Pennine Express and the development of future high speed rail, there are real opportunities for York to be a stronger rail hub in the future.
York has a historic congestion problem. Bringing 7700 jobs and anything around 1000 homes (or any combination of between 3800 jobs and 2500 homes) into the heart of the city carries a serious risk of exacerbating this problem. This will not only bring more car journeys into the city, but greater emissions which may worsen York’s current air pollution problem.
Transport infrastructure to and from the rail-locked site brings real challenge and could potentially become another congestion hotspot. It is essential that a professional transport review is commissioned to ensure the development of the York Central site and the review of the wider transport infrastructure seeks to solve the current congestion problems and air quality challenges as well as future ones.
York’s economy is currently imbalanced and the York Central site provides an opportunity to develop lines of business which can respond to this. The city has a low wage economy, with average incomes of £473/week (UK average £528/week) and is segmented heavily into the public sector (26%), the tourism industry (12%), retail and wholesale (16%), financial and professional services (13%) and others.
There is a real shortage of skilled and semi-skilled jobs in the city, which will provide greater employment stability, better wages, and will provide opportunities for young people to aspire to continue to live and work in the city. A planned and balanced economy enables better infrastructure planning, skills training and reduces inequality.
Building out from the regional economy there are expanding opportunities in the Yorkshire region for growing financial services in the city and for reaching out into the green economy, for example.
Developing a structured economic plan for the York Central site is important, so developing the site alongside industry, the universities, York College and the wider business community in the city is imperative.
The first aim for new jobs in the city must be to provide new opportunities for those that live in the city, and therefore developing skills and apprenticeships now is vital so people are ‘job ready’ when the site is complete. The City of York Council should seek to develop future skills as a priority, in the same way the West Midlands supported its local economy following the economic downturn. This investment has resulted in growth of the motor industry there.
York is treasured because of its unique heritage. Too many urban areas being developed are characterless and this would not make the York Central development attractive to those who use the site or as an attraction in itself for visitors. Ensuring that the proposals do not just replicate angular blocks of offices and buildings is important; real thought should be given as to how the area is developed.
I would support the recommendation for clear control of lines of sight around the Minster view and that of the wider city. I would urge serious caution around developing high rise offices which could take away some of the aspects which make people value their local community. York is not a high-rise city and therefore the development should be in keeping with this.
There needs to be a clear understanding of how the business area is to be used and how the residential area best serves people in the city. The business area should be designed around the core skills that can be developed from within the city to strengthen the local economy. Likewise, the housing development should address the city’s housing crisis, rather than creating homes for a new market, where occupants could see this as a commuting or commercial opportunity. This could even exacerbate York’s housing crisis.
The affordability of high value accommodation does not address the needs of the city. While it is true that some single occupancy accommodation is needed, this is predominantly at the lower end of the market, and developments are needed to address all identified groups in York from elderly residents to young professionals, from supported housing to home ownership. However, the city must ensure that the major focus is on those with the greatest need of housing, including family accommodation.
If we are to develop skills for the new economy in York, it is vital that we don’t just see this as an opportunity for importing skills and new people, but first and foremost this must be an opportunity for developing the skills and job prospects of local people. They need to live somewhere.
York’s family housing needs are not best suited to a high density, contemporary urban living environment. Families need to be rooted in community style developments served by the right infrastructure to accommodate their needs with safe space for recreation.
If the development of the York Central site is to be a success, and business is transferred into the city from elsewhere, then there needs to be the availability of family accommodation and good planning will form an essential element of ensuring the site matches local need. I therefore urge that more suitable and needs-based housing is the first criteria for the new development, integrated into mixed housing areas.
The chance to develop the world famous National Rail Museum will bring opportunities to the whole of the city. I am fully supportive of the plans to develop the museum including the development of the new engineering educational experience, new exhibition space and the opportunity for the museum to reach a wider audience.
The city must be dependent on a robust drainage system. Every time land is built upon, there is less surface space for water to drain away. Green spaces are also conducive to developing good living and working environments. As part of the plans it is important to develop green spaces that can be used for leisure, healthy activity and for sustaining a good environment. Green spaces should not be an afterthought but seen as a central part of planning and the York Central site could be made into an attraction for the city. For instance, a rail heritage themed park could run through it.
In conclusion, York Central provides an amazing opportunity for the City of York. If the ‘York First’ principle is applied to all housing development and used to provide skills and jobs for people in our city, then this project could seriously build a highly sustainable economy and community.