My Future York Collaborative Hustings: Write up

In the design of the Collaborative Hustings we sought to move from everyday issues all the way to our big goals for transport and movement in York. Fom potholes to human happiness?

24th April 2019

The Collaborative Hustings led to cross-party agreement for a Citizens’ Assembly for transport to create long-term and cross-party consensus. In getting there the Hustings was structured to move from small scale everyday issues like potholes to overarching aims such as creating a happy city where everyone belongs – but what proved really sticky was what happens in the middle scale in terms of putting ideas into practice…

On 24th April council candidates from all four major parties gathered with 25 members of the public to experiment with a collaborative approach to local elections hustings.

The motivation for experimenting with a collaborative approach in York arises from the fact that council leadership often changes between election cycles and therefore many issues – if they are to be addressed long term – need cross-party co-operation; a point that was noted by some of the candidates.

We chose an issue that everyone agrees is urgent but long-standing:- traffic congestion. We knew there were potentially differences between the parties in terms of the nature of the issue and how to address it, but also that there was plenty of scope for common ground.  Traffic congestion is also a very knotty issue with only vague geographic and conceptual boundaries (it connects to health and economy). It is also an issue which has a lot to do with individual people’s actions – and so needs to be addressed collaboratively between the council and citizens.

The approach we took was to see if we could move from the everyday issues each of us experience in our movement around the city to overall goals for movement in York. We asked a spokesperson from each party to respond from the perspective their party and then we sought areas of agreement.

Starting specific: Everyday issues

We began by sharing a journey we do regularly, working together to pull out and note the issues. We then quickly clustered them on the wall. Key issues were: potholes, congestion, air quality; disappearing bike lanes; Park and Ride buses not stopping on their way into town; Pedestrians feeling as though they are at the bottom rather than top of the hierarchy of users.

Explore fundamental purposes: Overarching goals for movement in York

We then distributed each of these clusters to a group to use a ‘7 whys’ approach to get to fundamental purposes. This is where the idea of going from potholes to human happiness comes in. You – a bit like a toddler! – ask ‘why’ seven times to try and get from specific to really articulating why something is important, what its values are.

Our example of the technique was…

Park and Ride buses don’t run late in the evenings. (“why is this important?”)

People can’t get back to their cars after evening theatre or cinema or similar events (“why is….”)

People will drive into the city centre or more likely simply give up on it as a place to spend the evening (“why is…”)

The city centre gets left to those who are living and sleeping there – mainly tourists (“why is….”)

People who live on the periphery of the city cease to feel involved in and invested in the city centre (“why is….”)

The city centre quietly dies and people in the outer parts of York don’t care

Why do we need to move around? How can movement enhance our community?

All of which leads to an over-arching goal – We want a transport system which means the whole city belongs to everyone

A series of fundamental purposes – of goals – for movement in York were identified.

One reason why putting overall visions into practice is that movement in York is a complex system – any intervention might produce unintended consquences.

But what proved a bit tricky: questions of implementation

However, it was clear that going through the ‘7 Whys’ was a far from easy process. Many groups got understandably caught up in the fourth or fifth layer of whys which often focused on the difficulty of how to address a specific issue. This was so instructive and illuminating. In York it isn’t that we don’t have well-articulated overarching purposes that are shared between parties. For example, One Planet York; Human Rights City and now Zero Carbon. But what is very tricky, and is the real work of local politics, is the translation of these commitments into practice.

Perspectives from the political parties

At this point we asked each spokesperson to reflect on the issues from the perspective of their party.

The spokespeople were Cllr Peter Dew (York Conservatives); Cllr Andy D’Agorne (York Green Party); Cllr Johnny Crawshaw (York Labour Party) and Cllr Stephen Fenton (York Liberal Democrats) and you will be able to read their statements here soon [currently waiting for them to be approved].

What should we think of as being the overall aim for movement in York?

Areas for collaboration: How to build a legitimate vision; translation into policy; levers for change

As the spokespeople were talking we asked everyone else to listen very carefully for areas for collaboration. These were the areas for collaboration that emerged:

Citizens Assembly

There was a shared cross-party commitment to run a Citizen’s Assembly on transport. The shared motivation for this was to take these very difficult issues out of the back and forth of party politics and create legitimacy for a shared long-term approach.

Proactively shape conversations with funders

There was a sense that having this clear and cross-party vison would allow York to develop a common voice in approaching funders. For York to decide what the city wants and base funding approaches on this, rather than simply accepting external priorities.

Policy levers

Responding to the difficulty of the middle level of the issues – the implementation – there was an agreement to explore the effective use of Supplementary Planning Guidance and the forthcoming need to produce a new Local Transport Plan. Both were seen as possible direct outcomes of the Citizens’ Assembly.

How can education be combined with democratic engagement?

Citizens Assembly ‘Plus’: Building collective understanding and change

There was a shared interest in ensuring everyone in York understood the issues – the need to understand behaviour (for example “why do people make specific journeys in the way they do?”) and the role of education in bringing change were discussed.

Our reading of this – not something agreed at the event – was that this could be something to link to the Citizens Assembly and a way of potentially stoking both its legitimacy and capacities for making change. The vague boundaries of traffic congestion imply the need for broader deliberation, and the long-term nature and likelihood of change over time mean the conversation needs to be long-term. A Citizens’ Assembly would be a very positive way forward, but even better might be a Citizens’ Assembly Plus a connected citizen-driven framework whose broader work gives the Citizens’ Assembly greater capacity and insight.

My Future York Collaborative Hustings

24th April 2019, 6-8pm

Spark York

Book a free place

Hustings are usually a combative affair. This local election season in York, can we create a more collaborative approach? Join us for the My Future York Collaborative Hustings.

In the My Future York Collaborative Hustings we plan to reframe hustings – or, in fact, tap into its more ancient meaning. While today ‘hustings’ immediately evokes a series of candidates making speeches and answering questions for an audience, its arcane use, from Old Norse, is ‘an assembly for deliberative purposes’.

For the 2019 Collaborative Hustings we have chosen a specific issue facing York: traffic congestion. While there are significant differences between political parties in how we might tackle traffic congestion, there is cross-party and wide spread public recognition that congestion is an urgent issue. It’s also an issue with only the vaguest of boundaries, touching on transport, urban planning, environmental issues and the nature of our city centre – it’s much broader than a single manifesto issue.

Traffic congestion is also an issue that cannot be fully understood or simply fixed top down by politicians. It is linked into everyday experiences, actions and choices made by all of us who live in York. It is, therefore, an issue that we need to address collaboratively.

We’ll start the hustings by collectively identifying the key issues which contribute to creating traffic congestion and then coming together to map out the issues, seeing how they might connect and identifying where the leverage points for change might be. We’ll then ask candidates from all parties to talk about how they might respond to these issues and leverage points and look for the commonalities in approach. We will then work together – councillors-to-be and citizens –  to set out how all of us can contribute to putting a long term collective approach into practice.

 

Bootham Park Open Briefing Notes

The walks around the Bootham Park site set off

Read the Bootham Park Open Briefing Notes

My Future York have been involved with Bootham Park Hospital site by working with City of York Council and One Public Estate to develop a relatively brief public engagement programme. Our work is generally longer-term and embraces the establishment of an open conversation by building a brief, exploring the challenges which it throws up, and then making change together to ensure public/private investment is matched by community-led change and animation.

With Bootham Park Hospital, given the time constraints imposed by the pause in the disposal process, we have focussed upon building a community vision for the possibilities of the site – incomplete and in some areas conflicting – but bringing a context which reflects both lingering anger over the loss of Bootham Park as a hospital and the plans to sell the site as well as the many positive ideas that have been shared as part of the process.

We ran a one-day event on site on 27th October in partnership with Coaching York, and preceded this with networking and site visits with a number of groups and individuals who brought specific skills, understanding or agendas for change. We have also incorporated into our briefing notes below all input via post-its on the consultation exhibitions at York District Hospital, West Offices and the Citadel, plus those from other events such as the Save Bootham Park Hospital evening event and the Guildhall ward meeting. Furthermore, we have incorporated input given via the online questionnaire and social media.

We have used this information to identify the issues which were seen as important and to build links between them where this is helpful. This is not a vote – there is no attempt to count “for” and “against” comments in relation to any issues, but where there is strong feeling this is noted.

We published them here as a draft – reflections and further comments welcome. We’ll incoperate all comments we recieve before 6th December.

York Travellers Trust: Visions for the future

Credit: York Travellers Trust

As part of the My Future York project, Helen Graham worked with York Travellers Trust and with, Carrieanne Eddison, Denise Lambert, Lorraine Mulvenna, Debi White, Christine Sheppard, Kally Smith and Kay Tate to develop these articles.

Gypsies and Travellers are widely recognised as a significant ethic and cultural group in York. The 2015 floods which affected James Street brought an enormous amount of solidarity and support for the gypsies and travellers who were forced off their site. As one of us, Kally Smith puts it, ‘the whole city came together’.

Yet changes to national legislation have the potential to negatively affect the future of York’s gypsy communities. In August 2015 planning guidance changed the definition of Gypsy and Traveller to remove the idea of a cultural identify, ‘persons with a cultural tradition of nomadism or living in a caravan’. Since the new policy came into effect, this has meant that to be recognised as a Gypsy or a Traveller for planning purposes you had to be only temporarily settled. This has had serious implications for planning for the communities’ future through the Local Plan.

With the Local Plan final public consultation now closed, through four short ‘in conversation’ articles, we explore different aspects of past, present and future life for York’s Gypsy and Traveller communities.

The national policy changes and its implications for the Local Plan has raised the question of how York  – a Human Rights City – can be proactive in enabling the city’s Gypsy and Traveller communities to be fully recognised as a cultural group. It also prompts us to ask some broader questions: How can we ensure all of the city’s communities and their ways of life are planned into the city’s future? How can the way we understand the city’s heritage to be expanded beyond our buildings and archaeology to include living culture and ways of life?

You can read the four different conversations here:

Floods 2015: ‘the whole city came together’

Stopping Places

The Local Plan, culture and community

In ten years’ time

You can also read Violet Cannon (Chief Officer, York Travellers Trust) imagined future for York Central, ‘Sharing York’s Gypsy Traveller Heritage’

In ten years’ time

My Future York has been asking people about an ideal day in their lives in 10 years time to build bottom up a vison for the future of the city – here we explore summer days on the road and possibilities of co-operatively owning and running sites.

Lorraine: I like having a base, if I was a wealthy person I’d have a base but I’m not so we’re on a council site. But I like to go away. We’ve got horses and a wagon. They can’t stop you. What they do now is put stakes at Appleby time, on the main road sides. Or they’ll cut the grass verges so there’s no grazing. We need more sites with 15 + slabs to enable communities to live together and so it’s not lonely.

Lorraine: In ten years’ time I’d like the children, with grandchildren, to be anywhere on the James Street site. I’d like to use stopping places in the summer months. It would be nice if you could go to sites with grass and with an electric box to plug into. Ideally there would be a transit site in every town. Once upon a time in my mam and dad’s days there was common land wherever you went. You might want to spend the summer somewhere on the road sides. There would have to be an infrastructure for your rubbish.

Kally: You won’t want to go and leave your site just to go to another transit site. It’s more about travelling up and down the roads and pulling on the roadside. Five years ago we travelled, we went to Bridlington, big playfields near the swimming baths and spent two weeks there. It brought it all back. That had been our life.

Helen: Imagine that it is the summer…

Lorraine: I might go down to Cornwall to a transit site there.  In the ten years’ time I’d want to be back to the site for the winter. On James Street, the site has been raised up, with bigger sheds and everything is pleasant. They’ve also extended us a bit, we could be up to the hedge and the beck.

Kally: On James Street in ten year’s time, there is no-one on top of one another, there are larger fences for a bit more privacy.

Lorraine: In ten years time, the Council are still running James Street, because the Council are better off owning Gypsy sites than privately-owned because if sites are privately owned we end up with a dog’s life. Owning the site ourselves might also be an option. If I own my little patch. Everyone owns their own plot, if you want to.

Kally: I want to be on the James Street site with the same families, so that the children can take over the family slab. We’d like to be able to pass the slabs on, we’d like to have control over that.

York has become a Human Rights City. This means positively celebrating and enable flourishing of all York communities. If you’d like to support York’s Gypsy and Traveller communities, join the Human Right’s City pledge.

Read other people’s ideas for the future of the city and contribute your own on myfutureyork.org / myyorkcentral.org / mycastlegateway.org

The Local Plan, culture and community

Earlier in the year the City of York Council asked for final responses to the Local Plan. The Local Plan sets the vision for planning and accommodation needs for the coming decades. In August 2015 the planning guidance changed the definition of Gypsy / Traveller to remove the idea of a cultural identity, ‘persons with a cultural tradition of nomadism or living in a caravan’. Since the new policy came into effect, this has meant that to be recognised as a Gypsy or a Traveller for planning purposes you have to show you are only temporarily settled. The local implications of that is that the projected need for new Gypsy and Traveller pitches has dropped: how can York ensure it is properly planning for the future of one of the city’s most significant communities?. 

Carrieanne: In 10 year’s time we’ll all be in houses, the Council’s trying to get rid of the sites. Younger generations will have no more option. If there were more sites available, they would be on them.

Denise: We need another 50 pitches, at least, because there are people who are in houses because there is nowhere else and people who have double up on space. It causes a lot of depression when people end up in houses, they feel isolated. Once you shut the door you see no one. On a site people are popping in all the time. If they are off to the shop, they’ll pop in and see you. In houses, you don’t see nobody. It’s a lonely life when you go into a house.

Lorraine: If we did agree to move into houses, they’d only offer one or two houses and not a whole street because they don’t understand the kind of community we are. When Travellers buy a house they still have all their relatives pulled up behind them because we have to have our own around us.

Kally: My daughter might want a slab on James Street, but I know she won’t be getting one. The council haven’t planned for this.

Lorraine: Gypsy is our culture. A lot of them are coming to realise that calling us Travellers [as in the planning policy] is our undoing. Some will want to live our way of live. Some will move into houses. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t Gypsy people. You can breed it out but you can’t take it out. That’s where you are coming from, that’s your heritage. Whoever is deciding this thing, that you have to travel in order to be a Gypsy, shows to me that the term Traveller should be dropped, we should clam our cultural identity and call ourselves Gypsies.

Christine: Since they changed the definition of Gypsy Traveller, it’s gone from 66 to 3 pitches [under planning guidance]. But people are in a Catch 22. To get housing benefit, you can’t be away for more than six weeks but you have to be away for eight weeks to be counted as a Traveller.

Lorraine: The way we still want to be able to live is simply to live the way all everyone lived 40-50 years ago. They had street parties and they were in and out of each other’s houses. It’s your society that’s lost this way of living, not us. If you go to other countries, normal people in other country they have a community, our English society has lost that. Here everyone’s an island, they don’t even bother with their own. Mainstream society should be taking a leaf out of our book.

The final version of the Local Plan raised a number of issues for York’s Gypsy and Traveller Community and York Traveller’s Trust have been addressing the issues with the City of York Council. With the changes in planning guidance, the number of pitches went from 66 to 3. York Traveller’s Trust believes from their research that this is an underestimate and will be advising a revised figure. The Trust welcomes that City of York has also used equalities legislation to identify an addition 44 pitches. The delivery of these 44 pitches is linked to developer duty based on scale of housing development, as is noted in the final version of the Local Plan. To make this a viable strategy York Traveller’s Trust believes the City of York Council must identify land for future pitches. We will be continuing this conversation as part of the wider public discussion through My York Central.

Stopping Places

An historic stopping place. Credit: York Explore

York’s Gypsy communities used to travel around the city to different areas, known as stopping places. Changes in the law and the increased speed of eviction notices has made this traditional way of life harder – but are there creative ways of planning for traditions of transit in the future?

Lorraine: The first time I remember staying in York, pulling into different places, was with me Mam and Dad. I’d be about nine or ten. We were always very clean. My mam would even sweep the fire and put some earth on top. Before we went onto James Street we used to stop on Poppleton Lane where the garden centre is now. Challaces, it used to be called. We also used to stop on Bad Bargain, Clifton Backies and we used to stop where Tesco’s now is. It wasn’t Tesco’s then it was just the aerodrome. From one area of the town to the other, but just on the edges where it was countrified.

Kally: What happened is they built James Street and it ruined the Travellers. We’d have been better on what we called the Tip. Even after we’d moved on the James Street, we’d still duck up on Back Bargain fields. We had a better lifestyle, we were much healthier and much happier. None of these problems with the Council on your back. Because on the Tip they never evicted you off, Sugar Beet they never evicted you off. They were the two main stopping points.

Lorraine: All the way up to Jewson was common land. We used to stop on common land, we’d stop on car parks. We were on there we were on the tip — it was common land. James Street, was just a tip. They never really came after you on the Gas Works Car Park either.

Kally: They didn’t have any plans for it.

Lorraine: But as soon as plans start going…

Kally: …we’d have started getting eviction notices.

Lorraine: In time we would.

Kally: I remember we pulled on the Clifton Backies and we stopped, we got evicted and they took us to court. They came a took us off and you know where they took us, to Malton Road that café, they moved us there, they towed us away to Malton Road.

Christine: They must have taken you into Rydale local authority area as it was.

Lorraine: So they took you from one area to another Council’s area, ‘so that was their problem then’

Debi: How long were you there for?

Kally: Not long because we moved back into York.

Lorraine: They’d done a court order and they evicted you, but then you came back and it was then another six week’s process to get you out.

Kally: So we moved somewhere else in York. They moved us on, we stopped overnight, then went back to the York, the Tip after that. The Tip was always there but you’d get bored. People would just get bored so we would maybe go to Bad Bargain and then it was back to the Terrace car park.

Lorraine: You’d be lucky if eviction takes 24 hours today. There were Christmas time camps, any holiday time we waited until it was all clear and then all pull on, even if you had to wait until 8pm at night. If you went on just before Christmas you’d know that they wouldn’t come after you until after new year. The law changed that was why we all put our names down to stay on James Street. We did a big campaign but they said we wouldn’t be allowed to stop up and down. So those that live around this town, we all put our names down for the sites.

Being able to travel for work or to attend dances and fairs was a traditional part of Gypsy life which has been made harder in recent years. Yet there are creative possibilities from transit sites which enable short stays through to negotiated stopping, as they do in Leeds, where the Local Authority works with Gypsy families and local resident to broker short term agreements.

In the Local Plan there is a provision protecting York’s historic environment. But  can we also start to see different ways of life and traditions – as part of the city’s heritage?

 

Floods 2015: ‘the whole city came together’

The line the James Street flood is visible as a dark line line on building Credit: Lorraine Mulvenna

On Boxing Day 2015 York experienced the worst floods since 2000. When the Foss Barrier failed an area very badly affected was James Street, the home to one of the city’s Gypsy and Traveller Sites. Many people and businesses showed enormous support for those that were affected and for a time ‘the whole city came together’.

Kally: On Boxing Day the water just come up through the drains, like it does often do. We thought, ‘nah, it won’t get that bad’. We didn’t know what was going on around us. There is a man on the site who has a house phone and around 1am, he had a phone call and shouted out to us all, ‘get off the camp because it’s going to flood’. That night we just sat out the front of the site.

Denise: The next day people we know started to help. There was a man we knew in the houses near James Street called Alan, who has a boat. He is my daughter’s best friend’s father. He came round in his boat. He stayed all day until it dropped dark, going backwards and forwards, getting things for people out of the site.

Kally: There was also an old man and woman from the nearby houses who fetched teas for us.

Denise: Morrisons were really good. They said we could go in and get some things for the kids like PJ’s, underwear, socks and shoes. They also brought out bags of shopping for us.

Morrisons also said ‘go to the café and get a warm meal’. Nestles was good as well, they sent chocolate and coffee. The Catholic Traveller’s Group donated funds to Dunelm for us to get bedding. Joe Windas did some fundraising via facebook and organised two fundraising nights.

Kay: Someone at the York Traveller’s Trust offices went out for Fish and Chips and came back with mounds and mounds of fish and chips. People were sending hot sandwiches in to us too.

Kally: When people were walking past the site, they’d stop and say, do you need help? The full city came together, for a while.

Helen: What happen after the floods and during the clear up? Where were you living?

Kally: I was living in Malton. I was in a dark and lonely place in Malton, I was still with my child but not with my family or the community. I was thinking, am I going to get a home to James Street or am I going to be struggling to put something together? The Two Ridings charity gave money, if it wasn’t for them and their support to get the chalet sorted out, I’d still be struggling.

Helen: Given the flooding, do you thinking James Street worth fighting for?

Lorraine: Yes, as a camp and a community it is worth fighting for. It is probably the best situated camp in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland too. You don’t need a car, you can walk everywhere, bus routes, schools over road, schools up the road. But the situation it is now, unless they improve the drains or heighten us up, that we are left with the threat of being flooded, we are living with that over our heads all the time.

York Traveller’s Trust thanks everyone that donated or helped out during the aftermath of 2015 flood.  See the website if you’d like to support York Traveller’s Trust in their work on future flood prevention.