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.

Re-imagining The City – A Journey Into The Future

Paul Osborne, local transport planner, used the Festival of Ideas event on Re-imagining The City to paint a picture of a future journey.

Let me take you on a journey into the future. How far into the future is up to you…

I leave my 4th floor apartment in Moortown, Leeds. It’s eight o clock and overcast. I’m a bit late but hey, it’s not often England make the world cup final, two tournaments in a row.

My phone alerts me – my train is leaving on time and there’s a city bike waiting for me at the end of the street. As I approach, the bike unlocks itself and my phone pings to tell me that it has been serviced and the tyre pressures are fine.

I set off, humming a tune from the morning’s breakfast show. I pass the kids making their way to school, some of them wearing their replica England shirts. The bins are out for collection. The pothole which had opened up the day before, has been fixed.

The car ahead, automatically limited to 20mph on all residential streets in the city, moves to the right to let me through, the driver alerted to adjust his position by his in-car sensors. I thank him as I go by and his daughter smiles at me through the car window.

At the next junction I have a left turn towards the city centre, I wait for a gap in the steady flow of inbound cyclists, safely separated from traffic. I join them and soon we are travelling at a steady 12 mph, nudged along by the coloured LED lighting in the roadway, sequenced to progress us through the next three sets of traffic signals.
We ride the green wave until we reach the first busy intersection. Countdown signals tell me how long we’ll be waiting, time enough to break into conversation with the cyclist next to me. She smiles and recommends a restaurant down a local side road – it does great vegetarian pizza.

The lights change, she’s quicker away than me. We pass the cycle counter which detects us as we pass, flashing up the daily and annual cycle flow. It feels good to be part of a crowd.

One hundred metres later (oops I mean yards – I’m still getting used to our return to imperial measures) and a variable message sign thanks me for not using the car. It flashes up the predicted journey time to the city centre, currently 30% faster than the vehicle flow beside me.

We reach the Sheepscar interchange. Plans are afoot to bury this huge junction below ground level and leave buses, bikes and pedestrians to take the surface route. In the meantime, images of live CCTV footage are projected onto huge LED screens to enforce the new bus and cyclist priority measures, funded by the city’s health investment strategy.
There’s one short hill into the city centre but the electric assist on the bike kicks in, keeping my speed and effort consistent. I join another green wave, having covered my five mile mile journey to the station in just under 25 minutes.

My bike locks itself as I leave it in the bike park. My phone logs the distance I’ve covered and updates my reward points. I get the choice to top up my integrated public transport pass or spend it at my neighbourhood shops. The bike downloads information about the journey, alerting the bike share company to its location, and passes data about air quality, traffic conditions and road surface condition along my route to the city’s transport team.
I head for the train, flashing my Owl Card (the Leeds equivalent of Oyster), I find a seat and decide on a good night to try out that pizza.

As Paul noted afterwards, many of the “futuristic” ideas in that story are already reality somewhere in the cycling-friendly world. If you spot a link to one of them on the net, tweet us at @my_futureyork and tell us where it’s already happening!

My York Central

Like our previous work at Castle Gateway, My York Central goes beyond conventional community consultation by enabling all those interested to become part of a sustained long-term conversation where influence comes through sharing responsibility for the area and its future. Throughout we are working to make getting involved will be active, challenging and fun. In our approach to York Central we are building the approach developed for My Castle Gateway.

The way we’re approaching this for York Central is through a Festival of York Central in March and April 2018. You can see the various events here.

Our approach includes:

  • Build a brief: Start with the personal… and make different people’s needs and ideas visible (and our thoughts on the value of a good brief can be read here)
  • Explore Challenges: Cultivate a grown up and sophisticated public debate about complex issues (an example from My Castle Gateway here)
  • Make change together: Facilitate community networks and local action as well as long term community influence in decision-making, design and delivery.

#CitizenMedia #York: How can we create a positive democratic culture online?

How can we use online spaces to have good conversation about the future of York?

#CitizenMedia #York: How can we create a positive democratic culture online?
Thursday, 15th March, 7.30-9.30

Throughout the Castle Gateway process, we’ve used social media to seek open conversations. Sometimes this has worked well and great ideas and thought-provoking stories have emerged. At other times we’ve not quite known how to respond, or how turn to cynicism, frustration and anger into to constructive discussion. We’ve also met some people who have said they simply don’t engage in debates about York online for fear of personal attacks and sniping. The danger is we all retreat into our own silos of people who think like we do and the sense of a shared public sphere where ideas are shared, debated and exposed to challenge is lost.

We invite you to join us to explore whether there is another way of having debates about York through Facebook, twitter and in the comments on the York Press. How might social media become a space for us as citizens to engaged in debate about our city? How can we shift the emphasis in local debate from what is wrong and what is hated towards people being able to positively contribute what they want to see? How can social media discussion support democratic culture in York and feed into local decision-making?

The objectives of our first workshop are to:

” Explore techniques for engaging well on social media
” Create a community of people prepared to go out there and try some new techniques and then feedback on how it goes, so we can all learn from the experience

Places are limited to 12. To book a place email Helen on h.graham@leeds.ac.uk
Organised by My Future York and Coaching York

My Future York to collaborate with City of York Council on the Castle Gateway project

My Future York will be collaborating with the City of York Council on a new public engagement approach for the Castle Gateway area.

My Future York will be working with City of York Council on the new Castle Gateway project, an area which includes Fossgate, Walmgate, Piccadilly, Foss Basin and Castle area and Eye of York.

Drawing on the work done by My Future York over the past year and the analysis we developed of where consultation approaches often fail, the My Castle Gateway project is designed to go beyond conventional community consultation by enabling all those interested to become part of a sustained long-term conversation where they have influence through sharing responsibility for the area and its future.

My Castle Gateway project will: Step 1 use creative community-led events to explore and establish ‘what is important’ about the area (which will underpin the heritage ‘statement of significance’) and encourage possibility-thinking to feed into masterplanning processes (to collaborative build a brief for the area); Step 2 identify lines for community-led action inquiries (where there is uncertainty or disagreement) and Step 3 sustain community action throughout the formal decision-making process, delivery and hand over (so that community use and custodianship of the area is grown throughout the processes).

To find out more visit the My Castle Gateway website.

My Castle Gateway in three steps:

Step 1: Castle Gateway unleashing ideas…using community-led public events to explore what makes the area important and what people would like to be able to do in the area. Leading to: a vision for the area and a collaborative ‘statement of significance’ and ‘brief’.
Step 2: Castle Gateway deepening understanding … collaborative inquires to research key issues and public events to explore, question and discuss. Leading to: masterplan and planning options.
Step 3: Castle Gateway making change together… formal decision-making process and delivery will be directly linked to ongoing community action in the area. Leading to: formal decision making and a strategy for ongoing involvement throughout the delivery process.

The Guildhall: histories and futures

‘The Guildhall should be the centre of ‘York’s Story’ […] a chance to see democracy and engage with it’.

‘I also think that improved public access could act as a catalyst that might improve public engagement with the council and local politics. There’s something to be said for seeing the place where the council meets and decisions are made’.
(Quotes from the Guildhall Tours survey)

One of the My Future York project partners is York Past and Present, whose adminstrators Lianne Brigham and Richard Brigham have, over the past three years, shepherded the facebook group to an ever growing membership (14,800 at the last count) and to becoming a dynamic face-to-face community with coffee morning meet ups, Christmas parties and projects in collaboration with local heritage organisations (York Chocolate Story; Mansion House; York Explore Archives).

Lianne Brigham shares the history of the Council Chamber as part of the Guildhall Tour, Residents’ Weekend 2017.

Since 4th October 2014 York Past and Present (YP&P) have been running volunteer-led tours behind the scenes of the Guildhall, including during two Residents’ Weekends (2016 and 2017). In this time they have introduced 2000 people to the Guildhall and its history. As part of their partnership with the Guildhall, they have also been active in the Mansion House Heritage Lottery Fund project, with YP&P members volunteering to pack up and photograph the house before the renovations began. The Guildhall tours have now come to an end in advance of the proposed changes to the Guildhall. Through our research collaboration, YP&P, we decided to take the opportunity of the final Residents’ Weekend to interview and survey those that took part. We wanted to evaluate the tours as well as to understand better the meaning of the Guildhall to people who live in York and what they would like to see in terms of its future development. Overall 61 surveys were returned – in person and online – which represents close to 25% of those attending that weekend.

Read the full report. Look at the raw data from the surveys.

Key findings:

Question 1: What did you enjoy about the Guildhall tour?
The tours were well received, particularly the feeling of getting to look ‘behind the scenes’. The way the tours were done – by an enthusiastic volunteer – was also noted as important. The idea that tours might continue in the future either by YP&P or by others was suggested.

Question 2: Why is the Guildhall important to you? / Why is the Guildhall important to York?
The sense of the Guildhall as being a key in the development of York was foreground by all respondents. A phrase used over 25 times was ‘Part of York’s History/ Heritage’. This was directly linked to the development of civic engagement and local democracy. Yet there was also a strong connection made between history of York, the history the development of Guilds and the development of local democracy. This was seen as a crucial ‘York story’ that could be told through the Guildhall.

‘The Guildhall is a real treasure of York, and should be seen by as many people as possible. It would also help if the local community could learn how local authorities operate on behalf of the community’.


Question 3: What would you like to see for the future of the Guildhall?

There was a consensus that the building needed to be maintained, pay for itself in some way but also still be publically accessible.

Some – responding to the current plans – explicitly mentioned their support for the historic fabric to remain intact (a reference to the proposed new doorway in the main hall). A number of people noted the importance of economic viability. There seemed very little concern about the proposed extensions and restaurants in the wider complex. However, support for the proposed extensions and commercial additions was related to continuing public access to the Guildhall and Council Chamber, with a clear interest expressed in the shared civic story with the Mansion House. The argument for future public access was very often made on the basis of its civic and democratic significance.

‘I also think that improved public access could act as a catalyst that might improve public engagement with the council and local politics. There’s something to be said for seeing the place where the council meets and decisions are made’.

There was a strong sense of the importance of this story for people who live in York. There was also a desire to share this with visitors.

‘It is a magnificent building and one that should be showcased to the 1000’s of visitors York gets every year’.


Recommendations:

Create one ticketed entrance to Mansion House which includes the Guildhall and Council Chamber for visitors to the city. This should include free access to people who live in York, as is already planned by the Mansion House.

Ideas:
• Build on the living traditions of the Guildhall – as the Chamber still used for Council meetings – to create a hub for wider public democratic engagement in current issues facing York. The aim of this might be to use a variety of creative methods to enable more people to feel confident in participating in local democratic processes (from voting to ward committees to planning process) and well as enabling wider civic engagement.
• Use the idea of local democracy as a living tradition to develop a visitor experience for Mansion House / Guildhall which engages this city’s visitors with the links between York’s past, presents and future. For example, temporary displays could look at a specific issue (flooding; housing; Castle Gateway) and explore the histories of the issue and open up questions about how the city should handle the issue in the future. This could be in the vein of ‘Urban Lab’ experiments developed elsewhere. Strategically this would ensure a tourist experience to York which is far from ‘in aspic’ but actively deploys connections between the city’s past and future. Such an approach could act as a bridge between the city’s strengths in both heritage and media arts and between the city’s cultural entrepreneurs, its students and long standing local communities.

This report will be shared with relevant City of York Councillors and Council officers – but we see it as a working document so if you have any further comments on the tours or on the Guildhall, add a comment to drop us a line.

LGBT histories, LGBT futures

LGBT History Month
York’s LGBT history: make your own rainbow plaques

Saturday, February 18 at 1 PM – 4:30 PM
Garden Room, York Explore Library and Archives, Library Square, Museum Street, YO1 7DS

For the York LGBT Rainbow Plaques 2016 event

This month is LGBT History Month and York’s LGBT History team have put together an amazing array of events. This is the third year I’ve been involved in running with Kit Heyam our York’s Alternative History Rainbow Plaques event. The past two years have seen a raft of contributions. Some have wanted to commemorate Ann Walker and Ann Lister, who took a joint communion taken in Holy Trinity Church on Goodramgate at Easter 1834 and saw this as equivalent to marriage in the eyes of god. Others have shared more personal memories, from coming out, first kisses and exploratory visits to gay pubs. We have also used the plaques to remember violence and bullying as well as activism, protest and campaigns. We hope to see many more histories, memories and stories contributed this year. Join our facebook event – or come along on the day.

The future is always lurking in this event. It is about change that has happened and change we want to come. So this year we want to connect the pasts that we will commemorate to the future. As part of My Future York we’ve been having lots of conversations about the lives people want to live in 10 years time. Where will they be living? Who with? Where will they work? What do you want York to enable you to do? How can York change to enable the life you want to live?

As LGBT History Month kicks off let’s think back but also think forward. We’ve been asking people to write a Day in their Life Story, one for this year and one for ten’s years time. For inspiration here is Kit Rafe Heyam’s.

What’s your 2027 like?