Playing with Movement: From Democratic Desire to Communicating for Change

Playing with Movement. Image by Owen Turner, United By Design.

30th October, 4-5pm

As part of York Design Week, we collaborated with Owen Turner of United by Design to develop a playful workshop seeking to expand the repertoires through which we can think about, talk about and imagine the future of movement in York.

The blurb for the event stated:

York’s conversation about transport is stuck. There is a danger we circle back time and time again to the same debate that is always in danger of becoming reduced to cars v bikes. New thinking is needed – and we need your help.

In this fast paced and playful workshop we’ll generate a creative archive of ideas, images and feelings from people of all ages that can be drawn on in future public engagement processes in order to change the dynamics of transport conversation.

We’ll work with what is shared – that people who live in York want movement around the city to be quick, feel like freedom, to be safe, to be easy and convenient and to give us a feeling of being in control. Expanding these ideas we’ll use colour, drawing, emojis, photographs and objects collating them as we go along into a public online archive.

We opened up the discussions by asking: What makes good movement? In three words.

A variety of responses where shared from with a group of people who wanted movement to be ‘easy’, ‘nippy’ and ‘efficient’ and crucially appropriate the journey. And others who were interested in ‘calm’, wanted to be able to make ‘spontaneous’ choices or event be ‘slow’ and ‘inefficient’. The ideas of ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’ recurred, which had also figured in discussions in My Castle Gateway and My York Central.

A word cloud of responses to the question: What makes good movement? In three words.

Reimagine Ideas

We then went on to reimagine five very common ideas about movement. Spending five minutes on each and moving on quickly but with the aim of gather everything together so we can see what we’ve all contributed at the end.

You can browse the archive ideas we produced here.

Idea 1: Quick and Slow

We asked: What colour is quick? What colour is slow?

What colours are quick?
What colours are slow?

Ideas 2: Free

We asked: In one line, describe a time you felt free…

Summer – always summer – walking in France or even just the fields around York

On Eday (island), Orkney, with limited options to get off!

Letting go of everyday cares because there’s nothing you can do about them. 

Walking in open countryside

Walking in the middle of the North York Moors – no extraneous noise, no light pollution

Laying on my back in an upland French field beneath the blue sky

Camping on the commons, owning the space

Surfing in the North Sea
Snowboarding and looking out to snow capped mountains, blue sky, fresh cold air
Running through the city or countryside (exploring)

Descending an Alp, crossing countries by bike, under pedal power alone

Wild swimming in France

Idea 3: Safe

We asked: Draw how being safe feels.

How being safe feels…

Idea 4: Easy / Convenient

We asked: Pick an emoji that represents ‘easy’ or ‘convenient’

Idea 5: In control

We asked: Find an object that makes you feel in control.

An object that makes you feel in control.

Final Reflections

While the aim of the workshop was to rapidly expand our ways of making sense of movement rather than synthesis or drawing things together neatly, we ended the workshop by asking… 

  • If there was anything that surprises you?
  • If you think there is anything here that will be useful for developing the conversation about movement in York?

Part of what was important about the workshop was using the occasion of York Design Week to try something new in terms of workshop format. In particular to collaborate with Owen Turner to explore practically how to reimagine the conversation about transport in terms of the York Design Week themes of ‘play’ and ‘make space’.

A couple of weeks on from the workshop we reflected on what we’d taken away from the experience.

Helen Graham:

Talking about transport in York usually happens in very particular and often polarising ways. What worked was very rapidly expanding and extending what movement is to include colours, feelings, images and memories. The power lay in approaching something you think is very familiar from many different directions and through different people’s eyes and finding it might not be the same thing at all. What I’d be keen to do next is think how this method might work with different people and linked directly to our ongoing work in My Castle Gateway and My York Central. Big thanks to Owen for the inspiration, prompts and creative energy.

Phil Bixby:

I get around a lot by walking, and also riding a bike – which I do for pleasure as well as utility. I love buses and (used to) use them often, and I also drive when I need to – I’m a double-car-user as I own a car but am also member of a car club. So when people start arguing about conflict between modes of travel, I’m riding a lot of horses at the same time. We need to draw the discussion back to a more wide-angle view of what we want in our cities and how those cities enable us to have these things – interaction, health, activity, utility, joy. We won’t get there by arguing over detail of any one mode of transport – including the downsides of cars. Can we look more at the qualities of experience, at the words we use to build narrative? Can we do this in a way which is loose, and fun, and accepts it’s part of a long-term conversation? Nice work Owen, in nudging us (and all the participants too, probably) out of our comfort zone.

Owen Turner:

Having the opportunity of working on new things is always really exciting. Working with incredibly experienced and wise people also is really satisfying. Being able to collaborate on an area of work that is open to change and new ways of working to develop new outputs from familiar starting points to give insightful perspectives and views from a range of individuals. Working with Helen and Phil on the workshop was a wonderful experience around a topic that we can all feed into and have an impact on – making it as accessible as possible. Thinking differently, using playfulness, creativity and strategy to a workshop scenario was so very satisfying! 

 

 

Thinking York from the Villages – York Design Week 2020

Five walks and an online workshop as part of York Design Week 2020 – Phil Bixby & Helen Graham

It is often said that York’s city centre and suburbs face different issues to York’s villages – and that those that live in town rarely understand what matters to people living out of town. Yet the biggest issues we face – whether housing and movement – can only be addressed by building mutual understanding between people who live in rural and urban York. We asked: How do the biggest issues York faces look from the perspective of York’s villages? How can we use these conversations to think about designing deliberative systems that facilitate and link deep and informed conversations across York?

To experiment as part of York Design Week, we ran small socially-distanced walks and conversations in York’s villages and then invited everyone involved – together with interested urban dwellers – to meet online to draw out the issues and reflect on how to design deliberative systems that can link us together. Over the weekend of 24th/25th October we did walks in Strensall, Haxby, New Earswick, Dunnington and Bishopthorpe (a sixth in Wheldrake was cancelled due to lack of support) and the following Saturday we ran a Zoom workshop.

So, the walks and what came out of them:-

Housing was a major concern – the shortage of affordable housing and the impact on infrastructure that new housing would have. The impact of commuting was clear – in the absence of local employment, people drive to work door to door and there is little interaction and little opportunity for social cohesion to be built. This is compounded by large areas of similar housing creating large blocks of similar demographic – swathes of bungalows occupied by older people.

The social and cultural impacts of this were discussed; the role of libraries (where they exist) in creating collective activity, and churches too – although it was noted that this doesn’t suit everyone. Places often have large numbers of single-activity groups and clubs; often they are competing for funding but sometimes can come together successfully to collaborate. Bored young people can be seen as a nuisance – where they are local personal connections can defuse this to some extent, but the lack of opportunity remains. Parish councils have a difficult role – sometimes working strategically to create Neighbourhood Plans, but often mired in complaints, development control comments and struggling to get support from the city council. The big connectors? Schools and dog-walking.

We touched on the Green Belt and other surrounding countryside, which was seen as important in preserving each village’s identity by preventing it merging with others, or preventing wholesale change in character by large-scale development. In many of the villages though opportunity to use the countryside as an amenity are few – public rights of way out from the villages are rare. Cycling out is possible, but…

…the roads outside and between villages are often perilous on a bike, due to high traffic speeds and or volume. In general, transport and movement is a key area of concern. Traffic has an impact on all of the village centres – pedestrian safety is a concern and parking is problematic – because of lack of it or the related problem of dangerous and/or selfish parking, including pavement parking. There is also the issue of “unofficial Park & Ride” – people driving to use better bus routes – which we returned to during the online workshop. Buses were a common topic, with people noting that they often weren’t quick or convenient or affordable – taking circuitous routes or with pricing that made driving and parking much cheaper. While village to city routes were relatively plentiful, village to village routes were very rare.

Lastly economy and development was discussed. In almost all cases the villages had lost shops and other facilities, and had ageing populations which related to diminishing employment and rising costs of housing. Issues of housing and employment and transport are all related, and can span across wide geographic areas – big developments in Stamford Bridge / Pocklington have had an impact on traffic in and around Dunnington, for example.

Having thawed out from the walks (which took most of a week) we fired up Zoom and engaged with a mixture of city dwellers and participants in the walks, to look at how common issues to both might be addressed. The aim of the session was to:-

  • Share themes from the walks
  • Dive into one specific issue that kept coming up in different ways in all five of the conversations and think systemically about it
  • Think about how it can be unstuck and positive change enabled.

The issue that we chose to dive into was “unofficial Park & Ride” (or “Park & Go” as the urban equivalent was often people parking as close as possible to the city centre and then completing their commute on foot). This was one of a range of issues under the broad heading of “people’s home lives being screwed up by other people’s movement”. We asked people to discuss this as a group, articulating it and looking for common factors across the village to city context. What we got was:-

…which largely flagged up failings in bus provision; for example that routes and frequency were poor meaning it was worth driving to park and pick up better routes, or that fare structures mean commuters find it more affordable to drive, park and walk. The former is mainly a village issue, the latter a city issue – and the two are just different facets of a common pattern of behaviour.

This led to our final discussion around deliberative systems; how might we how we might connect issues, ideas and people in ways which:-

  • Connect across everyday talk, community-led action with empowered decision-making spaces (such as government and local government). This is about going where people are – pubs, places of worship, skateboard parks – meeting on their own terms and linking up people and perspectives not usually heard within public sphere conversations.
  • Make it deliberative not assertion-based – instead of “have your say” (a cliché of public engagement) which leads to untested assertion, we need to create different routes into an informed and creative conversation, one that can – through multiple perspectives – can make visible and deal with complexity and systemic effects
  • Be responsive to action and change at all scales in making places – change is about the council but also about all of us and businesses and organisations of various shapes and sizes.

Due to time constraints we only really touched upon this. We identified that many of the behaviours identified were simply people solving their own problems (the “best” route to a destination/activity) in a way which then has unintended consequences for others. The question from this was how might we use the same problem-solving approach but collectively? Is there an opportunity for this to be an approach to Neighbourhood Planning, or to shaping the Local Plan or Local Transport Plan?

One idea that came from the discussion was to focus creatively on positive issues – rather than the negativity that is associated with movement. The example given was food and this was seen as a way of potentially sustaining a conversation between villages. (And this links to the idea of “Food Lines” which came out of an earlier workshop we ran looking at building mixed communities – routes we take and why we take them):-

With the Planning White Paper very much on our minds, could better public engagement in the shaping of Local Plans address these more complex issues? Instead of simply focusing on where housing or employment goes, can good public engagement unlock thinking about radical solutions which really address their concerns about what is important in their neighbourhoods? Would a real, long-term background conversation about what we want our city to be like, allow the villages and the city to come together to propose positive change?

Co-Owned Neighbourhoods on York Central: Shaping a way forward

During the Festival of York Central, families worked together to imagine what their ideal future homes might be. The ideas and discussions that happened as the homes were being constructed informed the My York Central Big Ideas.

Thursday 28th November 2019
6.30-8.30pm
Friargate Quaker Meeting House, Lower Friargate, York, YO1 9RL
Book a place

Our York Design Week event identified a range of issues – from sharing to wildness – and collective discussion of these flagged up a number of initial steps on the path towards a community partnership that could shape York Central and create homes, work, culture and play there. This event will look at these steps and we’ll start working out…

– what sort of body should we establish to carry this process forwards?
– how can we work towards a range of types of housing and tenures on York Central?
– how can we shape wonderful, wild, open space in an urban environment?
– how do we bring on board partners who will connect York’s amazing education and culture with learning, creativity and work?
– how can we ensure the development responds to the climate emergency and zero-carbon commitments which York has made?

Come along and collectively take this forwards. An evening of sharing of ideas and knowledge, planning and setting of goals. If you’re new to York Central and the community’s vision for it, then take a look here.

A visit to Citu at the Leeds Climate Innovation District

Innovative developer Citu have been collaborators on the My York Central project for some time – they took part in our Sustainable Construction – Let’s Do It! event last June, and have expressed an interest in building on York Central. Their approach is nicely set out in their website but in particular there are many aims which are aligned with the Big Ideas which came out of the public engagement process – building sustainably, and building to high standards of performance and comfort for all; providing training and employment to local people and taking a holistic approach to what they do – not simply building homes but building a piece of city.

We decided it was worth taking a look at one of their projects in the flesh, so Helen and I took a trip over to the Leeds Climate Innovation District accompanied by Imelda Havers (Bluefish Regeneration), Caroline Lewis (Clean Air York), Denise Craghill (Executive Member for Housing), Tim Moon (Community and Self-Build Housing Officer) and James Newton (Yorspace). We were met by Citu Director Chris Thompson, and given a guided tour of Citu’s factory and their development site on the riverside – where they will be building around 800 homes over about seven years – accompanied by a primary school and care home. They’ve also thrown in a bridge…

…not because it was a planning requirement, but because they thought it was a good thing to do – to provide better walking links within their new community, and to local communities beyond.

This hints at their approach – they’re not a standard housebuilder. They have based their whole enterprise on a wish to create a move towards low-carbon cities, and have brought to this approaches from the motor manufacturing industries and elsewhere. This includes manufacturing timber frames for their homes in a factory on the site – a very lean operation where feedback enables them to test and refine practices in an ongoing process of change. Not without challenges though – the production lines in the factory work on a timescale of seconds, while the more-traditional site works in increments of weeks. When the two come together it isn’t always pretty, but is a constant spur for change.

The company employs about 20 apprentices on site – most come from a traditional construction background but are destined for a more multi-skilled workplace, something which is still at odds with CITB training practices. Management staff are largely from outside the construction industry, and very much focussed on process – the “how” to the final built product’s “what”. Timber frame manufacture is gearing up for a 300% increase in the next six months.

The site spans the River Aire, with Phase One currently underway on the north bank, arranged in long terraces which respond to the waterfront location. Every square inch of the site serves more than one function – homes are stacked on a deck above well-concealed parking, and riverside fire engine access road is constructed from grass in a plastic mesh so it can also be used by local children for play and as an informal access to riverside sitting areas. Even the bridge serves multiple purposes – accommodating the local heat network’s bulky piping across the Aire. As a result, higher densities allow them to profitably tackle a “difficult” site which would be ignored by most developers.

The timber-framed homes are very contemporary in feel – claddings are applied direct to the frame (no brick skin disguises here) and are built to high environmental standards. Design and construction is done to Passivhaus standard (the PHPP design tool is used throughout and every house has, and passes, two airtightness tests) but the houses are not certified. This is because prioritising orientation in relation to the river rather than the sun means overall energy performance varies. Some will be better than the Passivhaus limit of 15kWh/m2yr wheras others will fail to meet it – although overall on average the target will be hit. Is this fair? Well, at Passivhaus levels even a 300% variation in energy use isn’t really a biggie – £100 or £300 a year for your fuel bills isn’t a deal-breaker on a £400,000 house.

The showhouse we visited was three-storey, with living space at ground floor lit from above by a light-well at the rear of the house – a response to the back-to-back configuration but also a way to back up mechanical ventilation with stack-effect summer purge ventilation. Sunshading above windows is a spec-your-new-wheels-style optional extra, but even without it, summer overheating is expected to be infrequent. Internal finishes are contemporary but fairly conventional – Citu have no intention to “go volumetric” by factory-producing entire rooms. The timber frame panels are trucked across from the factory, assembled on site and then a fairly conventional fit-out process starts.

But it’s very much not just about the house. The “package” which is sold is in large part the location and new neighbourhood. This is literal – the land is retained in co-ownership by the collective owners, and the energy and IT networks are similarly shared, evening out demand on renewables output and allowing a surplus to be made on broadband provision which is ploughed back to the benefit of all. On a more emotional level, owners are being offered buy-in to a neighbourhood, a broader identity, rather than simply four walls. This significantly shifts the focus onto placemaking – private outdoor spaces are largely confined to roof terraces, but public realm is generous and richly specified – wildflower meadows flank riverside decking and the hidden parking (around 0.6-0.7 spaces per dwelling) means you’ll never see a car on the shared street, ensuring it becomes a social space.

We left discussing how this might translate onto York Central. Densities and building heights there may be higher, but the principle of doubling up uses on any given footprint has already been tested to some extent in Leeds. The Leeds development is only 5% “affordable” (in partnership with Leeds Community Homes) and the sale prices certainly aren’t bargain basement. But these are high-spec homes – comfortable and with very, very low running costs. And Citu reckon that the process of refining their operation will see their costs being level with “conventional” homebuilders within three years. It certainly feels like a conversation worth continuing, and an already promising fit with the big ideas of homes built to high standards and mixed-use high-density neighbourhoods, with communities made through exchange. We’ll report on that conversation as it continues – meanwhile many thanks Citu and Chris Thompson.

One Planet York Festival of Ideas Event – 10th June 2019

One Planet York Festival of Ideas Event – The Creativity of Sustainability

10th June 2019

Speakers:-

Helen Graham & Phil Bixby

Catherine Heinemeyer

Mike Bonsall

Ivana Jakubkova

Christine Marmion-Lennon

Event Outline

After an introductory presentation by Helen Graham and Phil Bixby on the approach to public engagement used on the My Castle Gateway and My York Central projects, four speakers talked about their own project and how each addresses specific One Planet principles. After each talk there was a pause for reflection and participants were asked three questions:-

  1. What interests you in this?
  2. What are the challenges – what questions does this raise for you?
  3. What connections or collaborations are needed to make this change happen?

Participants were asked to record their thoughts on Post-Its and these were collected…

…following the event they were individually scanned, uploaded to Flickr and tagged for ease of searching. The Flickr album can be found here, the list of all the tags here – they’re all gathered, starting with “opy”. This can be searched by simply clicking on any of the tags. More refined searches can be made by adding extra tags, so for example search for opycouncil, then in the address bar change https://www.flickr.com/photos/165399988@N08/tags/opycouncil/ to https://www.flickr.com/photos/165399988@N08/tags/opycouncil & opylegislate to find Post-Its looking at the council and legislation, or https://www.flickr.com/photos/165399988@N08/tags/opycouncil or opylegislate to find Post-Its looking at the council plus Post-Its looking at legislation.

A summary of the results

Just under 300 Post-Its were recorded. These were tagged on the basis of theme, any action which was suggested or implied, and any body type of body which was connected to the theme or action. So for example:-

Taking a look first at the most numerous tags, Wellbeing was a common issue with Social Prescribing being a common theme within it, and access to it mentioned by many.

Home Energy was also a common issue with a wide range of concerns and themes linked to it – exploring different ways of saving energy / looking at legislation for higher standards of new-build sustainability / assessing the best way to make improvements.

Also common was reference to Land as a key issue – particularly in respect of opportunities for green environment whether large (a York National Park City) or small (Guerrilla gardening).

Collaboration was the most frequently mentioned of the actions, but noted in a variety of contexts. Collaboration with or between organised groups was frequently mentioned (especially Extinction Rebellion) but also peer-to-peer collaboration between individuals (for example community bulk buying).

Information was seen as key, with reference to shortage of information (“how do I find out about…”) and the way in which it needs to be delivered in accessible format. Linked to this, many people mentioned the giving and getting of help and the channels through which this worked, and communication.

Of the various bodies noted in connection with these issues and actions, the council was the most frequently mentioned, with specific roles in respect of policy and recycling, but also more generally as a link with other organisations.

Extinction Rebellion was also seen as a key player – in all sorts of ways but in particular in connecting and collaborating with other bodies (and at the same time concerns were voiced about a crowded field with many environmental bodies and a need to ensure avoidance of unhelpful overlaps). Indeed, a simple wish to ensure cooperation between different groups was also a key concern.

Overall, connections / collaborations were a key concern – between different groups and between issues and key players. Ways of sharing information and educating / getting buy-in were also major concerns, with a wish to carefully explore the possibilities of online platforms and new technology, tempered by a concern that such innovations (eg Uber, AirBnB) aren’t always as cuddly as they are initially portrayed, and a recognition that sometimes collective action works best where people meet, and talk.

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.