York Central Co-Owned – 13th January 2020 Blog

Our workshop on Monday 13th January in the Cinder Building comprised four inter-related sections; the first was simply getting there – high winds and driving rain put a fair few people off and one or two abandoned on the way there, soaked and disorientated. Twelve participants made it, plus Phil & Helen, and Steph Hiscott from Homes England – more about her input in a moment.

The next main chunk of the session was doing some initial thinking about an outline brief – what do we want this place to be, and to do?

Phil started this process rolling by outlining the progress made so far – starting with the Big Ideas from the My York Central public engagement…

  • Homes for living, not investment – forever affordable housing
  • Exploiting the benefits of high density
  • A community made through exchange

…and the questions which emerged from discussions around them…

  • How can we create an intergenerational circular economy?
  • How can people downsize and use capital to invest in stuff which enriches neighbourhood and their lives?
  • How can we make use of York’s inequality for good; How can we help York’s hidden creative industries flourish?
  • How might the mixed-use neighbourhood of the future be more like the past than the present?

He then set out some initial steps to draw out some physical scale to this. How big a project are we thinking of? We had had discussions with York Central Partnership a year or so ago, where we put a red line around an area which had various positive features:-

  • It was next to The Gatehouse building – still being pursued as a “meanwhile” use to get a community presence on the site
  • It was next to the Foundry buildings – identified in the outline consent as being for possible community or educational use
  • It was close to the edge of the site and the existing Leeman Road and St.Peter’s Quarter communities
  • It was – it turned out – next to the area initially identified as being a likely first phase of development.

The area is shown red-lined below:-

He then outlined some basic thinking from David Sim’s book Soft City (based on very extensive work done by urban design practice Gehl Associates on urban components which work well) on perimeter blocks comprising walk-up mixed use buildings around a space where privacy/access can be controlled by those buildings.

He then described the constraints on building height set out in the parameter plans – part of the approved outline consent. These restrict building height in this area to around 17.5m – realistically around five storeys maximum (allowing a 4m floor-to-floor ground floor and 3m floor-to-floor for the storeys above. So – four or five-storey walk-up buildings would fit.

He then described measuring the perimeter of the red-lined site, which gives around 300m of frontage. Divide this by (say) 10m between dividing walls, multiply by 5 floors, and you get around 150 units which could be one or two-floor apartments, workshops, offices, shops, café’s etc.

This is a very rough figure, but gives some starting point for thinking about the scale of what we’re shaping.

Using this as a starting point, we then asked “what would a day be like here? Living or working, what would you do here, what would it feel like, what would the place need to provide you with?” These were the narratives which came out (via Post-Its, obviously)…

“I’ve got a mezzanine live/work apartment but the neighbourhood is important to me too. There’s a community nursery with outside space and a forest school. for me there’s a shared “natter” and hobby space and a studio to do yoga. And as a treat for after there the York Central bakehouse which does the best sourdough in town. Plenty of activity – the public spaces are properly wild so there’s a Saturday morning Park Run through the streets, but also public art and playspaces. There’s off-road trail bike terrain and a climbing wall, plus a lake for wild swimming (and for people who want hotter water there’s a sauna).”

“The central, convenient location is important to me – I can hop onto my bike, head off to Bishopthorpe off road or walk into the city centre avoiding the roads. I can cycle back into town and almost to my door along the riverside, just making a detour to call into our local shop for milk. I’ve got secure cycle parking close to home, and I’m already in a good mood as I get home to change and go meet friends.”

“I love the pleasures of this place. There’s the social – I can walk to work along a green route and use bikeshare to cycle home, but either way I’ll likely say hello to neighbours as the places is designed so you meet people. There’s good stuff in the neighbourhood too – getting to the cinema and pub is easy, and there’s a tapas bar and a patisserie.”

“This is a mixed neighbourhood – there are all sorts of ages, and while some people need a bit of care, others are happy to give it. It’s a place where public health has been thought of, and made positive – there’s a rooftop infinity swimming pool with fantastic views. The streets have been designed for people – children can play there as they’re car-free, and there are places to linger where you know you’ll meet people – there’s no reason to be lonely.”

“It’s a place where once you get outside, you hear birdsong. The public spaces are green, and not just at ground level – go up to the rooftops and there are gardens linked by walkways; the streets aren’t the only way to get around. You can see the distant skies, but there is lots to do; people are neighbourly and impromptu stuff is going on all the time. There are places for public play too – ping pong and stuff like that, or you can just hang out and enjoy the views.”

“It’s a great place to live if you do things on the spur of the moment – there are local facilities including useful shops. It’s social too – you can walk the dog on local streets and spaces to meet and chat with people, and if you want to go further afield there’s direct access to the riverside too.”

“For me I appreciate being close to the station – I can walk there for my commute to Sheffield and the local car club is handy for more awkward journeys. But when I’m home I just love the views – a place to read and be online but immediately return to reality to watch the sunset. There’s secure communal bike parking at the foot of the building, and a shared workshop where you can repair stuff or work on your own stuff. The neighbourhood brings people in too – there are classes, singing groups, and the best bakery.”

“The neighbourhood offers so much – an easy walk into town, maybe through the park or alongside the river. It’s convenient for cycling too (and there’s a shared repair shop!). Stuff to do – art classes – and local shops selling useful stuff – groceries and a bakery. My home’s lovely too – I can use the roof terrace for a glass of wine or a coffee with friends.”

“Surrounded by a lazy river, the neighbourhood is made by its gardens and green space (and the gardens are made by local people – there’s plenty of opportunity to get your hands dirty). In fact it’s the people that drive everything – the place is set up so it’s easy to get involved and to share things, to meet people, though it’s still your own space behind your own front door). The things people need are shared, and places are designed to bring people together – a natural amphitheatre to eat lunch in, and shops and bars on bridges that connect us to the rest of the city. Good walking routes and public transport means the place isn’t dominated by private cars, and there are well-lit places for dog-walking after work too.”

“It’s the collective space that makes it special – there are skill share repair workshops for everything from bike maintenance to electronics repair. There’s a hack space for being creative too. And if you want to simply people-watch or see the world go by then there’s the café upstairs.”

“It’s a real focus for community-led stuff; James came over yesterday and stayed over as we had a morning meeting today with various co-ops and groups within York Central. There’s always food involved and lunch came from our local food co-op – bread baked locally, food grown locally! In the afternoon we had a meeting with members of our housing co-op – we’re one of three on York Central and are finalising plans to build a local strawbale hub building.”

“I’ve got a top-floor apartment and have a short walk to work in a co-owned workspace on the ground floor of my building. Temptingly, among the many local social enterprises, next door is a cooperative coffee shop – and for something stronger there’s a community pub just down the way. If I manage to tear myself away from the neighbourhood it’s an easy walk into town to the cinema. But coming home is good too – I can have a swim in our rooftop pool before bed.”

“The streets are places where people can meet their neighbours – unlike most streets you feel comfortable there, conversations and encounters are unhurried. It works well for all ages too – kids can mix, play – and explore too. Some of the public space feels wild, but safe.”

The third part of the evening was a brief presentation by Steph (on behalf of the unavoidably absent Helen Fielding from the regional Homes England office) and Tim Moon (York’s Community and Self-Build Housing Officer) on ways in which Homes England was working with development partners and communities to provide affordable (in the widest sense) housing. Steph noted that key aims were to increase community-led housing provision, and to secure 130,000 affordable housing starts in the region. Tim pointed out the council’s commitment to 5% of housing on York Central being custom or self-build – which (assuming 2500 overall) sets that requirement at around 125 homes. All of this would be on top of the requirement for 20% Affordable housing – of which 80% would be social rented. Steph’s presentation is available here as a PDF.

Lastly James Newton talked about the role of Yorspace – the community housing group that has been successful in getting a co-housing scheme included within the Lowfields Green development, and is working more broadly to support and enable community-led housing across York. Yorspace is committed to supporting community-led housing on York Central (with any exact relationship between this project and Yorspace to be decided further down the line) and with that in mind James offered to assist in putting together an initial funding application – for up to £10k of reasonably readily-available funding – to support bringing a group together, fleshing out some initial questions about what sort of legal body would be most appropriate, and gathering information by contact with other projects which have experience to pass on. There was general support for this next step.

The session closed, having made good progress and consumed plenty of cake (thanks to Caroline Lewis (Twitter’s @singingfoodie) for maintaining the tradition of cake-fuelled meetings). Thanks also to York Central project director Ian Gray for arranging the venue.

York Central Co-Owned: Making it happen

13th January 2020
18:30 – 20:30
Cafeteria, Cinder Building off Cinder Lane (YO26 4XD).
Book your place

Want to see community-led development on York Central? Come and help shape it!

Through the My York Central public discussions emerged eight Big Ideas.

They included: ‘Homes for living, not investment’; ‘People, not more cars’ and ‘A community made through exchange’. We’re now working with York Central Partnership and City of York Council to make these ideas a reality on York Central.

In this meeting we will be working with Ian Gray, Director York Central Partnership to explore:

  • the York Central development timescale
  • how community-led development can engage with the master development structure being developed at led by York Central Partnership
  • how much space there is for us to work with and how to develop plans in relationship to the outline planning consent
  • how to move forward the more ambitious ideas to create an economic, social and physical structure that enables distribution of resources and enables genuinely affordable homes and a vibrant community
  • the kind of group and/or constituted structure we need to form to carry the ideas forward

Read more about the My York Central Vision, Big Ideas and Principles.

Read the write ups of the first two York Central Co-Owned events.

24th October 2019. Co-Owned Neighbourhoods on York Central

28th November 2019. Co-Owned Neighbourhoods on York Central: ‘Propose not just oppose’

The workshop will be held in The Cinder Building, which is accessible on foot just off Cinder Lane.

Co-Owned Neighbourhoods on York Central: ‘Propose not just oppose’

28th November 2019

This event followed on from a workshop held as part of York Design Week.

Overview of the emerging model:

 

 

Big Idea: Actively reengineer the inequities in York’s economy and society for redistribution of resources to respond to need and desire.

  • The connections between people/society and the neighbourhood establish what the economic flows are in each case (someone needing a social rent house, someone needing a workplace for a profitable company)
  • The place in which the buildings sit is as important as the buildings as it provides the connections between them, and also connections to the surrounding city
  • Homes are not investments, but people can individually or collectively invest in the neighbourhood
  • The neighbourhood includes everything including all profit-making stuff
  • Institutions and the community-led body can together target specific needs or opportunities which will support the vability economic model (affordable accommodation for staff, visitor accommodation for heritage/theme tourists)

Discussion:

There was a wide-ranging discussion. Here are key themes:-

Examples to look at

  • Look at Coin Street on South Bank in London – mix of commercial and residential
  • Learn from Lowfield Green, tiny corner or a larger site. It is an indicator for what is possible, it could be a test bed.
  • Town also involved in mixed use in Milton Keynes. What is community-led mixed use?
  • Good to look at Derwenthorpe, not mixed used or co-owned but constant monitoring in terms of communities. And all monetarised in terms of social value, e.g. film club.
  • Yorspace is different from Derwenthorpe, it is resident-led and resident-designed.
  • Cambridge University is currently funding accommodation for its workers. 150 hectares, rent is dependent on how much they earn. Is it built for everyone?
  • Millennium Village, Allerton Bywater. It was an old mine in the middle of a village and built a new village based on Homezones. Was designed so that no car would go above 10 mph.
  • Ebbsfleet, much bigger scheme than York Central. Trying to design communities where they don’t have cars.
  • An area purposefully left with holes so it can be developed to enable future development. That would be a real USP. Gaps = the anticipation of change over time.
  • Proposing rather than opposing:- instead of a road through the site (to prevent overloading of Holgate Road and Bootham) could we bring a tram / Very Light Rail route through it, linking the Park & Ride to the city centre via all the new housing sites (British Sugar site, Manor School site and York Central) reducing traffic so a through road isn’t needed?
  • How to deal with emergency services and deliveries. We must be able to design a pedestrian / cycling surface that can take emergency vehicles. Birmingham City Centre is a good example, large city centre deals with pedestrians and deliveries.

Affordability/Equality/Redistribution

  • How to deal with affordability, as part of an intervention in housing inequality?
  • Marmalade Lane appears from the promo video painfully white and middle class.
  • Need to explore whether/how businesses might invest in affordable houses – one way to ensure the staff they want can live locally
  • Do we need to buy land and set up a Community Land Trust in order to create an asset lock?
  • It’s not for the faint-hearted.
  • But is that socially exclusive? Some people have got multiple jobs and don’t have time to get involved in community-led initiatives.
  • Part of this is recognising inequality – of money and time – but that all people are contributing in different ways, which are mutually beneficial.

Relationship between York Central and York City Centre

  • What about empty shops on Coney Street? Could there be residential in the city centre? Important not to have two different parts of the city that don’t speak to each other. Could we think of York as having lots of mixed areas that echo each other (rather that different areas that specialise in work / shopping / leisure / living)
  • It’s also about the Leeman Road area and community. Edible York has its apple store in Leeman Road and if there was a community kitchen in this area then could make chutney.

National Railway Museum / University of York connections

  • NRM – future of the railways. Recruitment and knowledge base of skills. Schools, GP practices, infrastructure. Put health centre near the station.
  • NRM – the main decisions are made in London. Really hard to get an interface with them. Has to be about connection, need that otherwise there will be a missing sprocket.
  • NRM – it shouldn’t feel like their aims conflict with our aims, how can it be one shared project? Maybe the conversation with NRM should be “how can the community help them achieve their objectives?” Things have moved on since Festival of York Central conversations.
  • University of York, VC – need to ensure there aren’t parallel worlds. Does the university provide a bit of a lever there? Needs to be driven together.

A new plan / a new model

  • We need to propose not just oppose.
  • The other option (to seeking help from NRM/CYC or UoY) is to just to do it. Draw up a new masterplan. Use Power to Change Seed money. Feasibility. Give it credibility. (It’s like wearing a high viz jacket:- no one asks you what you’re doing, you can just get on!)
  • Neighbourhood Plans? Ask Locality – Can you do a Neighbourhood Plan in a neighbourhood that doesn’t exist yet?
  • An anecdote that might be encouraging – residents for Lowfield Green, they’ve become a community even though they haven’t yet got a neighbourhood. Someone under pressure asked for help, and they all offered it. There is a Cameraderie. Community is not just about bricks and mortar.
  • Setting up the model for housing for Lowfield has already been very difficult. But we need to think about how they will think about it in 10 years time.
  • Is this just a little bit or the whole site? Things are developing so fast in terms of community-led in the development world, York Central Partnership might just be quite grateful.

Ways forward

  • Strong consistency of vision between the discussions tonight and the My York Central conversations. Make the most of this.
  • Land position? Ian Gray (Project Director) is focussed on how to set up the overall finance for the scheme, over next 30-50 years. This is designed around deciding what’s wanted on the site and how best to set up funding to enable it.
  • Do an alternative plan? Financial plan; spatial plan. Do a pilot proposal for a specific area. Start small but all the concepts are included in the neighbourhood. Use this as a building block. Make it modest and deliverable. Don’t sell it as an enclave, sell it as an approach which can be replicated across the site.

Actions

  • Research: Find relevant examples
  • Funding: Power to Change; Locality – what funding options? Who is applying for funding? Depends on the funds. Could be a loose model.
  • Neighbourhood Plans: Look into whether they might be useful?
  • Link with Neighbouring communities: We have contacted Leeman Road Residents Association.
  • Set Up Co-Owned York Central Group
  • Aaaaand… …we need to think about a name as “Co-Owned Neighbourhoods on York Central” is a bit of a mouthful. Just to kick off discussion:-

 

 

 

Next meeting in 13th January, 6.30-8.30pm, and will be held on York Central itself in the cafeteria at the Cinder Building, off Cinder Lane (YO26 4XD). All vry welcome!

 

Co-Owned Neighbourhoods on York Central

4-7.30pm, 24th October 2019

Introduction

The York Central Masterplan emerged from a process that took over three years (for just the most recent version – many recall proposals from fifteen years ago or more). There was conventional “consultation” on key early masterplan elements and access route, followed by My York Central process March 2018 onwards which included a five week Festival of York Central. The Masterplan formed a basis for an outline planning application submitted in August 2018. The application was approved by committee in March 2019.

The York Central Masterplan retained a number of key ideas from the original design proposals pre-dating the My York Central process: – a linear green space running through the site, a public square between the station and NRM, and closure of Leeman Road to allow expansion of the NRM. It included up to 2,500 new homes and creation of up to 112k m2 of office, leisure and retail floorspace.

The My York Central vision and eight big ideas were developed through public engagement in March – August 2018 resulting in around three and a half thousand Post-It notes collected and scanned, uploaded to Flickr and tagged to create a searchable database of public input. This open and inclusive process continued with public workshops to develop and refine the final My York Central Vision document, the Key Principles which underpinned it and the My York Central Big Ideas.

Fascinating questions arise from the intersection of the big ideas:
• How can we create an intergenerational circular economy?
• How can people downsize and use capital to invest in stuff which enriches neighbourhood and their lives?
• How can we make use of York’s inequality for good; How can we help York’s hidden creative industries flourish?
• How might the mixed-use neighbourhood of the future be more like the past than the present?

Group discussion
What would a mixed-use neighbourhood mean to me? Post-Its collected and clustered to identify key issues for the discussion in the final part of the workshop.

Looking for inspiration
There were two presentations to generate questions.

  • TOWN – Neil Murphy on the making of, and ten key lessons from, Marmalade Lane. A partnership between a creative developer and a co-housing group making a humane, much-loved neighbourhood.
  • Citu – Chris Thompson presentated on the Leeds Climate Innovation District. Innovative construction which provides training and employment, and co-ownership of public realm and energy networks.

Questions and answers, and further notes on Post-Its were added for discussion in the final session of the workshop.

York Central Partnership and Homes England
We then heard from York Central Partnership and Homes England.

  • Ian Gray (YCP project director) – Outline consent gets the project where it needs to be at this stage, and allows engagement by developers and finance partners. But it’s a starting point. Community engagement can shape it from here.
  • Helen Fielding (HE Leeds office) – Homes England have funding through Community Housing fund and other routes and are keen to support community-led initiatives as part of delivering the homes which the country needs.

Group workshops
The workshop then split into three discussions to explore different possibilities and approaches.

  • Tim Moon – collective custom build – What does custom build / self build really mean – how dirty do people get their hands? How do we do custom build at scale and where are there examples? How do we reconcile different expectations into a streetscape which works?
  • Imelda Havers – Yorspace and People-Powered Housing – what is Yorspace about and how is it going about building forever affordable housing? What legal bodies are needed and what are their different purposes? How will Lowfield Green happen and how might Yorspace be involved in housing on York Central?
  • Irena Bauman – Built InCommon and very local design & construction – how did we give up the process of actually building homes and let it become remote from us? How can innovative use of technology re-connect people with the homes built for them? How might flying factories create local training and local businesses?

Group Discussion
Clustered Post-Its were set out on tables and everyone invited to join one table and take the issue forward. Aim was to ask:-
• What questions does this issue raise?
• Who do we need in the room in order to get answers and move forward?
• What are the immediate next steps we can take?

Identity
Identity is established at the beginning and confirmed at the completion of a project? Or does it form over the lifetime of a project as the community forms?
Identity can be based on history and heritage – which is more likely to be industrial or social than residential – but should also look forwards.
Identity should be organic and broad, not contrived.
Identity should speak to the broader community.

Sharing
What does sharing actually mean – what are the shared places? They can vary from mainly private space which is occasionally shared, to the completely shared such as a common house or pub.
York Arts Centre (on Micklegate, now a bar) was a good example of shared space, available for all sorts of uses and appreciated by the community.
Communities tend to form around income groups – shared spaces are important as they allow these groups to mix.

Mixing
Need to provide for groups which have social value – for example students remaining in the city and starting up businesses, generating economic activity. Start-up space has value.
New community spaces will have value to broader community beyond site boundaries – need to build bridges (literally as well as metaphorically.
We could bring water onto the site to create social space – the river isn’t far away.
The importance of the site should be acknowledged by all – especially the major partners (including the council) who should really think to the future.

Playfulness
Play is important in respect of intergenerational relationships – stuff of life gets done and is an opportunity for links between generations.
Good things can come out of chaos – name the killer hit single which was born in a pristine recording studio. Not advocating “designing in crack dens” but we should ensure there is some sort of chaos, some unformed places.
Haven’t heard the word “renting” – we need to retain student talent and their lives often don’t need ties of ownership. Can we provide this innovatively? For example intergenerational living and working – mixed neighbourhoods. If these are sufficiently dense and walkable then care provided for all works for the older residents too.
Play isn’t just for children – public realm is an “anchor tenant”.

Ownership
High cost of acquiring land makes innovation hard, and makes affordable homes hard to provide.
“The council need to speak to each other” – silos need to be broken out of. Innovative thinking is needed and innovative partnerships are part of this.

Connections
Connections with the past – “identity often comes from past transport and infrastructure”.
Need to open up connections with other parts of the city – create routes through the site but ensure these are not about traffic – don’t make them “normal roads”.
First step should be to revisit the public vision for the development, and see how the declaration of climate emergency allows for fresh conversations with highways and planners.

Wildness
Wild space can make people happy and healthy – and also save money.
The proposed park is an own goal by being overly curated – we need natural urban space.
We should be creating wild places where kids can explore. But we can also grow food in cities.
Can we make York Central invisible from space? Can we make it better than carbon neutral, and can we make it so diverse “that it pumps out life-forms across York”?

The Next Steps
There was agreement that it was vital the community should be engaged in the development planning process right from the start. How do we do this? Should there be one participative community that acts both to monitor overall direction of the development and engage much more actively in aspects of it? What sort of body is most appropriate to carry forward the community’s involvement? Is it a loose, non-membership body where the consistent elements are the ideas/issues/proposals or is there a role/need for a body which brings greater individual/institutional commitment – some sort of “pioneer group” which is effectively the beginnings of a client body, representing the users of the new neighbourhoods?

There was much discussion about the need for a mixture of tenures. How do we establish what we need to ensure this happens?

There was a wish for the development to have outdoor space of all sorts – some to foster group activity, some to grow food, some to be full of wildlife. Who needs to be involved to make this happen? How can we think about bringing water onto the site? How do we ensure that re-thinking aspects of the approved outline planning consent is done with support from York Central Partnership?

We need to work out what sort of commercial space will work well and bring social value, and how York Central can become a place where creative industries thrive. How do we build links with the universities and other partners to develop a brief for this and make it happen? And more broadly, how do we ensure we have all of the necessary people “in the room”?

A lot of people stated that the development should be car-free. Since the masterplan was developed, York has declared a climate emergency and the most recent election / council power shift has potentially opened the door to reconsideration of the development’s response to transport issues. Can these be looked at in a coordinated way between the council (members and officers), local groups (such as Civic Trust Transport Group / York Environment Forum / YCC etc) and interested individuals?