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?