At Last! Monk Cross vehicle charging hub opens today

12 months behind schedule and still no satisfactory explanation for the delay

No news on opening date for the Poppleton Bar “hyper hub” or recharging costs

The Councils media release reads:

  • Monks Cross HyperHub is one of the largest charging hubs in Northern England
  • Four 175kW ultra-rapid chargers, four 50kW rapid chargers, with an adjacent area having 30 7kW chargepoints
  • Solar canopy allows site to generate renewable energy which can be stored in batteries at both Monks Cross and Poppleton
Two customers who have been queuing for some time at Monks Cross

York’s new electric vehicle HyperHub at Monks Cross is open from today [15 June]. For a limited time, the new site won’t be charging for electricity in a bid to test the new technology and encourage residents and visitors to visit the new site.

The Monks Cross HyperHub is located next to Park and Ride site and will be one of the largest charging hubs in Northern England. Poppleton HyperHub is set to open this summer.

Both HyperHub sites will contain 4 Ultra-Rapid (150kW) and 4 Rapid (50kW) vehicle chargers, helping to support the uptake of modern EV’s that have larger battery capacities and are capable of Ultra Rapid charging.

Monks Cross features four 175kW ultra-rapid chargers (which can be upgraded to 350kW when vehicle charging rates make that worthwhile), four 50kW rapid chargers, with an adjacent area having thirty 7kW chargers for Park and Ride users.

The HyperHub also has a solar canopy which allows the site to generate its own renewable energy which can be stored in the Tesla Powerpack batteries at the charging hub, helping to reinforce the grid.

The ultra-rapid and rapid chargers are user-friendly for EV drivers and offer contactless payment methods. Cars and vans can access the chargers, and the facility has been designed with no kerbs to allow disabled access. Protection from the weather is provided by the solar canopy and all of the electricity supplied from the National Grid will be generated by renewable sources.

A key element behind the development of the HyperHubs was the production of an Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy by the council. This looked at a wide range of issues in order to ensure that the HyperHubs met the needs of residents, fleets, commuters and through traffic. The convenient location of the charging hubs was a central part of the strategy, with the first two HyperHub sites being located off the ring road next to established Park and Ride sites.

The Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy also identified that it wasn’t yet commercially viable for the private sector to develop such charging hubs, so the council would own its charging network in order to guarantee the best results for residents. This allows the council to plan how the network will grow and to set tariffs, as well as making it directly accountable and enabling it to deliver next generation chargers as quickly as possible.

The funding for the HyperHubs is also unique, with City of York Council successfully securing £1 million of European Regional Development Funding and £800,000 from the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, along with £400,000 of the council’s own capital funding to install the first two HyperHubs. This has resulted in 80% of the £2.2 million project being externally funded.

For more information about the HyperHubs visit https://www.york.gov.uk/hyperhubs

There was a slight delay to the originally planned completion date of Monks Cross due to finalising commercial and contractual arrangements. There is no additional cost as a result of this delay. (!)

The unique project is the result of a partnership between City of York Council and EvoEnergy.

More delays at Lowfield

Lowfield development plan

It seems that the Council have failed to move forward the three vacant plots at Lowfield which threaten to extend the build timetable to over 6 years.

Although 90 of the 140 homes being built by the Councils Shape company are completed and occupied – with the rest due before the end of the year – and the 6 self-build houses progressing quickly, there is little good news on the other plots.

Neighbours were promised by the Council that the whole development would be completed with plant off site within 3 years of a start being made,. This was important as nuisance from building works to neighbouring properties can be significant.

Extra Care Home

The largest of the unused plots has been scheduled to provide facilities, aimed at older residents, since 2010. It represents the bulk of the former built footprint of the school. It is located next to the (completed) playground.  

Innumerable plans have been drawn up for the site since 2010 with each being abandoned at some stage. Most recently a tender for the management of the site was accepted by the Council in December 2021.  The terms of the contract have never been reported to a Council committee.

A report to a meeting next week says, “The council has previously been unsuccessful in procuring an extra care provider to deliver this site. As such, officers are undertaking further soft market testing with extra care providers in order to deliver this ambition”

So, in reality, we are back to where the Council started in 2010.

Police station/Health Hub

This plot is on the Dijon Avenue side of the site. The Council claimed and confirmed during consultation (in July 2017)  that it would accommodate a Police station and “health hub”.  The proposals were quickly abandoned after planning permission had been obtained.

The plot was then marked as a “community building” location for several years. In May 2021 the Council’s Executive confirmed that the plot would house “specialist accommodation built for 6 adults with a learning disability who have dementia and 6 other adults. In addition to the 12 units, there will be up to 6 cluster flats for the first steps into independent living”.  

In response to a Freedom of information request on 7th March 2022, the Council said

 ” This land has not been disposed of”.  

The Council report, being considered this week, confirms that the authority is now rowing back from its 2021 decision, It says only that “on the smaller plot, located close to the site entrance with Dijon Avenue, there may be an opportunity to provide specialist housing for those who would benefit from more intensive support due to their physical or mental health. Colleagues from the Housing Delivery Programme and Adult Social Care are working together to create a business case to progress this ambition”

There are suspicions that the social care scheme was only floated to avoid criticism of the Councils withdrawal of support for providing a “health hub”.

Another case of back to square one?

Yorspace communal housing site

A secret deal was brokered in August 2017 to sell a 0.74 acre site on the Tudor Road side of the site to a communal housing group called “Yorspace” 19 homes were to be built. The scheme will not count towards the affordable homes target.  The buyers of the plot are required to have started construction work within 12 months of purchase and to have completed all works within 2 years.

3 derelict plots blight Lowfield

The Yorspace development became controversial when it was revealed in January 2019 that no conditions had been attached to the sale which required occupiers to be in housing need, have low incomes or, indeed, even be York residents. There was some scepticism about the sale price of £300,000 as a similar nearby plot had been sold for 50% more than that figure.

The sale was not completed.

The latest report says only “a community build plot which the council have agreed to sell to Yorspace. Planning permission is secured for this site and the community group have discharged their pre-start on site planning conditions. The group are finalising their construction contract following sharp rises in construction costs in the last 12 months. Yorspace expect to complete the land purchase and commence construction before the end of the year.’

This is the same reason for delay as has been rolled out for over 3 years now. In the meantime, the Council is missing the opportunity to provide some much-needed social housing on the site.

The commercial value of the site – which now has service connections – is likely to have risen to nearly £1 million  

The Council Leader has confirmed that there is a “Plan B” option for the site. It is time for that option to be brought forward.

“Beam me up Scotty” Monks Cross electric vehicle charging point “energized”

Nearly 12 months after they were supposed to be brought into use, York’s two “hyperhub” electric vehicle charging stations have reached another milestone

A report to a meeting next week says that the Long awaited hubs now require only “snagging” work and testing before they are brought into use.

The report fails to give an opening date.

It does say that the “energisation” of the sub station at Monks Cross took place on 28th April. The report says, . “All legal work is now complete and our IDNO are coordinating with NPG to schedule the final connection”

At Poppleton Bar the failure to open the site is putdown to “some minor snagging and the need to establish a back-office setup”

The report also provides more background information on the long delayed project.

Hyper Hubs are an innovative combination of solar energy harvesting and storage with electric vehicle charging points, reducing the reliance of electric vehicles on the UK electricity grid, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

By providing Hyper Hubs at Poppleton and Monks Cross Park and Ride sites, we aim to increase the use of electric vehicles for journeys in and to York, providing eight private vehicle charging points at each site.

By providing Hyper Hubs at Poppleton and Monks Cross Park and Ride sites, a solar canopy would be erected over approximately 100 parking spaces, providing space for 1,400 m2 of solar panels. This canopy is an elevated structure – essentially a roof below which cars can still park – with solar panels on the top. Adjacent to the canopy, but not on land currently used for parking, there would be an energy storage facility – a battery.

At each site there would also be eight charging points for electric vehicles. Electricity generated by the solar panels would be used to hyper charge vehicles plugged in to the charging points. Electricity not used immediately would be stored in the battery. When the battery is full, this electricity could be fed into the national grid.

The solar canopies would use the free space immediately above the vehicles to harvest solar energy to the site. Batteries would then store the electricity, providing it either to hyper charge electric vehicles when plugged in, or feeding it into the UK electricity grid.

The electric vehicle infrastructure element of the project is to purchase and install the DC ‘hyper’ charging points (faster than current ‘rapid’ charge speed points at 50kW) which will supply the energy to the vehicles. These will be installed in a Hub of eight car bays which can supply up to 150kW power output per car, with a typical charging session taking 10-20 minutes. By way of comparison, a typical home charging point takes around eight hours to charge an electric car

York Council’s housing management criticised

It is difficult not to conclude that there is something wrong with social housing management in York. Anyone with an inkling of concern might try to download the  Councils Tenancy Strategy from its web site.  They will be disappointed. The strategy only covers the period up to 2018.

Anyone wanting to view the current tenancy conditions will be similarly rebuffed. They also are under review and not available on the web site

The Council is currently migrating its waiting list from the North Yorkshire home choice system. There is currently no dedicated home choice web site covering just York. The numbers on the waiting list are unclear and the transition is supposed to be completed by the end of May.

 Although the Council makes much of the success of its “housing delivery programme”, in reality it has been a very mixed picture. Specialist accommodation for the elderly (Lowfield, Oakhaven etc) has failed to materialise. Some of the commercial elements of the programme have been successful and reflect the burgeoning demand for housing in the City over the last 18 months.  Good progress has also been made om some of the “self-build” plots while shared ownership schemes have proved to be popular.

House building in York

The Councils gullibility has been fully exploited by those with superficially attractive but ultimately  ill-considered schemes.

The Yorspace communal living project at Lowfields hasn’t delivered a single new home. In fact, over 4 years after being given the exclusive right to purchase the site – at a bargain £300,000 – the sale still hasn’t been completed. The Council should put a deadline, of not more than 6 weeks, for Yorspace to complete the purchase of the site. Conditions should be attached to the sale requiring any new homes to be brought into use within 12 months.  If they don’t buy, then a social housing provider should be asked to build affordable homes on the plots.

Housing report extract October 2021

A similar situation may develop at Morrell House.

Very much “under the radar”, the Councils Executive in October 2021 agreed exclusive terms for the sale of the site to a cooperative. The site is valued at nearly £1 million.

Only two paragraphs of the October report were devoted to justifying the deal.  No open tenders for the site were sought and it remains unclear how the Coop became the only option presented to Councillors. Worse; there is no requirement for the new homes to be allocated to waiting list applicants. Thus, any new homes may not be occupied by those in “housing need” They may not be accredited as “affordable” under planning legislation (as proved to be the case with its Lowfield counterpart)

The final decision, on the terms of any sale, is delegated to officials to make at a “behind closed doors” meeting.  

All in all, housing management in York needs a major overhaul. Not content with first side-lining, then abolishing, tenants representative organisations, the York Council exacerbated the problems when it failed to appoint an experienced Head of Housing.

The consequence of indecision is all to clear to see in the decline of our Council estates and in the number of derelict development sites in the city.

It is time to act.

Gas main replacement delays

Councillor are questioning the length of time being taken to replace gas mains on Holgate Road.

Although the works were supposed to continue over the Ester break there was little evidence of progress on the ground.

Long traffic queues developed on approaches to the works which are controlled by two way temporary traffic signals

Officials at the Council say, “The decision to grant works on Holgate road over the Easter period was taken due to up and coming major works in the area, eg station frontage, York central and the major scheme on Tadcaster road.

The works have a four week permit, any overrun after this period will impose  charges under Sec74 of the NRSWA which is very costly per day”.

More delays on reopening the Guildhall

Sheriff forced to muster “army” elsewhere

We understand that the reopening of the the Guildhall – which has been subject to a £22 million refurbishment scheme over the last 4 years – has been delayed again.

Apparently there are issues with water egress and poor quality door fitments.

As recently as last month the Council confirmed that the project would be completed, and the building occupied, before the end of March (2022).

How Guildhall refurbishment costs have grown over the years

Building work – with the current contractor – started in early 2019 with a 12 months completion timetable.

Previously the building had been largely unused since the Council moved to “West Offices” in 2012.

There are concerns that the last agreed budget for the project (£21.7 million) will be exceeded, leaving taxpayers to find even more money to fund interest charges on borrowings.

NB. There has been a Civic building on the Guildhall site since 1378.

What’s on in York

The delays means that the annual Sheriffs tour of the Walls will start from an Italian restaurant albeit one located ion the historic Assembly Rooms

More housing development problems hit York Council

Hard on the heels of the lack of progress in building new homes on the Spark Piccadilly site reported yesterday, and the lack of progress in providing “extra care” apartments for the elderly at Lowfields, another York Council backed scheme has ground to a halt.

The Yorspace “communal living” scheme – also located at Lowfields – was due to be completed last year. There has been no sign of activity on the site and a Freedom of Information request has produced a response confirming that the sale of the 19 home plot has not been completed.

Communal building site at Lowfield – currently unused

Although the use of the brownfield plot for house building was not in itself particularly controversial, it emerged some years ago that the Yorspace plans did not include any “affordable” units. The communal owners did not have to be on the housing waiting list, have low incomes or even live in York. Despite this, the Council agreed a sale price of £300,000 for the plot. This was much less than was paid by the private sector for a similar sized plot on nearby Gale Lane.

A report to a Council Executive meeting taking place next week claims that the sale has been competed. This is obviously misleading. There is no commentary provided on the reasons for the delay although Yorspace lost their government grant funding support last year

The local “Lowfields Action Group” is on the case. Their Facebook page highlights the issue. They are particularly concerned that delays to building works starting on this, and the apartment, site could extend the timescale for the completion of the whole development.

There is a long history of complaints about noise, mud and dust arising from the building site. The prospect of this extending into 2025 has further dented the local communities confidence in the Council and its communications channels.

So what should happen now?

. We have written to the Council’s Leader suggesting that he needs to step in and get building works started. The communal living scheme could be moved to another site if there is still any residual enthusiasm for the concept. The old Morrell House home is already scheduled as a cooperative housing development site..

The building plot – following high inflation levels over the last 4 years – will now be worth around £500,000. There are still many “self builders” eagerly seeking building plots and they would offer one option.

Alternatively the Council could develop more bungalows of the type which were snapped up on the adjacent site. This should produce enough income to allow for several affordable rent units to be included.

Whatever the way forward may be, the York Council needs to act decisively.

Nearly 2000 people on the housing waiting list demand no less.

Time for action

Save Lowfields Playing Field Facebook article. click to access

Elderly persons accommodation faces further delays.

It’s 15 years since the Lowfields secondary school closed its doors to pupils. Education investment was concentrated at the nearby York High school and the intention was to build a new elderly persons care home on the “footprint” of old school buildings.  

By 2010 a layout had been consulted on and there was general agreement that, because of its proximity to a full range of shops, leisure and health facilities on Front Street, it was ideally located to meet the needs of older members of the community.

But the care home site has remained unused despite the adjacent Shape Homes development proceeding at pace. Given the scarcity of specialist accommodation of this sort in the City this has been both a surprise and a disappointment to many. Even the Oakhaven site – also unused for five years – now seems to be moving forwards.

So what went wrong?

A change in Council control in May 2011 took much of the momentum out of the project,. Behind closed door wrangling about who should run such a facility meant that 4 years were lost. Subsequent administrations failed to move the project forward although the idea of building a new care home was finally abandoned 2 years ago. It was deemed to be unaffordable.

Instead – after considerable research – the Council decided that “extra care” independent living units would be built on the site. Tenders were sought from independent providers in March 2020. Authority was delegated to the “Corporate Director of Health, Housing & Adult Social Care to award a contract”. Conditions were attached to the sale of the land. These included:

  • An obligation within the lease to construct an extra care accommodation scheme on the land within a specified period and to thereafter operate that scheme for a specified minimum period.
  • A covenant within the lease that the land can only be used for extra care accommodation (not for any other purpose/use) for a specified period;

The report said, “Extra care accommodation would include communal social facilities, these could be opened to the wider community. On the Lowfield Green site extra care accommodation could offer community facilities for those living in the neighbouring bungalows and flats for the over 55s. This would help to create a supported retirement community in the area”.

A start on site was promised for “early 2021” with a 2 year build timetable.

Extra care site October 2021

A response to a Freedom of Information request has revealed that tenders were indeed received by the Council in March 2021.

Since then, there has been silence from the authority. There is no item registered in the Councils 4 month programme of pending decisions.

The issue is an important one, with dozens on the waiting list for specialist accommodation of this sort.  

Local residents in the Lowfields and Tudor Road areas were assured that building works on the whole Lowfields site would be completed “within 3 years”. That looks to be possible for the Shape homes plots and some self-build units, but not for the rest of the site.

It is two years since progress on the extra care part of the project was last discussed by a Council committee

Residents face another 3 years of disruptive building works. Some explanation is required of the Council.

NB. The Freedom of Information response did confirm that the “community building” plot has been sold to provide “specialist accommodation for 6 adults with a learning disability who have dementia and 6 other adults”