Johnny Hayes is standing down as a councillor – and the news has been greeted with dismay by many in the city.
There was general agreement that the man who almost single-handedly halted the Clifford’s Tower visitor centre, founded Indie York and made Bishy Road famous, will be a great loss to City of York Council.
Johnny made the announcement shortly after selling the shop he ran with wife Frankie, Johnny & Frankie’s Cookshop.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have decided not to stand for council election in May,” he wrote on Facebook.
He said he believed he could be re-elected – and even do a better job for the next four years with the knowledge gained from his first four as a councillor – but it was the right time to go.
‘Alienated from the council’
His fight against City of York Council granting planning permission for a modern visitor centre to be built into the motte of Clifford’s Tower “has taken its toll”. Johnny said:
The experience has left me feeling somewhat alienated from the council, doubtful of some of the decisions made by council and unconvinced by some of the advice I have received.
All in all that is not a good place to be. So bit more free time sounds very appealing indeed.
He told David Dunning on Minster FM: “The experience of Clifford’s Tower taught me one thing – and that is you have to stand up when you think that something isn’t right.
“From the very start, I was conscious of the fact that the decision wasn’t right at all.”
Asked if he wanted to leave behind council in-fighting he said: “That’s one reason I will be pleased not to be involved, because I don’t enjoy politics, I don’t enjoy in-fighting.
“As far as I’m concerned, local politics should be about people standing up for their city rather than their party.”
Some of Johnny’s achievements
October 2015: After becoming chair of the Micklegate Business Initiative, Johnny is instrumental in launching the Micklegate Run Soapbox Challenge, now a hugely successful annual event
November 2015: Bishopthorpe Road is named GB High Street Of The Year after Johnny’s triumphant campaign as chairman of the Bishy Road Traders Association
January 2016: After the terrible Boxing Day floods, Johnny helps launch Indie York to help local businesses
June 2016: Johnny receives the MBE at Buckingham Palace for services to the community
January 2017: Johnny wins the right to take City of York Council to judicial review over Clifford’s Tower visitor centre decision
June 2018: Johnny scored an amazing victory as English Heritage scrapped its plan to build a visitor centre into the motte of Clifford’s Tower
June 2018: Johnny announces that the city will celebrate the first York Independents Day next year
‘You will be sorely missed’
Many people took to Facebook to thank Johnny for his contribution, and express their sadness as well as understanding about his decision.
“Thanks for all you’ve done Johnny, you will be sorely missed. Just shows how much impact one man can have if they’ve got the mind to,” wrote Alexandra Callow.
“A loss for the City of York Council who need more like you in their ranks,” said Angela Horner.
Other York councillors also heaped praise on him. The former Conservative leader of the council Chris Steward wrote:
I entirely understand why you are standing down Johnny but it’s a great loss for the ward and city.
Topping the ballot in your first time of standing without any party machine is an incredible achievement and you have only continued to go forward.
And York’s first Green Party mayor, Dave Taylor, said: “You’ve fared extremely well as an independent Councillor Johnny. It’s very much more difficult for an independent, I know.
“Grateful for your contribution… particularly over the shoddy business at Clifford’s Tower and the promotion of independent shops.”