Green Party objects to ‘disastrous’ York Central plans – pitting members against their own council leaders

A view of the York Central development. Image: planning documents
26 May 2020 @ 11.03 pm
| Changing city

York Green Party has submitted a long and detailed objection to the transport plans for York Central, condemning them for their ‘disastrous negative impact on traffic levels, congestion and air pollution’.

It pits the party members against their own leaders.

City of York Council is ruled by a Lib Dem-Green coalition, and the Green group leader – and council deputy leader – Andy D’Agorne, described York Central as “a once in a lifetime opportunity to realise significant social and environmental benefits for generations to come in York”.

Party members aren’t so generous. In their objection, they describe the York Central proposals as a huge missed opportunity:

  • We object to the current proposals as they stand which we believe will have a disastrous negative impact on traffic levels, congestion and air pollution on the new site, in the areas around the site and in the city centre as a whole.

    These proposals will result in a car dominated development with new public realm blighted at peak times by long lines of queuing traffic and contributing to gridlock in the city’s transport network.

Thousands of homes are planned for York Central, the teardrop-shaped area behind the railway station.

You can read the reserved matters application for the site’s roads and infrastructure – and the Green Party’s full objection on the planning portal.

Gillygate-style jams

Traffic on Gillygate. Photograph © Google Street View

Here are some of the Green Party’s key objections:

  • the proposals predict peak congestion levels by 2033 as high as we see now on Gillygate and St Leonard’s Place with traffic queues up to 800m long back through the new Museum Square, and halfway down the new access road – as long as queues currently from Micklegate Bar to the Knavesmire.
  • Current modelling suggests a 35 – 55% increase in traffic through Salisbury Terrace from Clifton Green, worsening air quality, noise and safety through this residential neighbourhood.
  • Levels of traffic predicted to go through the Leeman Road Tunnel (Marble Arch) and onwards into the city centre will have alarming impacts on congestion around the Lendal Arch gyratory and from there on the whole city transport network. The modelling implies 40 minutes delay outward bound during the peak.
  • The new Museum Square, presented as a show-piece welcome to the city from the railway station, will be cut in half by lines of queuing traffic at peak times and will be a car-dominated space.
  • The new Park Street will be car dominated with the predicted volume of traffic cutting off new residents from the new park and ‘courtesy’ crossings meaning pedestrians will have to wait for car drivers to let them cross. Noise levels will be an intrusive 70 decibels.
  • A dedicated two-way cycle path alongside the access road is welcome, but cyclists will still be travelling alongside lines of standing polluting traffic.
  • These queues will have a very negative impact on the reliability of public transport through the site. In-bound buses will have to queue for up to 30 minutes to get into the proposed 500 metre in-bound only bus lane, whilst outward bound buses will be caught up in the congestion.

Gridlock ‘will worsen’

York Green Party chair Tom Franklin

York Green Party chair Tom Franklin said the transport plans for the site will “worsen gridlock across the city’s transport network”.

He said they support, in principle, a new access road to make the site accessible for construction, public transport, deliveries and other priority uses.

“But in order to make York Central the low carbon development it claims to be, general traffic through the site has to be effectively restricted, particularly at peak times.”

The York Green Party says there should be “no route through the development and into the city centre for general traffic”.

“The potential advantages of doing this – via a bus gate at Marble Arch – are enormous,” Tom said.

“They include increasing cycling and walking, vastly improving public transport reliability and encouraging existing commuters out of their cars.”

Micklegate Green Party councillor Rosie Baker said the lockdown restrictions give a pointer to a future transport model.

“A 70% increase in cycling during lockdown shows that a new development without vehicle domination would quickly attract high levels of cycling and walking – particularly when it is so near to the city centre on-site employment.

“Traffic-free roads will also make buses more reliable, encourage existing commuters out of their cars and let current residents to get about more easily.”