‘Can we switch off all York’s traffic lights?’ – Council leader answers your questions

Traffic lights at Monk Bar. Switch ’em off? Photograph: YorkMix
18 Feb 2016 @ 6.57 pm
| News

Late last year the leader of City of York Council, Chris Steward, agreed to answer YorkMix readers’ questions.

You came up with some crackers, on all sorts of topics. We’ve picked some of the best, and Cllr Steward has given full and frank answers.

So here is the council leader on everything from potholes to refugees…

Flood defences

A familiar sight. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
A familiar sight. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr

How much money will it cost to significantly improve the York flood defences, and what will the funds that have been allocated be spent on?

– John Jones

The main money we have received recently has been £10 million from the government for the Foss Barrier, which will be added to around £3 million already committed for improvements.This is vital spending to ensure the problems we saw a month ago are not repeated. However there is also a need for more spending on Ouse defences, whilst the likes of the Leeman Road defences worked it is an ongoing battle.

It is also clear that we are getting more extreme flooding than in the past and the water is reaching York at ever greater speeds, we must therefore work more upstream to limit the flooding itself rather than just dealing with the consequences.


Affordable housing

Properties for sale in a York estate agent's window. Photograph: YorkMix
Properties for sale in a York estate agent’s window. Photograph: YorkMix

Why is there no affordable housing? Why do you turn everything into student accommodation?

– Jayne Stafford

Ultimately we can’t control all aspects of what are built as we are bound by planning law and it is for landowners to make applications for buildings as they see fit.We are fortunate to have two excellent universities in our city which contribute a tremendous amount however that does cause issues on the housing front.

There is a particularly great need for homes at the lower end of the market at prices within people’s budgets and this is something we are delivering by being realistic on affordable housing targets.

Unfortunately political dogma saw Labour insist on unrealistically high levels of affordable housing, as a result nothing got built and they denied many of our residents homes.


Curb the hen parties

Too many hen parties?
Too many hen parties?

Is anything gonna be getting done about all the hen/stag do parties flooding the city during the day? Evening times not a problem but its not nice trying to enjoy a day in the town with toddlers when there are groups for hen parties walking about with blow up penises

– Charlotte Moffatt

There is still unacceptable behaviour in the evenings but I agree that the biggest problem is often how this drunkenness starts earlier and earlier and people are seeing things that are just not appropriate.Working with partner agencies like the police a lot has been done including focused operations on drinking on trains and codes with bars to stop inappropriate inflatables being carried around.


Traffic, roads and pollution

The busy junction between Foss Islands Road and Layerthorpe. Photograph © Google Street View
The busy junction between Foss Islands Road and Layerthorpe. Photograph © Google Street View

Can we switch all the traffic lights off in York and see what actually happens? Because at the Barbican when the lights went out the traffic really moved smoothly

– Malcolm Lummas

We won’t switch off all lights as there are many junctions where they are absolutely vital, however you are quite right that often the traffic runs far better when there are no traffic lights.The Conservative manifesto at the last local election contained a commitment to look again at traffic lights as there are certainly some areas where things would be better without them, whether permanently or at certain times of the day.


There is too much traffic and pollution in York. Why not introduce congestion charging in York? We have excellent park and ride (bus and why not bicycle or even boat?)

– David Kessel

I don’t believe congestion charging is the answer, not least as York is probably too small for it to work effectively.We do need to continue to promote Park & Ride and sustainable forms of transport like bikes, so that traffic can move around freer and there be less pollution.

As a group though we believe it is about a carrot of giving better public transport rather than a stick of congestion charges or for example the fines from the Labour Lendal Bridge closure.


Why are you you not using the extra money given by the Chancellor to repair local roads? The condition of all residential roads is an absolute unacceptable disgrace

– Neil Lewis

I don’t agree that the ‘condition of all residential roads’ is a ‘disgrace’, York is generally considered to have some of the better roads in the country.However it is all about priorities and we have been clear we wish to spend more on road maintenance where unfortunately the previous Labour administration were not concerned about important frontline services such as these and instead wasted money on unnecessary vanity projects.

Although Labour’s waste means we as a council now have less money to spend in areas where residents want better roads is still a firm priority of ours.


Refugees and the homeless

A candlelit vigil for refugees in Exhibition Square, November 2015
A candlelit vigil for refugees in Exhibition Square, November 2015

Do you support housing refugees in York ahead of the ex military, young couples with York ties etc, and the homeless you can see on the York streets?

– Jeff Sawyers

I think it’s important we separate the two issues, it’s important we help people who are fleeing persecution and we also have an ongoing duty to offer homes to York families and absolutely to ex-military people who have served out country and we must not let them down now they need our help.We have decided not to house refugees in council housing as this would mean less homes for York residents.


Why did York not take any refugees? Why do we not open unused houses to rough sleepers, as they did in Manchester?

– Nele Sonntag

York is taking in refugees in accordance with the government’s programme. We also do a great deal for rough sleepers in York whether through the council’s dedicated homeless accommodation or the work of charities who are helping people.This is a combination of short-term help like a roof for the night or hot meal and also longer-term help to get people back in a home of their own.

Manchester has vastly more empty houses than we do in York but where there are empty homes here we as a council work with landlords to ensure buildings are brought back into use as soon as possible.


Care homes for the elderly

Care for the elderly is a challenging issue. Photograph © stevepb
Care for the elderly is a challenging issue. Photograph © stevepb

Why are you closing all the elderly care homes? And why have you scrapped the idea of building new ones?

– Mark Gibson

This is not the case, we are closing some Elderly Care Homes but this is only so we can open more and there will be more places and also far better facilities under our plans.We inherited a flawed programme from Labour which they had to abandon at a cost to council taxpayers of more than £300,000, but we have got a deliverable plan which will improve the number of places and also the quality of those for residents.