Concern as York health hub is scrapped as residents ‘wait eight weeks to see a GP’
Plans for specialist accommodation for people with learning difficulties on a major York housing development have been scrapped.
Care flats for the elderly in Lowfield Green will also not go ahead due to financial constraints, senior councillors were told on Thursday.
The Liberal Democrat / Green-run council said its “highly successful” scheme had seen 140 new homes, including 56 at an affordable rate, built on the site of the old Lowfield School in Westfield.
It is part of the council’s housing delivery programme, which will see 600 new homes – around 60 per cent affordable – built across sites it owns.
When outline plans were first submitted in 2017, Lowfield Green included proposals for a health and police hub at the entrance by Dijon Avenue.
This was later changed to specialist accommodation for people with learning difficulties or dementia, but this too has been abandoned and the council will instead seek to build homes, mainly bungalows, for a mix of social rent, market sale and shared ownership.
No bids were tendered for the creation of 40 apartments for the elderly at Plot B, so the council is instead hoping to sell the land to a registered social housing provider or community housing group.
Opposition Labour group leader Cllr Claire Douglas said during a meeting of the council’s executive on Thursday: “It’s really concerning that we haven’t been able to bring through any of the health provision that we hoped to put on some of the sites.
“GP appointments are now an eight week wait for most people, and we are not bringing enough [health provision] through within the planning process.”
Housing director Tracey Carter replied: “That requires the health service to have the capital injection to be able to do that.
“On Lowfield, we’ve not been able to achieve any physical NHS assets. There is, according to the NHS planners, sufficient GP capacity within that area.”
Doing ‘as much as we can’
A third plot of land at Lowfield has been purchased by community housing group Yorspace, but the project has been hit by delays. The council said the group must start construction work in the summer and finish within 18 months.
Cllr Andrew Waller, who has receieved complaints from residents already living on Lowfield, called on officers to urgently investigate measures to address highways concerns resulting from construction traffic.
Elsewhere in the housing delivery programme, preparations for 85 zero-carbon homes and two community facilities at Ordnance Lane have also been delayed.
Grant funding of £2.43 million has been secured to prepare the site for construction, but a developer has not yet been found and a business case will need to be presented to senior councillors for approval.
Ms Carter said: “The housing market is not behaving in a normal way at the moment and we feel that it’s prudent and financially cautious to approach the next phase of the housing delivery programme in a slightly more cautious way.”
Plans for the redevelopment of Willow House, an empty care home the council owns, are also at an early stage.
Executive member for housing Cllr Denise Craghill said: “This hasn’t been the easiest time for progressing the delivery of highly sustainable and highly affordable developments.
“We’ve been through two years of Covid, rapidly rising construction costs and now the cost of living crisis.
“And yet York’s housing delivery programme has won many national awards for setting the standards for the future of housing delivery.”
She added: “In the current economic conditions, it does make sense to proceed with as much as we can to meet local housing need, but also ensure we’re taking on a manageable and deliverable pipeline of sites – delivering social value working with partners and seeking some capital receipt to support the significant challenges in the council’s budget.”