‘Give people say on York’s new planning boss’

11 Jul 2012 @ 3.31 pm
| News
The new director will oversee future planning across York

*UPDATED* July 25: “City of York Council has today welcomed Darren Richardson as its new Director of City and Environmental Services.

“Currently in charge of Environmental Services (including Neighbourhood Services) at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (BMBC), Mr Richardson brings a wealth of relevant experience from both the private and public sectors. He will take up his new post in November, subject to final recruitment protocols.” Read the full story here

Next week a handful of high-fliers will arrive in York, each vying to be appointed to one of the city’s top jobs.

They are after the coveted role of director of city and environmental services at the council.

It is a crucial position: the successful candidate will take charge of a £25 million budget and 360 staff. They will oversee the major developments in York – think Monks Cross 2, the massive “teardrop” area behind the railway station – as well as heritage, conservation and local transport.

Chief executive of York council, Kirsten England, acknowledged that, saying: “It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this role to York.”

So why can’t the city have more of a say in the appointment of this supremo?

Now perhaps we can. A new website has been launched, Plan York, asking residents to post thoughts, comments and questions for the candidates hoping to become York’s next director of city and environmental services.

Organisers are hopeful that these questions can then be put to candidates who are interviewed on Wednesday, July 18.

The opportunity to pose questions and generate discussion on the subject was taken by the York Architectural Association, York’s branch of RIBA, who are encouraging members to get involved. However, the Plan York website is designed to act as a platform for not only architects, but anyone with an interest in the future of the city.

It’s all about public engagement, said Lucy Morris, pictured right, co-chair of York Architectural Association.

“The primary reason is to give a voice to the people that are going to be directly affected in their personal and professional lives. And also, obviously to pass on those feelings, thoughts and questions to the interviewing panel,” she said.

“It’s coming at a time in York when there’s quite a lot up for grabs.

“There is a lot of uncertainty, and York is under great pressure to commit to formulating its local plan and vision for the future. The city is also under economic and environmental pressures.

“This appointment is crucial to formulating and facilitating that plan. That’s why it is such an important appointment. And that’s why these questions need to be addressed, or at least discussed.”

She is hopeful that the interviewing panel, led by city council leader James Alexander, will include questions and comments from the site when questioning candidates.

The intense debate about the new York City community stadium and shops development at Monks Cross proved “there is a very big interest in these issues,” said Lucy, who is an architect at Native Chartered Architects Ltd, Crockey Hill, York.

“You don’t have to go too far to find the forums that have been posted online to be able to see people’s feelings towards planning issues.”

She hopes Plan York might make the whole process more transparent. “I do think there’s a tendency, when it comes to these very important appointments in the council, that the procedure is unclear and therefore inaccessible.

“For whatever reason, it’s not intended to be something that everyone feels they can be involved in.”

Plan York aims to change that. To add a comment or a question for the candidates, go to the Plan York website.

The Plan York statement

Bill Woolley’s replacement as Director of City and Environmental Services is a very significant appointment and something that will affect all of us.

The approval of Monks Cross 2, a superstore and 6,000-seat stadium to the north-east edge of the city, has necessitated the withdrawal of York’s Core Strategy after the development contravened the basis of the document. It is unacceptable that a city of York’s importance should not have had an adopted development plan in place since 1956 and despite seven years in the making, the retraction of the Core Strategy leaves York in a state of uncertainty, arguably vulnerable and without a vision for the future.

Bill Woolley’s replacement will need to have exceptional qualities to understand the many facets of the city and navigate the often conflicting agendas of the people and those in power. Whoever takes on the position will be in a massively influential role at a very formative time for York.

Director’s notes

The new director of city and environmental services at City of York Council will succeed Bill Woolley (right), who retired in June.

They will oversee York’s development at a time when pressures on the city’s heritage and environment have never been greater.

Whoever takes the post, and the £88,000-£102,000 salary that comes with it, will be expected to “find new and innovative ways to accommodate growth while retaining what makes the city unique”.

The main areas of responsibility are:

City Development and Sustainability
•  major development projects and initiatives
•  development management
•  urban design
•  heritage and conservation
•  natural environment services
•  sustainability and climate control
•  building control property information

Strategic Planning and Transport
•  local development planning
•  local transport plan,
•  quality bus partnership park and ride
•  highways and network management
•  public transport
•  parking policy
•  major infrastructure projects

Highways, Fleet and Waste
•  Fleet
•  highways maintenance
•  waste services
•  the transformation of these services