On Friday 12th April, Councillors James Alexander, Tracey Simpson-Laing and Dave Merrett announced proposals for a new Local Plan for York, which will secure the homes and jobs that York needs over the next fifteen years and beyond.
The plans, which will now go out for public consultation, will determine the areas which can and cannot be developed across the city.
To deliver the homes that York families and residents need now as well as meeting future demand, Labour's proposals would see an average of 1,090 homes being built each year over the fifteen year period of the plan. These would be a mixture of private ownership, rental properties and social and council homes.
It cannot be right that people who are born and grow up here are driven out of the city because they cannot afford to live here.
The plan also makes provision for 20 new business sites, potentially delivering over 16,000 jobs over the 15 year period, as well as setting out the necessary new transport and infrastructure developments required. These include improvements to the outer ring road, an improved cycle network, and plans for new railway stations/halts.
The proposals are sensitive to the unique character of York and seek to protect and promote the quality of life of residents. York’s Local Plan will properly define York’s green belt for the first time. Without a Local Plan being in place and recognised as credible by the government in the next eighteen months or so, under the Coalition's new planning rules York's current draft green belt would remain undefined in law and development restrictions on those sites would be lifted.
As Cllr Alexander put it when making the announcement, in proposing this Local Plan Labour councillors believe it meets three tests:
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You may be aware that City of York Council are considering asking all premises licensed to sell alcohol after midnight to pay a levy.
Details of the proosal can be found here and the council will be consulting on those proposals before any decision is made. We are keen to hear the views of the licenced trade but also of the general public.
York, like most other cities in the country has a problem with anti-social behaviour linked to drinking in the city centre. Our crime figures in this regard are moderate but the figures mask a much bigger picture of low-level anti-social behaviour.
The Council Leader James Alexander and Cllr Dafydd Williams did a shift with the police on a typical Friday night recently (pictured above) and saw for themselves at first hand people too drunk to stand, people who were loud and abusive, people urinating and vomiting in the streets, as well as violence.
There is nothing to indicate that the problem in York is any worse than a typical city of our size, indeed the figures suggest we are one of the safest cities in the country. However, to local residents the figures will provide no comfort and the scenes we witnessed do not make the kind of advert we want to see for the city we are immensely proud to call home.
The night time economy is very important to us and as a Council we are keen to encourage people to come and spend their money in York. However, we want to promote responsible behaviour and to ensure that whilst people come to have a good time in our city centre, they do not spoil the good time of others whilst they are there.
There are lots of solutions that need to be considered, not least a cultural change in the way that as a society we use alcohol. However, the late night levy is one tool available to the Council that we have yet to use that we think is worthy of consideration.
The proposal would only apply to premises licensed to sell alcohol after midnight. It would be charged annually as part of the licence renewal process and would be charged at different levels, depending on the rateable value of the business. This means the small premises would pay £299, ranging through to the largest premises being asked to pay £4,440 per year. 146 of the 263 premises with a late night license are in the smallest two categories meaning they would pay a maximum of £768 per year. That means that 56% of the trade would be asked to pay less than £15 per week to remain open late at night. Only 11 premises (4%) would pay the higher end of the levy.
This seems very reasonable given the large sums taken in bar sales during those times. If a business feels that they would no longer be profitable remaining open after midnight as a result, they can amend the terms of their license to reduce their hours at any time.
However, the trade and residents need the confidence that the money raised is used to tackle the problem. We can give the guarantee that this money will be ring-fenced to supporting the night-time economy in terms of extra policing, noise patrol and clean-up of the city centre. We are in discussions with the police at present to see how this can work in practice but the bottom line is that if we cannot give that guarantee, we will not be signing up to the levy.
We know from feedback already received from the trade that they believe they are being penalised when they are not the real culprits. People often drink cheap alcohol they have purchased in supermarkets and off-licences before they go out. We have some sympathy for this concern and we very much regret that the Government have decided not to press ahead with legislation to implement minimum prices for alcohol, which would have helped to tackle that problem.
However, the reasons that there is a concentration of anti-social behaviour in the city centre late at night is because customers have chosen to come in to town to drink in the pubs and clubs that are still open late at night. Large sums of money are handed over in that time, which is precisely why businesses want to remain open then.
It only seems fair that the people who are making money from those coming into the city centre late at night are asked to pay a small sum towards helping to tackle the problems associated with their being there.
Councillor Linsay Cunningham-Cross and Councillor Dafydd Williams
Cabinet Member for Crime and Stronger Communities and former portfolio holder