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July 2019 update

7 July 2019

The next meeting of York Environment Forum is on Tuesday 9th July, at the usual time of 4 to 6pm, at West Offices, Station Rise.

The main agenda item is:

Climate and Ecological Emergencies, organised and presented by member John Cossham.

We will also be planning the August meeting – this will be more informal than is customary and will take place outdoors.

Expect, too, discussions and information-sharing among the members, and indepth reporting from the YEF Transport Group.

June 2019 Update

7 June 2019

York Environment Forum this year is organising around several themes. This will allow members to cover issues in depth alongside members with similar interests.

The themes are:

  • Transport
  • Natural environment and infrastructure
  • Built environment
  • Waste
  • One Planet York

New themes will be added as interest arises.

And each meeting has a focus decided by the members. In April this was community-led housing, climate change adaptation undertaken by Yorkshire Water (May), food sustainability follows in June, and Climate Emergency in July.


October 2018 Update

16 October 2018

The pace of updates on this site might lead you to one of two conclusions – wither we’re all pretty much asleep and nothing’s been going on, or we’re (and in particular those of use with login details for the website) so busy that updating the site has taken a back seat. The latter is the case.

The Forum has had a busy year – involvement with community engagement on York Central and input into the Local Plan both being major tasks. The transport subgroup has been very active (working in partnership with Professor Tony May and the Civic Trust) and public transport in York has been a big issue of discussion and action. Natural environment has also been a big concern, with close ties with Treemendous York and action on Askham Bog. The Forum will be ending the year with discussions on transport planning and clean air – and if these are issues that interest you, please come along. Meetings are, as always, 4pm – 6pm on the second Tuesday of every month at West Offices.

Next year will see changes, with current chair Phil Bixby standing down. Watch this space (or better still, come along and get a ringside seat!).

February 2017 update

10 February 2017

As 2017 rushes past, continuing the all-too-established theme of apparently increasing chaos and uncertainty, the Forum continues to keep its collective eye on local issues while being mindful of the national context. The February meeting sees a Q&A session with the council’s Chief Executive, a presentation and discussion about the developing proposals for Castle Gateway (The Artist Formerly Known As The Southern Gateway) and a follow-up discussion to the previous meeting’s look at waste and recycling, with a personal viewpoint on behaviour change from Tom Waring, who has had many years at St.Nicks pondering this issue.

Our March meeting will look at broader environmental issues which are of very specific interest to York residents – flooding and air quality, and in April we’ll be talking with the Environment Observatory to see how local data can help us understand – and hopefully address – local environmental issues.

We are represented on the York Central Community Forum, and have been active in commenting on the proposals for York Central (both collectively and as individual members and representatives of local groups) and other local significant development proposals. We have been active in discussing proposals for some of the major sites identified in the draft Local Plan, and in encouraging local debate, a process we aim to encourage both via the Forum itself and via events in partnership with the My Future York project.

If you represent a local group whose voice you’d like to be part of the Forum, or have skills or experience which you feel would be of value, then please get in touch. Expertise and information are increasingly precious.

September 2016 – Update and comments on the draft Local Plan

15 September 2016

There really shouldn’t be nearly a year’s gap since the last update, but then that’s the perils of the chair having a day job, and at the same time trying to push forward specific local initiatives like My Future York. Anyway, hopefully all in the outside world will be relieved to hear that York Environment Forum has been working well over this period, with plenty of dialogue with the council, One Planet York and other local bodies.

In particular we’ve been much occupied with the draft Local Plan. A number of members have attended stakeholder and community meetings, and we have had presentations from council officers to seek feedback from members. We have made the following comments on the current draft, specifically in respect of land allocation:-

“York Environment Forum has two strategic comments on the proposed sites for future housing development which are broadly supported by most of our diverse membership.

The first is that density of development on the proposed sites should in general be higher. The city should look to examples elsewhere of higher-density (but not high rise) development and use these examples to illustrate to the public what kind of buildings and spaces might result. Development at greater density is generally more sustainable; in addition to a more efficient use of land, travel distances can be reduced and public transport becomes more efficient.

The second is that we believe development of peripheral sites should be concentrated into one substantial community of sufficient size to support a full range of community facilities, and could support the investment in infrastructure which would be required to make any development on the edge of the city sustainable. The current proposal for Elvington aerodrome is of insufficient scale for this to be the case; it is suggested that something in the region of 5,000 new homes would be a more successful target. The siting of this should be investigated and we do not have specific preference other than to note two points:- (i) that development to the north or west of the city would be likely to increase traffic on the singe-carriageway ring road and lead to worsened congestion, and (ii) that choice of site should minimise disruption or loss of areas of biodiversity and should focus on areas of lower environmental value – whatever the issues of current Green Belt designation.

York Environment Forum looks forward to ongoing participation in the process of planning for the future of the city and urges the council to maintain a full and open debate”

Winter update 2015

10 December 2015

Lots has been happening recently. Members of York Environment Forum are over in Paris at the moment at the climate talks, and the last meeting featured a Skype hook-up with them to get an on-the-spot view of what the mood was and how Britain’s role within it all was being seen over there. Doubtless there will be reports at the next meeting – more good reasons to be part of the Forum.

Behind the scenes, we now have a Membership Secretary, which should make joining even easier. Use the membership application form – yef-membership-application-form-2015, and send it to

The minutes of the December Forum meeting are now available – Minutes 2015-12-08

Minutes of meetings added

11 August 2015

With apologies for lateness, the chair has got around to posting the minutes from the various summer 2015 meetings on the website. Sadly summer 2015 itself has pretty much failed to materialise, but the chair feels unable to take sole responsibility for this, pointing at climate change as a likely contributory factor.

Labour Party response to questions to candidates

5 May 2015

I’m pleased to respond on behalf of York Labour Council candidates. In particular improving air quality and increasing the stock of Council housing would be key priorities for a Labour Council.

What is your party doing to encourage large-scale renewable energy? Would you seek to implement this locally, and how?

One of Labour’s first acts in office was to ensure solar panels were installed on the new Council Offices roof, and we have delivered solar panels for over 500 homes. In our most recent budget we included funding to investigate setting up a Council energy company, both to provide York residents with lower cost energy and to sell energy from the Council’s own renewable energy generation and potentially other local renewable facilities.

We will develop work that has already started to explore the potential for energy generation at Council buildings and sites like the Park & Rides and major developments such as the Community Stadium and York Central. We would also continue to drive down the Council’s own energy consumption.

This would help reduce the Council’s carbon emissions, save residents money, and generate a return that can be recycled into other Council services.

What are your proposals to reduce air pollution in York?

Under Labour, City of York Council adopted the country’s first overarching Low Emissions Strategy for improving air quality, and we recently approved an Air Quality Action Plan to build on it. Under this Action Plan, we would:

  • Increase the number of electric buses, taxis and private vehicles. We introduced the North’s first fleet of electric buses, the world’s first retrofitted electric tour bus is in operation here, we have one of the only low emission taxi incentive schemes in the country, and one of the most extensive electric vehicle charging networks. We believe there is potential for even greater proportion of electric vehicles and we would pursue this.
  • Introduce low emission planning guidance that would require new developments to mitigate their air quality impact. This could include provision of electric vehicle charging points, emission controls during construction, auto finance your contribution towards the cost of improving air quality.
  • Reduce emissions from the Council’s own fleet of vehicles, building on the one third reduction of mileage we have already achieved.  – Introduce a Clean Air Zone to regulate buses in the city centre.
  • Run an anti-idling campaign including improved signage, marketing and, if necessary, enforcement action.
  • Require ECO-stars scheme membership for any operator wishing to provide a CYC funded transport service or that undertakes a service on behalf of the council which involves using a large fleet of vehicles.
  • Deliver a Compressed Natural Gas refuelling station and freight transhipment centre to reduce the emissions of delivery vehicles.
  • Establish a cross-party, independently-led Congestion Commission to engage the public and make recommendations on how to tackle York’s long standing traffic and air quality challenges.

Do you feel the Lendal Bridge trial points to ways forward for further transport change?

We believe that the main lesson learnt from the Lendal Bridge trial is the need to engage the public with the difficult transport choices facing the city and win hearts and minds. Transport needs to stop being a political football in York, which is why we will establish a cross-party independently-led Congestion Commission to produce recommendations that will deal with York’s traffic problems once and for all.

Do you see ways to enhance biodiversity and the natural environment within new development in the city?

Labour included a Biodiversity Action Plan and ambitious green infrastructure policies in the emerging Local Plan. We will deliver a Green Infrastructure Strategy to establish a long term vision for the planning and management of green infrastructure across York, identifying where the protection and enhancement of green spaces and natural elements can be achieved, improvement in connectivity between places realised, and focal points for community and business involvement established. This will ensure an improved biodiversity and natural environment for all York residents, and to this end we particularly value the importance of green corridors, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.

Would you propose to build council housing, and if so how?

Labour delivered the first council homes in York in more than 20 years. As part of Phase 1 of our council homes building plans, we are beating our building targets with more than 70 homes, all meeting very high standards of environmental sustainability and accessibility.

As part of Phase 2 we will deliver a similar number of homes. We will do this by making use of a £10m Housing Investment Fund and using capital receipts to cross-subsidise the delivery of new council homes.

We will explore different vehicles to deliver ambitious numbers of new affordable homes in the city and will retain targets for affordable homes in private developments.

David Levene
Secretary, York Labour

…and from the parliamentary candidates:-

Thank you for your e-mail of 29 April on behalf of York Environment Forum in which you ask for our views on Climate Change, HS2 and the shortage of affordable housing.  We are replying as follows:

Climate Change

The Labour Party will work for a climate change deal at the Paris conference which is taking place in December. Climate change is one of the most serious and complex challenges of the 21st Century and we need concerted, immediate and sustained action to reduce carbon emissions and to avert the potentially serious environmental consequences we face if we fail to take action.  Labour has always warned that climate change threatens national security because of the consequences for destabilisation of entire regions of the world, mass migration of millions of people and conflict over water or food supplies.

The previous Labour Government introduced the 2008 Climate Change Act, which set a legally binding target to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, and a range of measures to improve energy efficiency, increase renewable energy and build a low carbon economy. We are very proud of our record on this.  The current Government is failing to take climate change seriously. Disagreement and inconsistent messages from Ministers, as well as policy uncertainty on decarbonisation and support for renewables is undermining the leadership that Labour established in the past. Investment in renewables has collapsed and important measures such as a clear target to decarbonise our electricity supply by 2030 have been opposed. A future Labour government will put in place a clear plan to mitigate and manage the impact of climate change. That will mean taking action on prevention through the 2030 decarbonisation target and an ambitious EU emissions reduction target, building our resilience to extreme weather conditions and making the most of the opportunity presented by a growing green economy.  We would also strengthen the Green Investment Bank with borrowing powers.

A UN climate agreement is a vital foundation for the proposed Sustainable Development Goals, and the link between climate action and poverty reduction needs to be recognised.

A Labour Government would play an active role in delivering.   We would introduce one million new green jobs and also grow the economy on the back of a sustainable agenda.  We would also ensure that Department for International Development funding is resilient, and work closely with developing countries to support innovation and sustain global momentum in fighting climate change.  If we are elected as MPs, we will make sure that tackling climate change is a key priority.  It is right that wealthier nations do everything we can to help people living in global poverty, whether this is caused by climate change or by other factors.

HS2/3 Rail

We think there is a need for a full scale review of these proposals.  There is a need to look at the evidence both for and against HS2/3 and look at the most recent estimates of the cost.  We share your concern that this is not the best use of funding for transport and believe it may be more beneficial to rail passengers to improve the existing rail network.  We are also concerned that HS2 could lead to more economic growth in London and the South East of the country rather than York and the north of England.  We would also like to see improvements made to the east west rail network as we believe these services do not receive adequate investment.  They are largely ignored in favour of improvements to services to London and the north.

National Housing shortage.

The Labour Party believes that everyone should be able to live in a home they can afford and in the communities where they have their roots. We also know that the housing crisis cannot be tackled unless we start building many more homes than are built now. A future Labour Government will give our communities the powers they need to get Britain building again, ensuring at least 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 – almost double the current level. We will tackle land banking so that developers with planning permission have to use it, and give local authorities powers to ensure that local first time buyers  are able to take advantage of new homes that are built in their area.

We will also create a fairer private rented sector, so that in future, renting is a more secure long term option for families and individuals who cannot or prefer not to buy. We will legislate for rights to longer term lets, with predictable rents, to provide affordability, stability and security. And we will end the injustice of prospective tenants being hit with hundreds of pounds of unfair charges by regulating letting agents and banning rip-off letting agent fees on tenants.

We share your concern about the lack of affordable homes in York and across the country.  In York, the Labour council have been working to develop a citywide plan to support the city’s economic growth, address the shortage of housing and help shape future development.  This is in line with the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework which was introduced last year.  York does not currently have a defined Green belt and the draft Local Plan defined this for the first time whilst securing homes and jobs for the future.  However, the Department for Communities and Local Government have recently released new figures which have provoked a disagreement within the political parties over how many new houses York needs and where they should be built.

If we are elected as the MPs for York on Thursday, we will work with all the political parties to ensure that people in York get the housing they need and in the right locations.  Everyone deserves somewhere decent to live at a price which is affordable.  If we are elected the need for more housing will be a key priority and we will do everything we can to help.

Yours sincerely,

Rachael Maskell
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for York Central &

Joe Riches
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for York Outer.

Green Party response to questions to candidates

30 April 2015

First of the parties to respond – the Green Party response to questions to the York Central parliamentary candidate:-

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to respond to York Environment Forum’s questions – and as a former chair of the Forum delighted that it seems to be in such good heart.

1.  Climate change.  This is of course central to the Green Party’s objectives and policies, and it is deeply concerning that the other parties have barely talked about it.  We would

* take the zero carbon target seriously, bring the date forward and take every possible measure to achieve it;
* give maximum and urgent support to all forms of renewables;
* develop a large-scale programme of building insulation (creating good jobs too in the process);
* adopt every available means to discourage use of fossil-fuel driven cars (as a transport professional I personally believe that charging for the use of roads is essential for this and many other transport and planning reasons);
* promote repair and reuse to reduce the waste of embedded energy in throw-away goods;
* develop land-use policies (including ‘densification’) and promote lifestyles that minimise the use of powered vehicles – walking, cycling and public transport are good for community cohesion and well-being;
* be honest with everyone that the price of carbon fuels must rise and that we have to accept constraints on unsustainable consumption of goods, resources and energy.

2.  The Green Party will stop HS2.  My own view as a railway planner is that it is a wholly misconceived scheme, and I have been saying so loudly for many years (see  It
* is a political vanity project without a clear rationale;
* is rooted in unsustainable economic models and will suck business to London;
* cannot deliver its supposed benefits until complete at a distant date – such inflexibility is very unwise;
* will increase carbon outputs and cause huge environmental damage;
* is not even the best high-speed scheme (see;
* is not the best solution to capacity problems and has some unresolved operational questions hanging over it;
* should be replaced by incremental improvement of the existing network and dramatic improvements to local transport (? a tram for York).

3.  May I leave Ginnie for York Outer to respond to this one, but see our Manifesto and also my contribution to an on-line debate yesterday at

If elected I would be keen to have regular dialogue with the Forum.  The range of issues we jointly care about is very great.
All best wishes
Jonathan Tyler

…and the Lead Candidate in Micklegate Ward:-

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to respond to York Environment Forum’s questions.

What is your party doing to encourage large-scale renewable energy? Would you seek to implement this locally, and how?

In line with our national policy we are aiming to reorganise energy systems to ensure full democratic control, with local communities generating and supplying their own energy needs. Local councils and communities will have a key role in planning efficiency programmes, and organising local energy supply and distribution. Onshore the focus will be more on medium and small-scale installations.

The most environmental friendly way of creating more available energy is saving more energy, which is why we want to produce an Energy Descent Plan for York to gradually reduce the amount of energy we use in the city. This will help us to meet local and national climate change targets, tackle local air pollution and make York more self-sufficient. Also before looking into large-scale renewable energy productions, which always comes with other environmental or landscape related impacts, we need to work with landlords, public sector partners and local businesses to boost energy efficiency and renewable use in all private and public housing. We also want to invest in setting up a Renewable Energy Company for York to contribute to local energy generation, bring down prices and potentially earn additional income for the city.

What are your proposals to reduce air pollution in York?

York currently has illegal and dangerous levels of air pollution in some areas. These are of course the areas that we have to tackle first. Particle matter and air pollution are mainly caused by motor traffic. We need to reduce the motorised traffic in the city centre by offering attractive, affordable and sustainable alternatives to car use. We have to tackle the congestions problem to allow traffic to flow more quickly. Moving cars pollute less than stationary cars with running engines. Drivers need to be informed about the approximate time of waiting so that they can switch off the engine to save fuel and reduce pollution. Non-filtered motor vehicles, particularly those with diesel engines, need to be more strictly regulated within the city centre. And last but not least we have to keep air flow corridors from being built-up to give the natural air circulation a chance to scatter the pollution.

Do you feel the Lendal Bridge trial points to ways forward for further transport change?

I think we have to distinguish between the overall goal of the Lendal Bridge trial and its implementation. We all agree that the trial was poorly implemented after ongoing problems with signage and the legal position on issuing fines. Furthermore citizens had the feeling that they were not sufficiently consulted and the sense and purpose of the trial was not clear.

On the other hand the reason for the trial still exists. Congestion and air pollution in the inner city centre are still a major problem and avoiding our beautiful city being strangled by queues of traffic and stopping the exposure of residents to dangerous levels of air pollution is one of our most urgent goals. Unfortunately because of the political pressure the cabinet was too hasty in pulling out of the trial just before reliable data was collected about the impact on the pollution and congestion.

We definitely need to learn our lessons from Lendal Bridge and act on the CMS report. Even if we know that closing established ways for motorised traffic currently has a bad name in York, caused by the badly managed Lendal Bridge trial, we do need to implement bold changes or the current situation will just worsen with car numbers rising every year. That is why any future trials will have a proper public consolation and are data and science -based. We fully support the cross-party work of the congestion commission, major challenges like getting the traffic problems of our city solved in the interests of citizens should not be subject to political showcasing.

Do you see ways to enhance biodiversity and the natural environment within new development in the city?

It is not only the many green spaces and parks in York that are habitats, but buildings, gardens, parks, rivers, fields, meadows and even the roadside vegetation in the metropolitan area of York which are also habitats for biodiversity and an abundance of wildlife in every neighbourhood. We need a regularly updated Biodiversity Action Plan supported by local supplementary planning documents and the Local Plan. We should make a review of the effects of other policy and Council decisions on the natural environment a standard in the decision making process. We need to encourage more, not fewer, areas and wildlife corridors within the city where wildlife can flourish and be enjoyed by local people. York Green Party also stated in our manifesto:

–          To protect the green corridors – the rivers, strays and areas that provide the “green lungs” of York;
–          To promote a careful balance between the use of green space for wildlife conservation and for the appreciation of that wildlife by local people. The conservation of our natural environment for future generations is a primary consideration;
–          To formally adopt a York Tree Strategy;
–          To support the work of YNET and the development of further ‘friends groups’ around the city, but also ensure the Council retains overall responsibility for the day to day care, maintenance and management of natural areas in the city;
–          To encourage the establishment of more local nature reserves and Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC’s);
–          To promote community and individual gardening and food growing around the city.

Would you propose to build council housing, and if so how?

Living with a roof over your head is a basic human need. We have lots of people on the waiting list for council houses, therefore it is not a question of if but of how we want to increase the direct investment in new Council housing. We want to use available Government funding, local government borrowing and possibly the issue of local housing bonds to enable the Council to increase our own stock, but we would also work more closely with housing associations.

It is also important to prevent creating a social ghetto in York, we need to keep the social balance and need to replace council housing stock in all parts of the city, particularly where we have lost lots of houses due to the right to buy schemes. Additionally we should make better use of our existing housing stock and other buildings including Empty Dwelling Management Orders, loft conversions in Council housing to provide larger family houses and initiatives to utilise upper floors in the city centre where possible.

Best regards,
Lars Kramm

…and further input from the York Outer parliamentary candidate:-

Thanks for inviting York Green Party to respond to the Forum’s questions.  As a qualified housing manager who has worked as both a professional and volunteer (including 13 years chairing a local York housing association), I am pleased to provide a response to the housing question: how will you work to address the national housing shortage and the issue of affordability in our local context?

Along with demographic changes, population growth and austerity, the current housing crisis has been created by decades of short-term policy making which has failed to tackle the country’s major housing challenges.

A report by the National Housing Federation in September 2014 found:

  • We need 245,000 homes a year but we are currently building less than half that number, thereby perpetuating a huge shortage of homes in the UK that is getting worse every year
  • The average first time buyer today needs a £30k deposit: almost ten times the deposit required in the early ‘80s
  • People renting privately are spending 40% of their income on rent
  • The housing benefit bill has risen by 150% over the last 21years and in the last 5 years the proportion of people claiming housing benefit who are in work has more than doubled to 22.5%.

In February 2015, the Greens set out how they would set out to address the linked problems of an acute shortage in housing supply and affordability.  Key manifesto pledges are:

  • End the Right to Buy
  • Introduce a Right to Rent; longer tenancies and licence landlords to provide greater protection for tenants
  • Introduce a cap on rents
  • Abolish mortgage interest tax allowance (worth £5.8m in 2011-12): 40% of housing benefit (£9bn) is paid to private landlords thus encouraging buy-to-let and fuelling house price inflation
  • Abolish the ‘under occupation charge’, otherwise known as bedroom tax
  • Provide 100k social rented homes (through councils and housing associations) a year nationally
  • Remove caps on councils ability to borrow so they can build more new homes, putting them on a level paying field with housing associations
  • Bring empty homes back into use (halve the estimated 700k empty homes by 2020)
  • Prioritise the provision of safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable housing in the city through:
  • The Local Plan provides the context for translating national policy into local provision. Our manifesto for the City of York Council elections 2015 states that, on housing, we will
  • Direct investment in new Council housing and working with housing associations
  • Making better use of existing housing stock and other buildings
  • Supporting the provision of university funded affordable student housing on campus where feasible and off-campus when appropriate
  • Negotiate as high as possible a percentage of affordable housing in new builds, whilst challenging excessive development in the Local Plan
  • Require all new homes to achieve zero carbon emissions and low energy bills

Kind regards
Ginnie Shaw
Parliamentary Candidate for York Outer for the Green Party 

Forum has questions for candidates – national and local!

29 April 2015

As the voice of the environment in York, the most recent meeting of York Environment Forum was dominated by discussion of key questions for candidates in the upcoming elections – both local and parliamentary. Chair, Phil Bixby said:- “With ratification and adoption of the Local Plan still ahead of us, and other key elements of policy under scrutiny through means such as the proposed Congestion Commission, the upcoming local elections will have a major impact on the future of the city. Coupled with national policy having an increasingly major impact on local government and hence bringing into focus the local impact of national legislation, it’s vital that people know what they’re voting for. With so much media focus on a narrow range of policies we’re keen to ensure the environment gets considered, too”.

The Forum had these key questions for the York Central and York Outer candidates:-

  • What are your main policies for tackling climate change?
  • Do you support proposals for HS2, and what are your reasons whether for or against?
  • How will you work to address the national housing shortage and the issue of affordability in our local context?

At the local level, answers are invited from local council candidates to a number of big questions:-

  • What is your party doing to encourage large-scale renewable energy? Would you seek to implement this locally, and how?
  • What are your proposals to reduce air pollution in York?
  • Do you feel the Lendal Bridge trial points to ways forward for further transport change?
  • Do you see ways to enhance biodiversity and the natural environment within new development in the city?
  • Would you propose to build council housing, and if so how?

The Environment Forum is independent, and has non-voting representation from the political parties. Discussion about local environmental issues is often robust and shows the diversity of opinion even at the green end of the spectrum. Said Bixby “We look forward to engaging in dialogue with the council – and hopefully also with our parliamentary representatives – once the elections are over and proper discussion can start again. We feel we have had a constructive relationship with the council in the past and hope to build on this during what will doubtless be, whatever the political outcome, a time of great change”.

The questions to candidates have gone to the main political parties and any answers received will be published here!