The York Central site provides an opportunity to develop a strong economy, infrastructure and much needed homes for people in York. In my response to the consultation, I said the site should be underpinned by the principle of putting people living in York first so that those living in the city will have their housing needs met as well as the opportunity to find high quality, sustainable employment.
I want to ensure the transport infrastructure problem is addressed and steps are taken to tackle the ever increasing congestion and air pollution. There is an opportunity to improve the design of York station and ensure bus, rail and other forms of transport integrate well. This includes safe routes for pedestrians and cyclists. Opening up space to the west of the station will not only bring people in to the heart of York Central but will support the expansion of the National Railway Museum. Rail is at the heart of the site and with the upgrades of the Trans Pennine Express and the development of high speed rail, this space strengthens York’s call to be a strong rail hub again.
York Central will provide an opportunity for businesses to come to York and for others to expand. The city has a low wage economy, with an average wage of £473, so it is important to attract businesses which will pay decent wages to their employees. It is also important to attract skilled and semi-skilled jobs and provide employment stability.
Whilst I have a number of issues with the development, the area which concerns me the most is housing. For too long we have been building expensive flats in the city centre. York desperately needs family homes which are affordable as well as homes for social rent. This impacts on us all. If people move away to live in cheaper areas then organisations, such as those providing social care and the NHS, will face further problems with recruitment and retention.
York has an overheated private rental sector at 26%, one of the highest levels in the country. High rents are inaccessible to growing numbers of people and are driving people out of York who can no longer afford to live in their own city. I am seriously concerned about the 1624 people on the council’s housing waiting list with no prospect of finding somewhere suitable to live, a prospect made worse by the Housing and Planning Bill currently going through Parliament. Every day people contact my office to explain they cannot afford to buy or rent a property and are living in overcrowded conditions or facing homelessness. Some are sofa hopping between friends and family. We need homes in York for everyone and it is of concern that the Government’s policy of extending the right to buy scheme will result in the council selling off nearly 1500 homes from their housing stock to accommodate this. It is absolutely vital that a solution is found to the housing problem and the needs of York people must be the priority. I have made this clear in my response to the York Central consultation, I keep raising this in Parliament, and will continue work to put people of York first.