If it goes ahead, Germany Beck will be the largest home building project ever undertaken in York. Plans for 700 residential premises in Fulford have been hanging in the air since agreement was granted to Persimmon Homes and Hogg Builders by York City Council in 2007. The plans, which have undergone various extensions in permission since the original acceptance, are currently undergoing a period of consultation.
Keith Aspen, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Fulford, collected more than 200 residents’ opinions on the proposed site through a residents survey and has suggested that people living in the area need proper consultation before the building work can go ahead as it is currently approved. However, locals’ suggestions that the City Council will revoke planning permission in these circumstances seem unlikely to come to fruition.
Andrew Bowes, managing director at Persimmon Homes Yorkshire, has said in response to the resident survey: “We remain committed to the development of the Germany Beck site and have sought to engage with the local community throughout the planning process in accordance with the council’s own adopted statement of community involvement.”
The planned site has also shaken those concerned with the archeological presence possible in the area, considered to be the location for the battle of Fulford in 1066. Archaeologist Chas Jones has suggested that the site contains rapidly built workshops which dealt with the scrap metal and materials left from the battle. “We think that the defeat of the Norse army at Stamford Bridge meant that this work was abandoned and the sites were quickly flooded, preserving these field workshops,” he has said.
However, despite the potential archaeological importance of the site, the building of new and affordable housing in York remains a priority which the council are pursue for the people of York. The changes to the status of the planning application will be affected more by the claims made recently by Fulford Parish Council, they include:
• Since the inquiry, the A19 at Fulford had been declared an Air Quality Management Area and an action plan was being prepared, and no further emissions on the road corridor could be tolerated
• The urgent need for housing was used as a special circumstance to justify the release of the site for development in 2007, but the land had since lain dormant
• York council now considered the land preserved the city’s historic character and setting
• Fulford Village Conservation area had been extended to include the access road area
• Changes to national policy on flood risk meant that the access road’s location within the flood plain was no longer acceptable.
There has been little consideration so far in the local media about the potential benefits of the building process and increased potential of local businesses. The hairdressers, chip shops and pubs of Fulford Road itself would undoubtedly have a different thing to say about the probable influx of new customers. York’s Core Strategy for housing, labelled by the Planning Inspectorate as ‘unsound’ and ‘concerning’ is not fit for purpose, it cannot supply the hundreds of new houses that York needs in per year. Concerns have also been raised about Germany Beck’s ability to supply affordable housing, something which is in a larger demand in York than ever. Though the density of housing is clearly shown on the plans, no final requirements have been set after the original 35% figure was abandoned due to the delay for consultation. Suggestions of a total of 10% of affordable homes has now been made, though as with the project itself, everything remains undecided and open to negotiation.
The outcome of Germany Beck and the resulting amendments to the plans for home and access is anyone’s guess. What is sure is that the outright disagreement with the proposal by residents of Fulford is more to do with fears over the effects of the project on the already delicate York housing market. Where local business owners and first time buyers wanting to stay in or move to York should be celebrating the coming of Germany Beck, there is currently silence which can only be interpreted as apathy from these parties.