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"We Could Build a New Minster" Young Professionals Discuss the Issues Affecting Them

29th March 2016

‘Young professionals in York fire questions at a panel of high profile figures about the important issues affecting them. Its a chance for them to engage with them at an important time for the city when so many things are coming together’.

That was how Will Steel the Vice Chair of Make York explained the rationale behind the York Young Professionals Question Time.

The event, part of York Business Week, grew out of a seed planted by Councillor James Alexander last year when he asked Make York to find out what issues affected young professionals in the city. The results of a survey conducted by Make York informed the initial questions asked to the Panel. A panel consisting of gallery owner Greg McGee, Beautiful Meme Director Tom Sharpe, City of York Economic Development Manager Katie Stewart, One&Other’s Editorial Director Vicky Parry and Shaun Parker from CCP.

Guildhall

Guildhall

After a relaxed drinks reception in the Council Chamber’s antechamber, the invitees and the Panel filled into the Council chamber for the Panel discussion.

The debate that followed was wide ranging, well considered, with a lot of points made for and against every issue, but always in a manner that was good natured and inclusive.

No Panelist, nor those on the floor, who were very much a part of the discussion, claimed to have all of the answers.

Rather the evening took the form of a fast flowing discussion regarding, transport, housing and wider economic development issues. The topics that Make York understand impact the heaviest upon young people living and working, or potentially living and working in York.

Lucy Robertson of Make York

Lucy Robertson of Make York

Rather the evening took the form of a fast flowing discussion regarding, transport, housing and wider economic development issues. The topics that Make York understand impact the heaviest upon young people living and working, or potentially living and working in York.

All panel members were strong on their specific areas. Shaun Parker provided insight takes on the York Central development area adjacent to where CPP has its York base, as well as providing insights from York’s community of larger businesses. Regarding the issue of whether it was hard to attract talented people to a city like York he said ‘we’ve never struggled to attract people once they’ve come to talk to us’.

"we've never struggled to attract people once they've come to talk to us"

Likewise Tom Sharpe of Beautiful Meme brought great insights into what motivates creative people and under 35s to live in cities. He expressed concern that York is considered a ‘Nice city if you’re over 35’ and that many of his staff ‘would rather we moved to Leeds’ whilst many of his clients ‘are in London and don’t understand why we aren’t . Whilst he wants ‘to live in an attractive city’ and his ‘staff in a vibrant city’ Tom can also see a middle ground between the York that exists now being a ‘museum’. Our attractive city ‘needs iconic buildings’ as well as conservation.

"I'm 38, I have kids. I want to live in an attractive city, my staff want to live in a vibrant city"

Greg McGee

Greg McGee

Katie Stewart, as the senior City of York Council officer for economic development, added a very different perspective to the evening’s discussion. Her commentary on Council plans, policy and past decisions was illuminating, loyal, but also open minded. In full possession of the facts, she outlined the challenges regarding housing and transportation facing York. Presenting less well known challenges that York faces, such as the lack of prime office space and the possibility that the city ‘relies a bit too much on its mainline railway connections’. Expressing a keenness to explore new ways of securing investment and enabling development, she said on housing that ‘we need to hear more people say we need more housing. At the moment we hear the “NIMBY” voice’.

Katie Stewart

Katie Stewart

Greg McGee tended to take a holistic approach tying together the disparate strands of discussion. He sees the UNESCO Media City bid announced on Monday as a chance to ‘build a new minster’. He also praised the park and ride network describing it as ‘cool’ and ‘maybe just suffering from an image problem’. He noted that ‘York’s forward drive can sometimes be subordinated to its past’ and that the city can at times feel a bit like ‘Beamish’.

"York’s forward drive can sometimes be subordinated to its past."

A wide array of points was taken from the floor as attendees joined in the discussion. Commenting on everything from why they did or didn’t use their car, through the issue of air pollution to a criticism of the Council’s Lendal Bridge trial. One participant, a York St. John’s graduate, seemingly spoke for many when she said that ‘95% of my friends would have loved to have stayed in York’ but that they didn’t because they couldn’t find work in their sector. York’s graduate retention rate is 17%.

Tom Sharp of The Beautiful Meme

Tom Sharp of The Beautiful Meme

But some would go further. We chatted with Lydia Cottrell, one of the discussions more vocal attendees, after the event and she told us that ‘whilst I live in York I mostly work in London’. ‘It is very difficult for me to get my work [as a performance artist] shown or staged here.’ ‘I’m from York, I love it, but sometimes I feel that the place needs a good shake’.

"I’m from York, I love it, but sometimes I feel that the place needs a good shake."

The Guildhall

The Guildhall

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