Evidence given to the Public Inquiry in 2002
on Coppergate Riverside York
by Geoff Beacon

36 Belle Vue Street
York
YO10 5AY
15 April 2001

Marcia Dean
Room 317
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
BS1 6PN.

Public Inquiry on Coppergate Riverside York

This is a revised version of my previous evidence of 23 August 2001. The evidence I wish to present to this inquiry to determine the Coppergate Riverside planning application relates to the following areas:

  1. The effect on the character of the Conservation Area, the scheduled ancient monument and listed buildings;
  2. traffic generation and air pollution;
  3. extension of retailing to an area outside the traditional shopping centre to a location less well served by public transport;
  4. global warming.


Yours sincerely


Geoff Beacon



Coppergate Riverside
Proof of evidence

1 Does this Application preserve or enhance the character of the Conservation Area, the scheduled ancient monument and listed buildings?

1.1 The application site lies in the Central Historic Core Conservation Area. It will have a material effect on a scheduled ancient monument (York Castle) and on the setting of three grade 1 listed buildings. The Castle car park part of the site is probably one of the most important undeveloped spaces in a European historic town.

1.2 A report written by the Council's own professional architectural advisors concluded that the development would harm the character of the Conservation Area. The management of the City of York Council has subsequently rubbished this report. The comments of these professional advisors were not reported to the Planning Committee. Members were in fact informed in the report to Planning Committee that that the application caused no harm to the Conservation Area.

1.3 The key comment made in that report, supported by Amenity Societies, and argued by this writer is that the proposed development would cause demonstrable harm to the character of the Conservation Area and to the setting of the scheduled ancient monument and Grade 1 listed buildings.

1.4 The principal consideration here hinges on the scale, massing, and quality of the buildings, which will occupy what, is currently the Castle car park. The car park is clearly an eyesore and does not provide a suitable setting for the scheduled ancient monument and Grade 1 listed buildings. In my opinion, the Car park space should be either an appropriately landscaped open space, or the building, whichever is constructed, should be of outstanding quality. The application meets neither of these requirements.

1.5 So far as the quality of the buildings is concerned, I draw attention to the fact that the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has restated its opposition to the design of the proposed building.

1.6 Perversely, English Heritage has supported this application. However, the English Heritage member of staff that has led their input to this scheme has no architectural design training. No trained architect from English Heritage has to my knowledge commented on the application. The Inspector must realise that Clifford's Tower is English Heritage's most popular attraction in the north of England. It raises a significant amount of revenue. A large shopping scheme on its doorstep could only increase visitor numbers and revenue. Might I suggest that the combination of lack of architectural judgement and a financial interest have led English Heritage to take a view of this scheme that is entirely contrary to every other architectural opinion except that of those employed by the applicants?

1.7 I hope the Inspector will share my view, the view of CABE, the view of the Council's own advisors, and the views of many other qualified and respected bodies and individuals that the application harms the Conservation Area, adversely affects the setting of the scheduled ancient monument and the Grade 1 listed buildings, and is of insufficient architectural quality for this important site.

2 Traffic generation has not been properly estimated and air pollution has been grossly underestimated

2.1 There have been many flaws in the prediction of traffic flows and the pollution they might cause. No estimate of the total traffic flow was made until the day of the planning committee meeting that gave the approval. It is a crude estimate (see para 201 of the report to committee) and clearly flawed (see section 3 below).

2.2 The predictions of changes in air quality due to increased traffic (at least those done by the City Council) do have an implied estimate of total traffic flow but this incorrectly uses a fixed daily traffic profile measured in 1993 to calculate total flows from peak hour flows. This assumption that future traffic flows will have the same daily profile as in 1993 is clearly invalid - given limited roads and parking capacity at the peak hours, the main mechanism for any traffic increase will clearly be by peak spreading which this methodology hides1.

2.3 Since the report on this application was taken to Planning Committee, the City of York Council has started a public consultation exercise on options for creating Air Quality Management Zones. Piccadilly is included in all of the Council's options. There is clearly an air pollution problem in Piccadilly now. The application will introduce over 500 car parking spaces and a large service area into Piccadilly. Increased provision for buses will bring more buses into Piccadilly. This application will by any reasonable analysis increase traffic and there will be a significant adverse effect on air quality. The Council will include Piccadilly in an Air Quality Management Zone. How does the Council intend to manage air quality in these zones?2 By reducing traffic?3 The Council's position and therefore their decision on this application is contradictory and flawed.

3 The Application extends retailing to an area outside the traditional shopping centre to a location less well served by public transport.

3.1 Some traditional areas, such as Rougier Street and George Hudson Street have already suffered a decline in trade. Some have argued that this area has been affected by Council policy - the previous Chief Executive of Yorkshire Cooperatives has indicated to me that the viability of their store, now closed, was damaged by York Council's refusal to allow car parking.

3.2 Anywhere in this area is a more accessible location for public transport users than the Proposed development because it is near the Railway Station, which is the better served with busses, taxis and trains that anywhere else in York4.

3.3 The main core of shopping in York City Centre is currently between Coney Street, Goodramgate, Picadilly and the existing Coppergate development. There are concerns that this area could also see a decline in trade due to the proposed Coppergate Riverside development. Indeed York Council commissioned a study by CB Hillier Parker (the "Linear Distortion Study") to look at this problem. The conclusion was that loss of trade will be short term. In the longer term this lost trade will be replaced:

"Hillier Parker conclude that the proposed Coppergate scheme will improve the attractiveness of the City Centre as a whole and have few if any medium or long-term adverse effects on other parts of the City Centre." (para 93 of the Report to the Planning Committee)

3.4 It is this that causes the main logical flaw in the argument in para 201 of the Report to the Planning Committee which states that traffic generation for the proposed development will only be 35% of that otherwise expected because "65% of the customers are already shopping in the City Centre". But this 65% already in the City Centre represent the short-term "lost trade" to the other parts of the Centre. In the medium or long-term this "adverse effect" disappears in doing so traffic levels would rise.

3.5 In using a short-term argument for traffic flows and a medium and long-term argument for the "lost trade" the Council minimises the problems of Coppergate Riverside.

4 Global Warming and Climate Change

4.1 The EIA for Coppergate Riverside clearly comes under the European Council Directive 85/337/EEC (updated by Directive 97/11/EC).

4.2 The Checklist of Environmental Components in the Guidance on Scoping (May 1996) includes provision for consideration of both Climate, microclimate.

4.3 This indicates that the effect on climate change should have been estimated in the EIA for Coppergate Riverside.

4.4 That this is a sensible provision is supported by the fact that, if the Climate Change Levy were applicable to traffic generated by such developments, then Coppergate Riverside would attract a substantial levy.

4.5 This development is part of the general trend for bigger and fewer shopping centres.

4.6 In 1971 50% of population did comparison shopping in 200 locations. In 1996 50% of the population did comparison shopping in 70 locations. ("Tracking the Consumer" Mark Teale, CB Hillier Parker, Estates Gazette, March 1997). This means people are travelling much greater distances to shop.

4.7 In the case of this development there is the objective of competing with minor centres (eg Malton, Scarborough, Selby, Goole). The Hillier Parker report to York City Council (the Retail Study Update) appeared to confirm this. " ...For example, the development of a major new extension the Coppergate Centre in the City Centre, Coppergate Riverside, providing 24,256 sq m gross of new high quality prime shop floorspace, would be likely to increase significantly the market share of durable goods expenditure which the City Centre attracts from its catchment area. .(para 3.2)

...Another possibility is that the cost of car usage could be substantially increased, through rises in the real cost of fuel, greatly increased parking charges, and/or road tolls. This could tend to localise shopping, thus increasing the growth potential of smaller town centres at the relative expense of York... (para 3.4)
...It is axiomatic that it is shops that attract shoppers; and should current proposals to provide significant additional floorspace in the City Centre materialise, this will be likely to reinforce further York's market share, despite rising costs of car use. However, in the latter part of the forecasting period, the opposite trend could begin to occur as Government policies for transport, which are currently embryonic start to take effect. (para 3.5)"

4.8 This seems to say that Coppergate Riverside is against Government policies by encouraging the use of non-sustainable transport. The EIA does not give an assessment of carbon dioxide generation. It does not assess the contribution this scheme will make to global warming.

4.9 Global warming and climate change are real effects and issues which the EIA should have taken into consideration. The application is flawed and the City of York Council negligent in not taking this issue into consideration.

5 Conclusion

5.1 I have confined my comments to four specific areas. I hope I have demonstrated that this application is unacceptable on all four points. I therefore ask you to recommend refusal of planning permission for this application.

Appendix 1 - BBC News on Air Pollution

Friday, 15 March, 2002, 23:53 GMT. Pollution strangles blood supply

The volunteers breathed in a level of pollution similar to that found in urban areas during peak air pollution times such as rush-hour traffic.

The degree of blood vessel constriction produced by exposure to pollutants is unlikely to produce significant problems in healthy indviduals.

However, Dr Brook said that it could conceivably trigger cardiac events in people who are at risk of heart disease.

Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 00:07 GMT. Air pollution cancer fears grows

In 1998, an influential government committee5 on the effects of air pollution suggested that 10,000 people a year might be dying as a result of particulate pollution.

In addition to lung cancers and heart disease, it has been linked to asthma, and other lung and circulatory diseases.

Roger Higman, a transport campaigner at Friends of the Earth UK, said that the sheer scale of the US research should point the way to similar UK studies.

Sunday, 30 December, 2001, 02:50 GMT. Pollution linked to birth defects

"It's yet further evidence that pollution from cars and lorries shortens people's lives - and exposes the government's failure to tackle this problem." Gary Shaw of the CBCMP, who also worked on the research admitted: "We┐re not sure carbon monoxide is the culprit because it could be just a marker for something else in tailpipe exhaust.

"The fact that certain heart defects are turning up in the second month of pregnancy when hearts are being formed suggests something serious may be happening.

He called for further research: "Unlike other health factors like diet or lifestyle, a pregnant woman has almost no control over the quality of air she breathes - we need answers."

Appendix 2 - York Council Shopping Strategy

Many of us would find it difficult to complete any sentence that started "York City Council's shopping strategy is ...". We would start asking questions like "What is the council? Do you mean the officers, the executive, the councillors?" "Do you mean their stated policies or the ones they think they have?".

In this appendix I do not try to answer these questions but rather present a rational reconstruction6, which explains the actions of the Council. The council wants

  1. To increase economic activity in York, with an emphasis on inward investment.
  2. To increase retail activity in the city centre7, concentrating on areas where the Council can benefit financially.
  3. To encourage shoppers to come to York, especially affluent ones.
  4. To deliver the "best-quality" shoppers as near possible to council-friendly developments
The traffic consequences of these objectives can be sequenced like this
  1. 1. Maximise traffic flowing into and out of York, subject to road capacity8 and, to a much lesser extent, pollution9.
  2. 2. Maximise the number of people coming in by increasing vehicle occupancy, except where it will restrict the supply of "best-quality" shoppers.
  3. 3. Put car parks for "best-quality" shoppers next to council-friendly developments and manage car-parking charges to ensure "wealth comes first" (i.e. the better off will park in the more expensive car parks).
  4. 4. Make Park and Ride a premium service. Don't worry too much about other bus facilities.

Although these issues should be presented to the York Local Plan Inquiry, this rational reconstruction gives what I believe to be a useful background to the current application.

Appendix 3 - Spare capacity on Three Radials

Using traffic counts from 3rd May 2001, I have estimated the spare capacity on three of the radials likely to be used by visitors to Coppergate Riverside. I have made estimates of the peak capacity of these roads after discussion with a professional traffic engineer.

The estimate I have made is of the extra vehicle trips that could be made between the morning and evening peak hours. For the inward journey I have started with the counts for the hour ending at 10 am and ended at the hour ending at 4pm. For the outward journey, I have started with the counts for the hour ending at 11 am and ending with the counts for the hour ending at 5pm.

This produced the following results:
Extra Traffic Capacity Between Rush Hours
Radial Inward Outward
Hull Road 3369 3016
Fulford Road 2682 2615
Bishopthorpe Road 3451 3502
I append hourly spreadsheets.

Notes:

1 Recently, I have obtained traffic counts for three of the radial roads into York, which would feed the applicants site, for Thursday, 3rd May 2001. They are presented in Appendix 3. Simply by subtracting hourly figures from peak hour figures these figures show that there is significant spare capacity on the radials. Additionally, under cross-examination, the applicant's traffic consultant conceded that price mechanisms could alter the turnover in town-centre car parks. As I understand it, the applicants have argued that the restriction on the number of car parking spaces together with a fixed daily traffic profile means there will be little increase in traffic due to the proposed development. This argument is clearly invalid.

2 Since the application was passed by the planning committee, the seriousness of traffic pollution to the health of city dwellers has become more apparent. See Appendix 1.

3 See Appendix 2.

4 Under cross-examination earlier in the inquiry, Roy Templeman, the Director of Planning and Transportation, agreed that York Railway Station was part of the City Centre. Previously, I was under the impression that the Council were using the "sequential test" to rule out the possibility of the Station Site being put forward as an alternative to Coppergate Riverside. My information does, however, predate the public promotion of the "York Central" scheme, which has a design brief that suggests some 20, 000 square metres of retail and leisure space. This design brief was, I understand, issued in conjunction with York City Council.

5 Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants. Quantification of the Medical Effects of Air Pollution in the United Kingdom (1998)

6 Popper, K., (1959), The Logic of Scientific Discovery, London: Hutchinson.

7 In addition to the current application, planning permission has been given for some 12,000 square metres of retail floor space on Foss Islands Road. Given the design brief (see above), it is likely that further planning permission for 20,000 square metres of retail and leisure floor space will be given adjacent to York Station.

8 York Council are to be congratulated on their work on traffic calming but the option of reducing traffic capacity into an out of York is usually avoided. The proposals in the Council's study in the Fulford Road radial would probably increases traffic capacity (e.g. Zebra crossings converted to pelican crossings.)

9 The cynical are expecting York Council's proposals for their "Air Quality Action Zones" to be no more than putting up notices asking motorists not to travel into York on the days that pollution is above the maximum permitted. I regard this as lip-service to a serious problem.