MOTORISTS could have to pay a congestion charge to enter York city centre in return for a dualled outer ring road.

Senior councillors have warned this could be the trade-off demanded by the Government if it is to stump up towards the £140 million cost of dualling the congested route.

Council leader Steve Galloway, speaking after the Future York review group called for the A1237 to be turned into a dual carriageway, said the Government was tending to impose conditions of this kind before releasing such grants.

Labour group leader Coun David Scott agreed congestion charging appeared to be the potential trade-off for a dual carriageway.

Both councillors stressed they were not in favour of blanket charges, and pledged residents would be consulted before such a scheme came in.

Future York, chaired by former GNER boss Sir Christopher Garnett, was set up to look into the future of York's economy in the wake of job losses at Nestlé Rowntree, Norwich Union and British Sugar.

The report said dualling would ease congestion on the A1237 and encourage businesses to relocate to former industrial sites in the city.

City of York MP Hugh Bayley has pledged to press the Government and transport minister Stephen Ladyman to support the plan.

Coun Galloway backed the dual carriageway plan, but cautioned it could mean drivers pay to enter the heart of the city, due to conditions on Government grants.

He said: "Central government are using their transport innovation fund process to say that in order to access those particular resources you have to have a demand management system in place.

"That usually means congestion charging of one sort or another. If we are taking a completely fresh look at things we may have to consult residents about that.

"I would be disappointed personally because I am not a fan of blanket congestion charging, but we will certainly put that to York residents."

But he said the cost of city centre car parking would have to fall if such a scheme was introduced.

He said: "The knock-on effect that must be accepted if you introduce congestion charging is that you reduce car park charges; you don't want to hit people twice."

Coun Galloway branded the disparity between the single lane A1237 and the dual carriagway A64 an "anachronism".

He added: "The only reason the northern bypass has been on the back burner has been that it was so much more expensive than anything that it seemed possible for the transport budget in the region to fund."

Opposition leader Coun David Scott said congestion charging appeared to be the potential trade-off, saying: "There has to be a debate undertaken if that is what it would take to ask: is that what people would be prepared to pay?

"We have got to look at how it would affect residents and how it would affect the internal economy.

"I would not be personally in favour of a blanket congestion charge."

The report's call for dualling, exclusively revealed in The Press yesterday, has already won support from Mark Wilson, secretary of York Private Hire Association, and Tory candidate for the York Outer parliamentary seat Julian Sturdy.

Transport links

SOME members of the Future York Group pushed for Elvington Airfield to be highlighted as a possible site for a future airport.

The proposal was discussed by the 13-strong panel but ruled out on environmental grounds, because of expected controversy over the impact of dualling the A1237 - the report's most eye-catching scheme.

Chairman Sir Christopher Garnett said: "I think it is fair to say there was quite a strong minority view that said that ought to have been put forward but we thought it was one step too far."

Instead the report stresses the importance of securing a 45-minute link with one of the region's international airports.

It also says public transport links with neighbouring towns and cities should be improved, perhaps through an extension of the Leeds-based Metro system.


REACTION to the proposals was mixed with Green Party councillors dismissing the report as a "developers' charter".

Fishergate green councillor Dave Taylor said hopes of doubling York's economy by 2026 were unsustainable in terms of the city's environment and infrastructure. He said: "To describe this as an independent report lacks transparency. It represents a developers' charter, drawn-up by people who have a vested interest in having more land brought forward for development."

Conservative leader Ian Gillies welcomed the dualling proposal, and said housing was a priority. He said: "I think this could act as a spring board for the future economic prosperity of York."

Strong economy

DESPITE heavy job losses in the past 18 months, York's economy remains buoyant, says the report.

But Sir Christopher Garnett, chairman of the Future York Group, said it hoped the city's economy would double within 20 years.

He said that even as workers have been rocked by swingeing cuts in manufacturing, the city's employment base has grown by about 1,000 jobs a year over the last ten years.

He said: "Overall the city is moving forwards. It has got a very strong underlying rate of growth."

Mr Garnett told an assembly of business leaders and politicians at the report's launch that the number of manufacturing jobs had fallen from 20,000 about 20 years ago to about 7,600 now.

But he said other types of work had filled the gap, saying: "York has coped with the change. People have taken on new jobs, re-skilled and found work elsewhere."

The group's forecast was for the city's current rate of economic growth of 2.7 per cent to continue. But he said York could hope for a 3.7 per cent growth rate if it heeded the issues raised by the report.

He said: "If we stand still we will have a future York group in five or six years time because you will have had another announcement that something else has moved or gone. We have got to face up to the challenge."

Science City

THE role of York as a centre of science research was underlined by the Future York Group in their report.

It recommended that Science City York be supported as a "key programme for the future" and also backed the University of York's Heslington East expansion.

It said: "York has the potential to be in the first rank of European cities for science-based business. We believe that this is an end to be sought."

The group praised Science City for aiming to fill half of all new jobs with local workers.

Brian Cantor, vice chancellor of the university, said Heslington East would create thousands of new jobs, saying: "The university and Science City York has been for some time critical to the future success of York and it is great to see this report signing up to that."

Council leader Coun Steve Galloway said there were huge opportunities as a result of the university expansion, saying: "There is an opportunity at the university almost the equivalent to the industrial revolution in terms of the impact it can have on how York residents make a living."

Future development

FORMER industrial sites were picked out by the report as key areas for future development.

Brown field land at seven sites including British Sugar, York Central and parts of Nestlé Rowntree could generate about 18,000 jobs within ten years, according to Sir Christopher Garnett.

He said: "All these sites are real opportunities which if we do not grasp we will really have missed something."

In particular, the York Central and British Sugar sites were earmarked for a mix of uses, including offices for financial and professional services.

Sir Christopher said a shortage of office space in the city could drive businesses away unless measures are put in place now.

Call for fewer flats

THE shortage of affordable and family housing in York was underlined as a pressing issue by the Future York Group.

Sir Christopher Garnett said the city needed to move away from building flats and focus on providing homes for families.

He said: "We do not need many more flats. We do need social housing but we also need more family housing so that people who are going to be working here will need housing for children.

"York is a great place to bring up children but if we do not provide the housing for people to live in who is going to benefit from this?"

Council leader Steve Galloway said: "If you look at the brownfield sites we have got we do have a great opportunity to provide jobs but they are also big enough to accommodate a substantial increase in homes."

What is Future York?

IT IS a major review of York's economy, commissioned by the council in the wake of more than a thousand redundancies in the city last year.

It aimed to look at the how the city could continue to grow and attract new jobs for residents, after job losses at Nestlé Rowntree, Norwich Union and British Sugar.

The panel was chaired by former GNER boss Sir Christopher Garnett and featured some of the city's biggest hitters including Nestlé Rowntree managing director Paul Grimwood, chief executive of York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce Len Cruddas and City of York Council chief executive David Atkinson.

What happens next?

THE group's report will now be put out for consultation among councillors and also members of the public, who can access it on the authority's website. After that City of York Council must look at how it can take up the report's goals ahead of the Future York Group reconvening in November to see what progress has been made.