Drainage works

Here’s Darren, working for WCG Environmental. He’s cleaning out the road drainage around Lotherington Mews. This is to allow inspectors to run cameras down the drains to inspect them, prior to adoption by Yorkshire Water.

Part of the adoption process involves the developers providing maps to Yorkshire Water, and to JRHT who say they will share the maps with DRA, which might be useful to residents.

Darren reports “it’s like a bird’s nest down here!” That’s due to wood chips that have washed onto the road from the verge here. Apparently, it’s really hard to suck them out of the drain.

Still, it’s nice to see this work progressing.

Man in Hi-viz jacket working a large bore hose down a road drainage gulley.
Darren, the drain man.
WCG Environmental truck.
WCG Environmental truck.

Burnholme (not) approved

City of York Council has approved (they’ve removed that page now) its own application to develop 83 new homes at Burnholme. The site is on the left of the footpath between St Aelred’s Mews and the Burnholme Centre: behind the hedge.

Interestingly, the site includes five self-build plots! Check Terrace 5, in the “terrace site plans”. There are only footprint outlines, as the self-builders will design their own houses.

You find all the plans from our ‘planning’ page: Burnholme is at the foot of the page.

To be clear: this is not a Derwenthorpe development, and JRHT is not involved. Nor should the development disturb any residents here. But we’ll get some new neighbours, and maybe some new friends, too!

Edit (7 May 2021): I emailed CYC to ask why the planning application page didn’t mark the application as approved. It turns out that the reason is that the application actually wasn’t approved: it was deferred pending further consultation. So, I’ve added “(not)” to the title of this post.

Development Heating Meetings Residents Meetings

ARM follow up

Draft minutes: read on Dropbox or download directly.

22 April: edited to correct the link above, and offer direct download.

Our recent All Residents’ Meeting felt like a great success to me. We had the best attendance that I can remember: at least 70 people were present. That’s more than we’re allowed in the Energy Centre! Some people said they prefer online meetings, for a variety of reasons including child care, anxiety, and mobility. So, we’ll think about mixed meetings, when we’re allowed to use the Energy Centre again.

We had a lot of questions and comments in the chat: nearly 200! Some, we weren’t able to get to on the day. But that’s OK: it means people were able to make points and ask questions that they would not otherwise have been able to make. And I hope to answer some of those questions here.

I grouped together your questions and comments, and won’t repeat them all, but hopefully you’ll find your questions answered here: at least, as far as possible. Oh, I’ve not mentioned any names, but will do if you like!


Can [Angela] recap on what the formal boards who hold JRHT to account are, and how you can join these?

Angela mentioned three boards:

Unfortunately, none meet in public, or publish their minutes, or have resident representation. However, she did say “They have asked that the next … resident engagement strategy is co-produced with residents  and they are keen to consider options for how residents’ voices are heard at the Board- which could include a resident board member. They are very open-minded about options at the moment.” So, we look forward to working to improve that.

But there’s also DPAC which JRHT established with the council before the estate was built, and DGG which JRHT and the DRA established to agree joint policy. And DRA which represents residents to JRHT and other external groups. And lots of community groups, and the Community Activity Network. So there are lots of ways to get involved.


I’d be interested to know how the “future provision” is calculated, benchmarked against those on other communities, and is the money ring-fenced – i.e. in the bank somewhere.

DGG do get a breakdown when consulted on future price changes. Two years in a row DGG have successfully challenged price increases. This year there’s no increase, because we thought the reserves were sufficient. The money is ring-fenced in JRHT accounts, as is usual for this kind of thing.

Is the handover [from DWH to JRHT] complete?

No, but JRHT have taken on some of DWH landscaping work, because their subcontractor ceased working during lockdown. JRHT are charging the work back to DWH pending completion.


Two people were concerned about grass being left to grow. One mentioned that dog waste tends to get left in long grass.

This kind of “meadow management” has been employed to benefit nature, and keep the estate management fee low. DGG is looking at creating a “landscape management plan”, which will set policies after consultation with residents. In the mean time, if you have concern over a particular spot, please let JRHT know, and copy us in!

How can we get involved with the landscaping sub-group?

It’s a proposed subgroup of Derwenthorpe Governing Group. Contact the chair of DGG


What is happening about the central area near the flats?

Sadly, JRHT want to use the compound for phase 5. We don’t want that to happen, but if it does, we’ll push for much better boundaries around the compound so that it’s less of an eye-sore, and to reduce nuisance. We’ve been gathering comments that will us help with this.

We (residents) have been asked to co-design the area for future use. The ABC:D group is looking to develop community facilities generally, and this area in particular. And they’re looking for your help to do it. Please read about what they’re doing, and how you can help them to help you to get a really good focus site for the community.

Will the power lines and tower remain in phase 5?

Yes they will, I’m afraid. Unfortunately, we’re told it proved impossible to get permission to bury the lines from the landowners. Perhaps it would be worth having another go, but the costs of undergrounding power lines are also huge. Probably five or even six figures. 

If the council adopts the roads will this incur any additional cost to residents? 

There is no charge for roads maintenance in the estate management fee. So there should be no costs to us.

Will Seebohm Mews surfacing be part of this? Some of the raised manholes are wicked.

It’s not planned for this year, unfortunately. 

Can JRHT provide plan and timescale for these outstanding works?

Beyond the plans for this year, and phase five by the end of 2022, we’ve not been given any timescales. Sadly, it’s hard to predict these things, so I’d even take those time scales with a pinch of salt.

I think there are going to be a lot of specific questions relating to maintenance (and finishing) parts of the estate. Is there some forum where these questions could be posted and answered after proper consideration?

Yes, we’re looking to set something up. JRHT are, too. I think what’s needed is something where the questions and answers are available to everyone: to avoid duplication, if nothing else! If you have skills in this area, please come forward to help!

How many more phases are there going to be?  Just when I think it’s finished they’re building more? So we’re ending up with less space.

Phase five will be the end of it. The master plan shows no more phases. Even if JRHT wanted to add more, they’d have to go through planning where they’d have a really hard time. But I don’t think they want to. Caveat: the master plan does allow a few more houses on phase three, but I understand the JRHT board has ruled that out.


The standing charge appears to be not good value for money  


What services do we get for the standing charge? 

Supply and maintenance of your heat interface unit, which should be compared with the prices of purchase, installation, and maintenance of the alternative (a gas boiler, or air source heat pump). But mainly, I suspect, the standing charge is imposed to pay the capital cost of the whole system: in the expectation that we won’t be buying much heat. I don’t think it’s worked out that way.

Which measure of inflation do they use [when calculating standing charge increases]?

RPI: as per our heating contracts. There’s an argument that CPI would have been more reasonable!

It does seem unfair to those who try to economise on energy costs that the fixed charge is so high.

Agreed. Perhaps Veolia would agree to a better balance for new contracts, but rebalancing existing contracts would be harder since everyone would have to agree.

Is the system still leaking several m3 of hot water a day/week?

We understand that a large leak was fixed last year.

I seem to remember at a previous meeting of ARM, that there are inefficiencies in the system, through heat loss on the piping to and from the SSC. How is this going to be progressed?

This is a common problem with district heating systems. There are several technical options, and Veolia are working on some of them. The simple options are to modify flow so that the return pipes run cool, and lose less heat. That’s what Veolia are trying. Some systems use 30°C flow and 20°C return, with heat pumps in the houses, and retrofit might be possible: but that is not proposed.

We’re asking Veolia for transparent reporting on system efficiency. It’s important for the environment, but fortunately we don’t pay for the inefficiency: the formula only charges for the fuel used to produce the heat that you consume, not the heat lost to the ground. So, while Veolia then have every incentive to improve the system efficiency, such improvements won’t reduce our costs.

There was some talk about upgrading the consumer units on the late phases a while ago and these upgrade were to be tried in some houses. Was there ever any progress / feed back on this? 

Limited progress was made. The intention was to reduce the return temperature, and therefore the system losses (see above). Veolia think they have another solution to that problem. We’ll try to find out whether that’s worked!

What % of wood chip are they now burning?

They’ve budgeted for 45% in the next 12 months, and say that’s what they burned last year. Up from 5% in the previous 12 months. That’s possible because they recently commissioned a second wood chip boiler, which can be switched on at lower demand levels. 

How are CO2 emissions of gas versus wood chips?

That depends on who you ask! I’ve been checking the academic literature, and it seems to depend on several things. It depends on where the wood comes from, how the land is used later, and so on. Transport costs are important, but one day will be electric lorries running on renewable electricity. The good news is that we could choose to burn more gas, or more wood, without impacting the prices to us: as long as the Renewable Heat Incentive grants offset the higher cost. RHI grants require that we use sustainable source, and we’re told that our wood comes from Yorkshire.

What are they doing to bring the cost down?

The formula doesn’t offer any solutions, I’m afraid. All the inputs to the formula (the price of fuel, and the Renewable Heat Initiative) are outside Veolia’s control. While they’re making a loss, it’s unlikely they’d want to change the contract in a way that brings our costs down. All efficiency improvements would help them, though, which is a good incentive for them to do the right thing by the environment.

Shall we pop a nuclear reactor in there? 😉

Haha! Like, these ones from Rolls Royce?!  I think they’re a bit big, though, apart from anything else!

In the long term, air-source heat pumps can be thought of to install in lofts

Yes, that could offset some of your heat charge, and would work well in Stephenson Quarter where you have MVHR, so could feed hot air directly into all your rooms. We should study the economics. 


Why are the houses so cold in winter so you have to have heating on full, and why are the floors so freezing, and the front door has a constant draft?
Suffer that same, house red hot during summer and ice cold in winter. Can’t put heating on all the time due to cost per unit.

Your house should be airtight. If there’s air leaking into the house, then it needs fixing. The heating system should be able to cope if the thermostat/timer is set correctly. We have some tips on how to keep your house cool in summer in our house guide.

Can we have a thermal camera and someone to inspect houses with a draft

A thermal camera can be borrowed from York Community Energy for a small donation. We’ll think about getting one for the DRA.


Does DPAC advise with regards to service suppliers too? If so, is there any idea or appetite to see if using single suppliers for internet and heating can be reversed over a long term?

That would be DGG, more than DPAC. DPAC is more focussed on development issues; DGG on longer term policies. Each of Veolia and PureFibre has a fixed term contract, at the end of which they’ll compete for renewal. However, the heating contract is 30 years: so a lot can happen before then. The Internet contract may be better as a single supplier, as that allows us to share the infrastructure costs better. For example, if there were two providers, it’s possible that neither could afford to keep an engineer on site. But certainly, residents need to take a big part in shaping the future of both services. 


Solar panels website item will be updated soon. Some 23 houses now have panels as a result of this residents’ group initiative.

That’s a great result, and show what can happen when people work together. I really look forward to a report on the effectiveness of the panels: that could encourage even more people to follow suit.


I’m just going to sum this up by saying we had a really long discussion about this, and that the core team will organise a meeting on the topic!


Pure Fibre are our monopoly Internet Service Provider.

“very good value” “best we’ve ever had. Excellent speed and cheaper than our last 2 providers” “very happy”, though some people are still not seeing the speeds that others are seeing. One said “~20% of what was sold most of the time”, another said “I’m getting 760 down, 920 up at the moment”. You probably won’t see those fast speeds with wifi: you’ll need to plug into the Ethernet sockets in the wall.

Reliability seems much improved since the second uplink (to London) was installed in March 2020 (despite lockdown). We continue to engage with Pure Fibre to keep up to date with what they’re doing, and to push for further technical improvements.


Derwenthorpe in bloom competition?

We don’t have one, but there will be information about our annual Open Gardens event in the next edition of  What’s On…

Energy Centre

Any idea when the SSC will be open for activities like yoga classes?

We don’t know, I’m afraid.


We had a discussion around signage. DGG will pick up the issue, as we need to agree some kind of policy with JRHT.


Thank you for your kind comments.

naturegroup Uncategorized

Meadlands Mews hedgerows

News from the Nature Group

It’s not our doing, but we thought you’d like to know what’s happening with the hedge in Meadlands Mews, and why.  Dan Booth, JRHT Parks and Landscapes Manager, has told us that the hedge is being laid as it…

“…had become overgrown and not particularly healthy with lots of dead wood.  Laying the hedge helps to restore the form of the hedge and encourages new growth from the base to thicken it up lower down. Overgrown hedges tend to be very thin at the base making them an ineffective boundary and also less useful as a habitat for small mammals and invertebrates. 

In addition to the benefits to nature, the laying of this particular hedge also improves the outlook of the residents on Meadlands Mews who were keen to get the hedge back under control and in a more aesthetically pleasing state. 

Once the laying is completed new hedge plants will be added to fill in any gaps and new trees will be planted at 10m (approx.) intervals along the hedge line to break up the view across the adjacent field and add valuable habitat and height in the wider landscape. 

The restored hedge will eventually be maintained on a three year cycle to maximise the benefits to wildlife.  During the laying work our contractor, Don, found that this hedge had in fact been laid in the past so this is not the first time it has been laid and will probably not be the last.” 

It’s beginning to look really good!  For information about the nature group or our communal green spaces, please contact Wendy at

DGG DPAC Meetings

DPAC + DGG meet on Wednesday Feb 10

Our next meetings of DPAC and DGG are on Zoom this Wednesday Feb 10 from 6:30pm. Papers, and joining instructions are at

Among other things, we’ll be hearing about plans for phase 5 development. Join us to find out more!

community Houses Public areas surveys

Thinking about Derwenthorpe: survey results

In February 2020, just before the COVID-19 lockdown, Derwenthorpe Residents Association surveyed residents views on community infrastructure: the things that make it easy to get to know your neighbours. 

We knocked on every door on the estate, and asked people to complete our survey on paper, or online. Where there was no answer, we left a copy of the survey, which included the address of the online survey. In all, we got 123 responses, which is about 25% of all households. So, not completely representative, but we thought it was quite good given that we didn’t follow up.

There’s a more detailed report available:

What do you like about Derwenthorpe?

We asked “What do you like about Derwenthorpe?”, and tagged the answers, with one or more of these themes:

TagsNumberPer centnotes
Community7561%Incl “neighbours”, and “people”
Green space6957%Incl “lakes”, and “wildlife”
Houses5444%Incl internal utility and external appearance.
Transport2823%Incl cycle route 66, buses, and access to A64
No response54.1%
community space21.6%
What do you like about Derwenthorpe? % of people that mentioned each theme.

What community events have you attended in the last 12 months?

We asked which of these events you’d participated in, in the past year. 80% of you had been to one or more events. And, on average, people had been to four of these types of event.

To create a true community building, which of the following are needed? 

We asked what you facilities you thought were important for a community centre.

Larger Meeting Rooms6250.4%
Process for Booking8569.1%
Disabled Access6956.1%
Other 4939.8%
What facilities are important for a community building?

We asked what the best time to hold events would be. Of course, it will depend on the event, but here’s what you said:

The best times to hold events at Derwenthorpe (number of respondents who chose each time slot; some chose more than one time slot).

Household composition

We asked about the numbers of adults and children in each household. We’ve summarised the results in this table. Of the 78 children reported, twenty were under 4, forty-three were 4 to 10, and fifteen were 11 to 16. There were 232 adults reported.

Household compositionnumber of households
One adult, no children18
One adult, with children4
Two adults, no children46
Two adults, 1 child19
Two adults, 2 children20
Two adults, 3 children4
Three or more adults10
NB: one of the three adult households also had a teenage child with them. Some of these adults may be over-fifteen-year-old teenagers. We didn’t ask whether “two adults” were a couple, or anything else about the relationships between people.

Thank you

We’re grateful to those who responded. And, we’re sorry it took so long to publish these results. Things kind of got in the way in 2020! Please let us know if you have any comments or questions. The survey happened just before the first COVID lockdown. Do you think differently about Derwenthorpe now?


Nature Group News

We’ve got news about two new paths, and about maintenance of the public green space.

Guerrilla gardening

Many of you have started to adopt communal green spaces, planting and maintaining them. This is great, and JRHT gardening team are very happy to be supported, and also want to support us.  But they need to know who’s doing what! So if you’re already doing so, or thinking of looking after a green space near you anytime in the future, please contact Wendy (see below). Also, if you’re considering planting anything that’s perhaps a bit unusual or may need a bit of space, our gardeners are keen to advise and make sure it’s suitable and fits in with everything else around it.  So please get in touch any time by emailing Wendy at

New Link Path

The new link path between Stephenson and Seebohm quarters is now in place. It connects the two sections of Derwent Way, from the Western end of St Aelred’s Way. The nature group has been happy to liaise with JRHT through the gardening team, about your safety concerns and their plans to address them. Two stainless steel bollards have already been installed, which will stop vehicle use and alert cyclists and pedestrians that they are crossing the Foss Islands cycle path, a main route. 

The area either side has has been cleared, top soil put down, and will be grass seeded. The temporary barriers, whilst not looking very pretty, are to stop people walking, cycling and driving over it, until large boulders are placed in the appropriate places.  JRHT are monitoring it, and assure us that they will add further measures if necessary. For more information on this or any other gardening or landscaping issues, contact Wendy at

Derwent Way Link Path

Path of desire

We’ve been working with the gardening team about a path of desire that has been made over the years, across the Foss Islands path from St Aelred’s Way on Seebohm to Derwent Mews on Stephenson quarter towards Metcalfe Lane end. This has now been established, and looks much better than the muddy mess it was! This is a bonus for us: the path above was always planned, but this one is in addition to the planned paths! For more information on this or any other landscaping or gardening issues, contact Wendy at


JRHT Zoom conversations

JRHT are running a couple of Zoom events for residents, in Derwenthorpe and elsewhere. Please do register, and join in to make it your conversation. We will be. Hope to see you there! Note that the two events will be similar, so there’s no need to attend both.

“We want to hear your stories from during the pandemic and the series of lockdowns. What or who has helped you and your community? What support would be helpful in the future? What were the good times which lifted your spirits? What was the act of kindness that made you feel better? During the pandemic, you may have discovered a new love for gardening or had a little more time to enjoy & explore your local area.We would like to hear from you about how you think JRHT has performed during the pandemic? Did we meet your expectations and what else can JRHT do in the future?”

Saturday 12 Dec 2020 10:00-11:30
Thursday, 17 Dec 2020 12:30-14:00

Read more on JRHT’s Facebook page, but if you want to attend, use the registration buttons above to register on Zoom.


Swan Injury

Sadly one of our swans – the adult male – collided with a house earlier today. We called the RSPCA at about 10:20am, and they arrived to collect him at 11am. He’s been taken to a vet. I’ll try to get updates to see how he’s doing. The rest of the family are on the lake right now.

I don’t think anyone saw the collision, but it was heard, and he was found very quickly. He’d hit two storey terrace house, probably in the middle of the first storey, and fallen into the back garden. He was conscious when found, but very subdued, and could not stand. The RSPCA person could not give a prognosis, but found damage to a wing. She also could not find any obvious signs of serious damage, but there may be hidden damage.


Sadly, as reported elsewhere (on Facebook), the swan passed away shortly after arriving at the vets.


An Evening with the Stars

A star-studded extravaganza for Derwenthorpe’s young astronomers!

Once, on a planet close by, the people who lived in a place called Derwenthorpe, enjoyed three talks on astronomy and several star-gazing evenings. Since then the universe has grown, stars have been born and in March 2020, as part of the Great Covid-19 Lockdown, there was a surge of new interest in astronomy – especially by young people.

So, by popular request Derwenthorpe Residents’ Association -in celestial alignment with the York Astronomical Society- invites you to an evening of exciting astronomy specially aimed at young people and their families. Join us as we Zoom into space, accompanied by local expert astronomers and a chance to learn more about the stars above our own backyard.

The 40 minute programme will include:

  1. ‘Seeing Stars’ – stunning imagery by astronomers in York,
  2. Practical star-gazing in Derwenthorpe – how, where, when,
  3. How telescopes work – how to get started, cheaply,
  4. ‘The Sky at Night’ – Derwenthorpe-style,
  5. The York Observatory – only minutes away at Murton
  6. Looking to the future.

Ideal for all children between the ages of 6 and 103. An evening with the Stars will appear on a Zoom screen on a computer, smartphone or tablet at 7.00pm on Wednesday 25th November. Unlike the stars**, numbers are limited, so to obtain your free Zoom invitation contact David Friend now:

* York Astronomical Society

**Not strictly true, Ed.

The featured image above shows the Galliean moons (of Jupiter). Shot through a cheap telescope from a balcony in Derwenthorpe in May 2018.