Uber thwarted and a pub is saved…

TWO surprise decisions in York this week. First up, the taxi firm Uber is refused a licence to continue operating in the city. Then a doomed Victorian pub wins a last-minute reprieve.

In both cases, council committees acted in unexpected ways. Opinions differ on the results, particularly over the pub, as a trawl through the sticky silt of the comments sections reveals.

I felt cheered by the Uber decision, as the ride-hailing service is another of those modern things that is taking over the world. Then again, I’ve never been in an Uber taxi and this opinion is based in part on being a host for Airbnb – another modern thing that is taking over the world.

An Uber driver delivered a guest recently, a lovely young man from India by way of Birmingham. He delivered him to the wrong house as he relied on Google maps, which isn’t a good idea when coming here. That’s the trouble with modern things that take over the world: sometimes they go wrong.

So, never taken an Uber – but I do sometimes use taxis in York. The trips are more expensive than in some cities, but the drivers are usually gruffly pleasant and provide a good service. And know where they are going without relying on Google maps.

Local taxis for local people, to adapt a line from the TV sketch show The League of Gentleman.

In banning Uber, York is following London, which refused to renew the firm’s licence in September. Tuesday’s decision was greeted by applause in the meeting – and in the city, too.

The Carlton Tavern is a large pub set back from one of the routes into York, just beyond the Cold War Bunker and a little before the restored Holgate Windmill. It was due to be demolished to make way for a home for elderly people.

The planning decision that gave the nod to that proposal caused a local outcry. Now Crown Care can no longer buy the pub from Marstons just to knock it down.

Those opposed to the demolition had the backing of Save Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society, and York’s branch of CAMRA. Louise Ennis, a leading light in the campaign to save the pub, is quoted on the York-Mix website, saying: “It’s amazing! I’m overjoyed that the right thing has been done. Texts are already flooding in because people are delighted with the outcome.”

You can count me among the delighted as knocking down old buildings without good cause is a form of corporate vandalism. That said, I’ve never been inside the Carlton Tavern, and do recognise the hypocrisy in wishing to save something I’ve never supported.

This is where things get sticky. It’s great that this pub has been saved. But what happens now?

An offer has gone into Marstons from Joe Gardner, the man behind Spark York, to turn the building into a restaurant, café and deli, non-for-profit enterprise hub and microbrewery.

This sounds like a fantastic idea to me, but not to the terminal curmudgeons who lurk in the comments section of my old newspaper’s website. Dear me, they do like to moan, whinge, bitch and generally complain about life.

If you don’t know York, the cause of their complaints – apart from a terminal love of complaining – is that Spark:York is behind a community space close to the centre of York, containing cafes, bars and restaurants, and other community spaces.

The opening has been delayed until the spring, so this remains an unpretty work in progress. Spark:York is made up of repurposed shipping containers, a look that hasn’t gone down well with the moaners, as right now it resembles a graveyard for shipping containers.

This is not, by the way, intended as a negative comment. I am not one of the moaners. Spark:York is a great idea, just the sort of community initiative from young people this city needs. But it does also need to get a move on.

Saying you want to take over a pub when your prominent project has stalled isn’t the best timing – but the idea is imaginative and great. If it happens, you can count on a visit from this man on a ledge.

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