King’s Square: ‘This modernisation didn’t need doing’

Michelle Wyatt discusses her protest with City of York Council architect Guy Hanson. Photograph: Richard McDougall
Michelle Wyatt discusses her protest with City of York Council architect Guy Hanson. Photograph: Richard McDougall
Michelle Wyatt discusses her protest with City of York Council architect Guy Hanson. Photograph: Richard McDougall

michelle-wyatt-headshotLast week a national newspaper waded in to the debate about the refurbishment of King’s Square. The report stated that York council said the old surface “was a hazard to disabled people”. In response wheelchair user Michelle Wyatt has started a petition against the move. Here she explains why

I have travelled down the Shambles and onto King’s Square many times over the last 17 years in my electric wheelchair and it was sufficiently accessible. There was no problem accessing King’s Square as most of it was already paved.

You simply followed the paving path next to the cobbles. The modernisation did not need doing.

All of the cobbles in York are fine because they have smooth paths next to them. If anything it is these paths, where the pavings are no longer flat but sloping towards the road, which need to be worked on.

This area doesn’t need new paving stones – just the current stones adjusting with a spirit level. The most inaccessible bit of King’s Square was the horrible modern Tarmac road which had eroded away and was rattling my machinery far more than cobbles do.

I hate modern cities. They have no character. They are just commercial advertising spaces for national companies like McDonald’s and Tesco’s. Some of our streets are already like this.

A stone block, thought to be medieval, with the Victorian brickwork behind
The work now underway at King’s Square

Our local council is just following national procedures universally applied to make all cities identical. You could go to the other side of the country and find those sad electric bins, and other places fighting to keep their cobbles.

The whole country is in the midst of a massive health and safety upgrade of city designs and the Labour Party is under pressure to show that they are towing the line in York. The electric bins are a national implementation. So is the removal of cobbles.

I am disgusted that they are calling it Reinvigorate York. Many cities are undergoing “reinvigoration” mainly because they are dull lifeless clones. Our city isn’t – yet they say our city is ailing and needs revitalising. It’s insulting.

The reason it doesn’t need reinvigorating is that the tourists come to see the cobbles, the history. They are killing our source of strength not invigorating us.

And this is costing the council half a million pounds, at a time when it is making huge budget cuts to services for vulnerable residents.

I’m doing petition signings on York’s streets by King’s Square. If you see me, please come over and sign.



6 thoughts on “King’s Square: ‘This modernisation didn’t need doing’

  1. Comment from City of York Council:

    The national newspaper article was incorrect. The cobbles/paving on King’s Square were placed there in the 1970s, prior to this date the area was tarmac or brick set. The paving/cobbles are not ancient like the Shambles and the council is not proposing to carry out any changes to the Shambles.

    The raised area of King’s Square is being retained and refurbished and up to a point just beyond the raised area, next to Daisy Taylors store on the edge of King’s Square only.

    All paving which is in a good condition will be re-used again in any future schemes across the city.

    The aim of Reinvigorate York is to:
    • Reinvigorate the city centre economy
    • Increase footfall in the city centre
    • Improve the overall quality of life for residents
    • Increase the sense of York as a special place
    • Maintain York as a top tourist destination

    Earlier this year an independent Access and Mobility Audit was carried out for the council by the Centre for Accessible Environments and a number of measures were recommended to improve and make the city centre streets more accessible to all. This is not the sole reason the King’s Square scheme is being carried out though as Darren Richardson explains:

    Darren Richardson, Director of City and Environmental Services, said: “The quality of York’s public spaces are fundamental to sustaining the city’s present and future prosperity and it’s important to everyone who lives, works, visits and invests in our city

    “Our Reinvigorate York initiative aims to both improve and enhance the quality of our city’s public spaces – including the circulation in the city centre, restoring and enhancing the city centre’s public spaces (street furniture, signage, paving, clutter) and achieving other improvements that will help enhance the tourist, retail, business and cultural experience of visitors, residents and people working in the city centre.

    “Residents and businesses have and will continue to be consulted on all six schemes as they progress. Full details on these can be found at .”

    1. I am glad you posted this. Now everyone can see that it is exactly the same text as you used to reply to emails. A cut and paste job is all you get for expressing your feelings. I am still petitioning and many people I spoke to said they wrote to you and got this standard copy & paste reply.

      I was on the cart tracks today at Kings Square & I told them the points you are saying about the 1970s & they still wanted to sign the petition. Standing on the cart tracks I told them they are going to be removed. What this means to people is the removal of an experience, a beautiful experience. An experience of life when there was a horse and cart. An experience of life when streets were cobbled. People are paying £100s, some £1000s to come here and have this experience.
      The 1970s councilmen who extended the past, extended what was already there to develop that ambience and develop the wish of the people who walk those streets, were good councilmen. Before tarmac there were cobbles & setts and cart tracks. It is valid to restore that style of road and extend it into more areas. So that the roads complementing the ancient building not clashing with them.

      This form of logic you are using totally misses the point and your actions show a disinterest in the wishes of your citizens. We are supposed to be a democracy yet we cannot even talk to you, even though you are supposed to be our representatives and public servants. We talk to you and you do not read our words. How can it be a democracy if we have no say and are not heard?

      The consultation proccess is to protect you, its not a formality. Its protection so you dont have to make u-turns which are expensive like the Beverley council had to concerning their old stonework removals. If you do a consultation and are actually open and listening during it rather than rushing to get a set result, then you will not find yourself in conflict with the majority.

      When I am on the street I do not initiate the signature. I am silent & not giving any eye contact. Yet I am getting 1 signature every 90 seconds. This powerful feeling of the people must have been suppressed or brushed aside during the consultation rather than addressed which is why you are experiencing so much opposition now. You did not use the consultation to protect yourself and hearing the true wishes of people create something that would make people love both the square and you. Change this and become a council we can all be proud of – we want to have a positive relationship with you, not be in conflict. But you have to take your fingers off your ears. It is up to you.

      Michelle Wyatt

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