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.