Edinburgh’s done it – why not York?

Politicians and business leaders are calling for York city centre to trial traffic-free days in a bid to reduce pollution and encourage residents to visit.

Edinburgh became the first city in the UK to join the Open Streets movement, closing some streets to all traffic on a regular basis.


York already has a pedestrian zone, with a number of streets shut to vehicles between 10.30am and 5pm every day of the week.

But David Skaith, owner of Winstons of York on Back Swinegate, says more can be done to pedestrianise the city centre.

‘It’s carnage’

Flashback to October 2018 when a lorry hit a building on Low Petergate. Photograph: Phil Pinder on Twitter
David said residents can be put off by traffic and that in some areas like Low Petergate lorries are a real problem, while on Stonegate lorries can ruin the pavement.

David said:

  • You are seeing lorries parked on pavements, blocking streets. It doesn’t look great, it doesn’t feel very safe and it’s doing a lot of damage to the pavements.

    It’s almost a weekly occurrence where a shop gets hit.

    We do need lorries for deliveries but its about finding that balance. Large lorries come through the streets and it’s just an absolute nightmare, it’s carnage – people can’t even see or get into our shop because drivers park so close.


He suggested deliveries could be made to a central location and then taken to individual businesses in smaller vehicles and added that companies could look at using environmentally-friendly transport in the city centre.

He said: “York should be a leading light in things like this. But we do seem like we are still in Roman times.”

‘It’s what we want’

Stonegate needs a £500K makeover because of the damage by lorries and vans. Photograph: YorkMix
York Green Party leader Cllr Andy D’Agorne also welcomed the idea of closing the city centre to traffic on certain days, adding: “This is the kind of initiative that could work well in York, extending the monthly Fossgate festivals to include a wider area of the city centre being car-free once a month.

“It’s what residents, visitors and businesses want, so let’s do it!”

Stonegate is closed to traffic at all times except for loading between 5am and 10.30am.

The pavement has suffered “severe damage” according to a council report and is set to be renewed this year at a cost of £495,000.

Shambles is also shut to vehicles at all times, but loading is allowed before 10.30am and after 5pm.

Cllr Keith Aspden, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said:

  • It is incredibly important that, as a city, we address the challenges posed by climate change and for York, we must take on board best practice from other cities in our efforts to encourage sustainable transport and improve air quality.

    With this in mind, we will pay close attention to how progress is made in Edinburgh and simultaneously, ask council officers to identify how this would work in York.

    As part of the upcoming MyCityCentre consultation, we have a real opportunity to create a bottom-up strategy for the city centre.