Lockdown! This is what St Helen’s Square looks like now

The new security measures in St Helen's Square. Photographs: Richard McDougall

York has always been hot on security – see that huge stone wall that surrounds the city – but this takes it to the next level.

Security blocks and barriers have appeared across the city centre, and they make quite an impact on the eye.

Particularly affected is St Helen’s Square. Barriers run the entire length of the ancient square, surrounding the seats and the Christmas tree.



There is also a yellow, red and white barrier swing barrier in place.

Elsewhere the chrome bollards are in place at the High Ousegate end of Parliament Street.

And other barriers have appeared at the entrance to Spurriergate.

The bollards on Parliament Street


Bollards at the entrance to Spurriergate

City of York Council has installed them as a temporary measure to protect the city from terrorist attack.

Tom Brittain, assistant director of housing and community safety at the council, said:

  • While very rare, terror attacks in the UK can create a lot of concern. With our partners in the police, we are making the city centre more secure than it has ever been, and want to reassure everyone who uses it that we are prepared, alert and ready to help protect them.

Neighbourhood Policing Commander for York and Selby Superintendent Lindsey Butterfield said:

  • Although the terrorist threat level has now been lowered to substantial, we still need to remain vigilant and do everything possible to keep people safe.

    These latest measures are a welcome addition to our existing security plans designed to help keep York safe and secure during the festive season and the weeks leading up to it.

34 thoughts on “Lockdown! This is what St Helen’s Square looks like now

  1. as An Armature Historian, Ex Service (Army – Northern Ireland) and Resident of York. Is was, well not a surprise, more a SHOCK to see these things appear overnight, and as it seems NO One Knew (Shops, Other Official Buildings , Traffic Management ) where informed. These Barriers (I have seen the same in London at Government Sites) Block, Impede on Pavements. Then the case of York (“Shambles” your name) are under enforced CURFEW. Then a certain House in St Helen’s found that there where almost blocked in. and “WHO” is paying for the “Security Staff” manning these (gates) – WHO. Lastly did this Go Through the Council, Seems Not and If Not what Authority was Used. No Terrorist Threat and that was lowered last month. So Whose Authority.

  2. How disappointing that the council decides to be seen to be ‘doing something’ AFTER the terrorist threat has been downgraded, and that these massive barriers are absolutely no deterrent to terrorism that isn’t in the form of a vehicle. They will only deter repeat visitors to our beautiful city, which will have a long term negative impact on the local economy after all. This short sighted, environmentally expensive, eye sore is a waste of OUR council tax and has far reaching implications – much more than just this ‘festive season’.

  3. Unfortunately terrorists don’t think because a city is old and beautiful it should not be attacked.
    Terrorists only think about causing maximum damage and unfortunately york city has a huge amount of people per square metre walking narrow streets with no room for escape.
    These barriers will only be a tempory measure until something more suitable will be a available I’m sure .
    Should York be subjected to a terror attack then the damage done to human life and the stain it would leave upon the city would be far more lasting than any tempory barrier .
    Ugly yes , necessary absolutely.

  4. You’re all blasting them for their unsightly bollards but if the worse does happen and they weren’t there you’d all be the first to be on an interview on tv saying “why didn’t the council do something after the previous years attacks on Christmas markets” stop complaining for the sake of complaining safety above everything else.

  5. I’ve just returned from a holiday in the USA and visited New York and Boston and saw no sign of monstrosity’s like these in city’s you would believe more likely to a terrorist attack than York. The chrome bollards are just about bareable but the black blocks are a blight on a beautiful city that I’ve just spent three weeks telling Americans they should visit when in the UK.

  6. I am just flabbergasted! I’ve seen some crass stupidity from our “Leaders” in York in the 16 years I’ve lived here but this takes the biscuit. It wasn’t enough to have a non-driver deciding to unlawfully close Lendal Bridge, now we have huge, useless and pointless eyesores hindering the locals and Tourist Shoppers whilst doing VERY little to prevent any Bomb Threat, drive-by shooting – or whatever weird threat “someone” has come up with as a means of wasting city funds. I think it may be time to “Escape To The Country”!

  7. This seems to be the Council in their usual mode of expensive pointlessness.

    They claim to be making *Counter-Terrorism* measures but seem to have no idea how easy it is to manufacture an IED.
    Or how easy it is to transport one.
    I m not going to go into technical details but these won’t be able to stop bugger all.
    They are flivin ugly and pointless.

  8. They have had the perfect and aesthetic anti terrorist barrier, that have
    protected the city for centuries. The BAR WALLS, a new portcullis at each of the gates, perfect!! While their at it some stocks for good measure.

  9. They literally waited until the threat has diminished. They have had years to get this right, and this is the best they can do?

  10. There must have been some convincing intel for the council to take such extensive actions. Ugly maybe, but better a precaution that saves lives.

  11. Whilst they are not exactly appealing on the eye, I would much rather protections are put in place to stop something that in the world we live in sadly has a greater chance of happening, than not doing something then regretting it later.

  12. Absolutely appalling. To turn our historic city into a fortress is completely over the top. Surely a more sympathetic solution could be found. The chrome bollards ar not so bad

    1. Very true, should a lorry be used in an attack we can always pray for an engine failure, or for the perpetrators to suffer massive cardiac arrest. These defences are completely unnecessary.

  13. How ugly are those black boxes? Absolutely spoils the historic integrity of the city. What was wrong with the benches that were there? More of those securely fastened down would be much better.

    1. Indeed, more benches seems reasonable, anyone sitting on those benches being injured would be a small price to pay for the integrity of our history, they may have well of hosed excrement over the minster, or hung pornography from the bar walls. Perhaps we should write to both the council and the distributors of said defences and let them know of your fantastic alternative.

  14. Ok, where do I get my flack jacket and the leaflet that explains what a terrost looks like – after its been such a long time since 886 AD we’ve forgotten how to recognise them!!!!! On a much more serious note though how many people are going to be put off by this and not shop in the centre of town and so putting local shops under even more economic pressure. This is shameful when the council could have spent the money helping local businesses.

  15. This is horrendous! Terrorism is not an issue in this city!! People come here to enjoy the beauty of the place and now the council have decided to put these abominations in! What are they thinking???

  16. The council are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It is a temporary measure to protect Christmas shoppers and visitors from one possible attack. The other forms of attack require police on the streets, which I am sure they will also do. Flood defences are another issue which has plagued York for many years and needs to be addressed with the council and the environment agency by way of water management and not barriers to attempt to contain the water just in the rivers.

  17. Blimey – I can only imagine this is what it felt like during the war – but do get it. I wonder when we can take it all down – ugly but necessary.

  18. Staggering! Unbelievable! What are the Council thinking? Do I feel safer? Is this going to protect us from the Climate Crisis? I don’t think so….

    1. True, in fact the very production of these eye-sores will no doubt of led to our ever increasing carbon footprint, the council must take action, overlooking bigger picture as always. I think we should leave the security of our holiday season well enough alone, the war on terror ended years ago, we won. On to more pressing matters.

  19. As a wheelchair user requiring a carer to assist me, these are more trouble than they are worth. As long as these are present in the city centre, as a local, I will not be venturing into the city centre at all. I have enough trouble negotiating some of the terrain and these just make my life more difficult. I do understand the need for security but this is too much for me. For the first time in nearly 20 years, I will not see our Christmas Lights and the one secular thing I truly love about Christmas are the lights.
    I’m heading to ChristKindlMarkt instead.

  20. Suerely this is total overkill – tourists come here because it is (was) a beautiful city I doubt they will now return. Can’t these be used as flood barriers instead??

    1. Indeed, the beauty of our city died today, never again can I look upon our great cathedral and churches; or take a stroll through the museum gardens, without the thought of these temporary safety measures ruining my daily inspiring and reflective thoughts.

      I too would be very surprised if tourists from the other side of the world would wish to come here anymore, the beauty of our city goes beyond skin deep, the thousands of years of history are but a footnote to the beauty perpetuated throughout the centuries. They may even stop sending their children to our fantastic universities, the knock on effect would be catastrophic.

      Good idea on the flood barriers though, I’m sure the designers had the global climate crisis in mind as we all do now. They look water tight, why not?

  21. While I can understand the need to protect, I would like to know how quickly they can be set in their secure mode. Sad reflection on our times.

    1. It’s a barrier on a hinge, you lower it after 10:30am once commercial lorries have done their deliveries.

      Have you ever been in an elevator? That will blow your mind.

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