Public loos to reopen – as York plans more street cafés

A social distancing sign at Shambles Market. Photograph: YorkMix

Public toilets in the city centre will reopen on Monday, as many shops reopen.

And the first signs encouraging social distancing have started to appear in the city centre.

The signs – and stickers on the ground – encourage social distancing. Pedestrians are encouraged to keep left and certain streets are to be made one way.

Spaces to queue will be marked outside shops and more streets will be pedestrianised.

As we reported last week, Goodramgate, King’s Square, Church Street, Colliergate, Blake Street, St Helen’s Square and Lendal will all be added to the pedestrian zone.

And the council is looking at keeping some street pedestrianised into the evening so that cafés and restaurants can put seating outside when they are allowed to reopen.

Outdoor food and drink

Dining al fresco on Parliament Street in 2018

Businesses currently need planning permission and a licence for outdoor seating.

Director of economy at City of York Council Neil Ferris said: “As lockdown restrictions are eased, we will continue to look at ways that we can safely facilitate the opening of cafés, bars and restaurants, by creating additional space for customers to socially distance.

“We are working with our partners in North Yorkshire Police on the specific licensing implications and this will be considered as part of the council’s recovery planning.

“These changes will of course only be introduced when Government guidelines allow and it is safe to do so.”

One-way system

Shambles in York in May. Photograph: Richard McDougall

Councillor Paula Widdowson acknowledged the challenges created by the layout of some historic streets.

“Medieval town planners didn’t design our streets for social distancing, but we can all enjoy our city safely by following the new one-way and keep-left systems, and using the queue markings outside and inside shops,” she said.

“It will feel a little strange, but I know our local businesses are looking forward to welcoming us back as they continue to adapt to the changes in national guidance.”

“Our city has over 2,000 years’ experience reinventing itself – and together we can do it again, protecting lives, livelihoods and helping our city thrive.”

Changes at public toilets include automatic flushes and soap dispensers, replacing hand dryers with towels, more regular cleaning and social distancing advice.

Businesses and charities can also sign up for poster packs at