York Minster security blocks could stay for two more years – before new public square is opened

There are 12 security blocks outside the West Front of York Minster. Photograph: YorkMix
7 Jul 2020 @ 7.55 am
| Changing city

They were controversial when introduced, but have developed into a popular place for tourists to sit and admire the spectacular view.

And now the 12 security blocks outside York Minster could be set to stay for two more years.

Installed in November 2017 on the advice of the Counter Terrorism Unit, the blocks protect the West Front of the cathedral, and the people who gather there, from vehicle attack.

At the time the Dean of York said: “We have a clear duty of care to everyone who visits York Minster and we will do everything we can to ensure that our worshippers and visitors feel safe and secure when they are here.”

The current national terror threat level is ‘Substantial’ – so the Dean and Chapter have applied for planning permission to keep the blocks in place for two more years.

New ceremonial space

The blocks when they arrived in November 2017. Photograph: Richard McDougall

Planning documents say the Minster has been working with City of York Council and Historic England to agree a permanent approach.

“Initially a working group was established with representatives from City of York Council and the Civic Trust to begin to develop a permanent scheme which controls vehicular access to Duncombe Place.

“This has now been reflected in the emerging York Minster Neighborhood Plan and articulated in the draft policy for Queen’s Square, the first public square to be created in York for 200 years.”

The proposal for the square, then said to be called Queen Elizabeth Square and featuring a life-size statue of the Queen, were revealed in May 2019.

Planning documents say: “The vision is to transform the area into a fine public square for York, renamed in honour of the Queen, it will be a high quality, civic setting for the Minster and a ceremonial space for Yorkshire under the ‘Hear of Yorkshire’ window.

The Minster blocks

“Security measures are to be designed into the square to restrict vehicle access close to the Minster.”

But the details need to be finalised in consultation with residents, businesses and other bodies. The first phase of the Minster Neighbourhood Plan will be submitted to the council later this year, the documents reveal.

“On this basis, a further 24 month period is requested to develop and deliver a permanent solution thereby allowing the Minster to remove the temporary security blocks and incorporate the space into a new public square.”