New public square and statue of Queen proposed at York Minster

York Minster
York Minster
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A Plan for the first public square to be built in York for nearly 200 years is to be unveiled today among proposals to transform the Minster Precinct and create a new “ceremonial space for the county”.

A civic space to be known as Queen Elizabeth Square would have as its centrepiece a life-size statue of the Queen, carved by one of the Minster’s masons and placed in front of the cathedral.

The square would be closed to traffic and landscaped to provide what its developers say will be “a pleasant seating area for visitors, creating a comfortable and safe protected space” that would be used for Christmas markets and other events.

The proposal, which is being published for public consultation, is among those to have emerged from a draft “neighbourhood plan” which sets out strategies for the future care of the Minster grounds and its surrounding six hectare precinct.

A neighbourhood forum representing the precinct was formally recognised in March under the Localism Act of 2011, which encourages communities to become more involved in planning for their areas by producing plans that will influence new developments. Once a neighbourhood plan is adopted for the Minster, it will become part of the “plan-making framework” for York.

Its 39-member forum is also proposing a new café and outdoor seating on the south side of the cathedral, a welcome centre for visitors, a cycle path at Deangate to separate bikes from pedestrians, and a garden with access to the ancient city walls. A later phase puts forward enhancements to the Minster School and Old Palace, which houses its library and archives.

The proposals were developed after 290 responses were received to a consultation last year on the development and use of the buildings and land within the Minster boundaries.

The site, first occupied more than 2,000 years ago, includes the Minster stoneyard, as well as homes for its clergy, and Dean’s Park, the biggest area of green space within the city walls.

Alex McCallion, director of works and precinct at the Minster, said the proposed square at Duncombe Place was “one of the most significant and exciting civic improvement projects anywhere in the country” and would transform the public space at the west end of the Minster.

He said: “This is a tremendous opportunity for the city of York to create an outstanding and accessible new public square that draws people to the space and is sympathetic to the city’s history and heritage.”

He said the proposals were in the “conceptual stage” and would ultimately have to conform with other plans for the city.

The plans are on view today and tomorrow in the Minster’s South Piazza, and online until next month.