Councillors to decide whether to ban traffic permanently from York’s ‘hidden gem’

Fossgate in York.
Fossgate in York.
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Just a stone’s throw from York’s more famous, timber-framed Shambles, an ancient thoroughfare that calls itself the “ultimate street of independent business” could soon see a dramatic uplift to its profile.

Fossgate, the narrow, 175 cobbled yards between Foss Bridge and The Stonebow, will become the next part of the city centre to be declared permanently off limits to traffic, if a recommendation to councillors is approved later this week.

York Council last year made Fossgate the subject of a trial “pedestrian priority zone”, with traffic barred except for access between 8am and 6pm.

The experiment reached its six-month stage three weeks ago, and yesterday the council announced it was seeking to enforce the changes permanently.

A briefing by planning officials says the trial “achieved the objective of reducing the volume of through traffic” and adds that “there has been very little in the way of representations against the experiment”.

Fossgate, which was once home to York’s fish market and whose origins date back to Roman times, has long been the subject of a debate over traffic access, with the council keen to encourage the street’s many foot and drink retailers to set up pavement chairs and tables.

However, councillors will be told at Thursday’s transport and planning meeting that traders had been reluctant to “claim the space from vehicles” by placing barriers around their allotted area during the trial.

Denise Craghill, a Green Party councillor for the Guildhall ward, which covers Fossgate, said in a formal response to the experiment that some aspects had worked well but that others had yet to have the desired effect, and tat many cyclists were ignoring the restrictions.

She added: “I’m not so sure that simply making it permanent now in exactly the same form as at present is the best available solution.”

Fossgate, whose traders have called it “a hidden gem”, is home to York’s smallest pub, the Edwardian Blue Bell, as well as the 14th century Merchant Adventurers’ Hall and a raft of small shops. The council has promised to fund work to improve the “street scenery” of the area once the traffic restrictions are permanent.