20th Century

A New Vision For York

Bootham Bar in 1955 (c) CYC Imagine York

1966AD - 1967AD

In 1966 the national government named York as one of five cities to gain special assistance because of their ‘character, beauty and historic interest’.  Lord Esher, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, was asked to report on the city’s future.

Completed in 1967, his report called for the city centre to be improved and repopulated, historic buildings to be enhanced and economically self-preserving, and only buildings of the highest standards to be built within the walled city.

Esher recognised the dangers cars and lorries posed to the city’s historic fabric and recommended that Bootham Bar be closed to traffic, access be restricted through Micklegate Bar and only residents’ cars allowed through Walmgate and Monk Bars.  Four multi-storey car parks should be built outside the walls, he concluded.

Much of his vision was put into practice.  In 1968 the entire historic core of York was designated as a conservation area.  Stonegate became York’s first 'foot-street’, cars being banned from it in 1971.  It was paved over four years later. 

But it wasn’t until the Eighties that the city’s other main shopping streets were pedestrianised.  In the face of fierce opposition from traders, who thought they would lose business, the footstreets scheme was officially opened by its architect Albert Cowen on September 28, 1987.  Deangate, next to the Minster, was pedestrianised two years later.

The lack of traffic in the City centre, together with  its architectural quality, have been key to the city's unusual character and hence its popularity.

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