The city council wants your views on a proposed new manual that will set out preferred designs for everything from streetlamps to public seating in the centre of York. STEPHEN LEWIS reports.
CLUTTERED or higgledy-piggledy? That’s the question. A new draft design manual has been drawn up which aims to improve the look of York’s city streets in future.
The manual sets out preferred designs for everything from public benches and rubbish bins to street lamps and even paving stones.
Out are cheap street lamps of different shapes and sizes; unnecessary bollards, railings and street signs; and ugly utility company junction boxes.
In are approved street lamps, a new style of public seats and rubbish bins, decent quality paving stones and Sheffield hoop-style bicycle stands.
The aim is to make the city centre smarter, more consistent and less cluttered, says Coun Dave Merrett, the city council’s cabinet member for planning and transport.
In the past, whenever a seat, street lamp or bin needed replacing, individual council officers chose ones they thought appropriate, because there were no approved designs.
The new ‘streetscape strategy and guidance’ document, drawn up by a panel of people working with Reinvigorate York, aims to change all that.
It won’t mean the council suddenly starts rushing around replacing all the bins and seats and bollards and street lights in the city centre, says Reinvigorate York chairman Sir Ron Cooke. That would be far too expensive and disruptive.
But when seats or lights need to be replaced in future, there will be clear guidance about what to buy.
But isn’t the higgledy-piggledy nature of the city centre one of the things that makes it so attractive?
Yes, Sir Ron admits. But the new guidance won’t make the centre bland and boring – simply more coherent. “There is plenty of flexibility within the guidance.”
The document recognises a ‘hierarchy’ of types of streets within York, from historic city centre streets to secondary shopping streets and suburbs. The new guidance sets out a ‘palette’ of materials and street furniture that is acceptable in each, says Coun Merrett.
At the moment, the document is far from complete. “More things will be added later,” says Sir Ron.
But the council wants to hear what residents think about the idea of having a ‘design manual’ for the city centre and about some of the specifics of recommended designs too.
Here, we outline a few of the major recommendations contained in the document. You can read the full document itself – or a summary of it – by visiting york.gov.uk/streetscapestrategy. You can register your comments at the same web address, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 01904 551329.
• The consultation period ends on July 31. So have a look – and make sure you send in your thoughts before then. Don’t forget: this document could help shape the look of York’s city centre for years to come.
Preferred designs for York’s streets...
• Pavements Natural stone preferred over asphalt for pavements in key city streets. Larger slabs are preferred, preferably of natural stone such as Pennine sandstone.
• Streets and kerbs Existing stone and cobbles should always be kept where possible – with the exception of Stonegate, where the English Pennine sandstone flagstones laid in the 1970s are a “dramatic failure and require expensive and continual maintenance due to... heavy delivery traffic”.
Kerbs should be at least 40mm high to help blind and partially sighted people, and historic kerb lines should, where possible, be retained.
• Bollards Bollards - are not generally necessary unless to prevent cars or lorries driving on to areas of streets above cellars (which could cause damage and be a safety hazard) or to protect lorries from hitting overhanging buildings. Their use should be minimised.
Instead of the five-or-so designs of bollard in the city centre at the moment, the ‘default bollard’ to be used in the city centre will be the Manchester bollard.
• Cycle parking - Cycle parking should be relocated away from Parliament Street and, where possible, cycle parks should be on the edges of the pedestrianised areas of the centre. The approved cycle stand is the Sheffield hoop.
• Lighting Street - lighting needs to be more uniform. Heritage replica lanterns in historic streets should be restricted to two styles, the carriage lantern and the globe lantern. Where possible, lanterns should be wall mounted, rather than mounted on lamp-posts, to reduce clutter.
• Seating - Public seats are hugely important in a city like York, and there need to be more, the document says. Seats should be no more than 100 metres apart in popular pedestrian streets – and preferably no more than 50 metres apart. There are many streets that “fall far short of this model”.
During fairs and festivals, many seats in Parliament Street are often removed temporarily, the document says. “This practice should be avoided wherever possible.”
The ‘default design’ for new seats is the Broxap Blackburn seat. New seats should not be placed next to bins, and care should be taken when placing them under trees. This can provide shade – but the seats also become covered in bird droppings.
• Junction boxes - These – usually the property of utility companies – are ugly and cause clutter. Utility companies should regularly reassess whether they are needed. Where they are absolutely necessary, they should be painted gloss black to minimise their impact.
• Pavement cafés - A valuable part of city life in York – but they can, if unregulated, cause problems. Pavement cafés should normally only be allowed on unobstructed pavements at least two metres wide, and should be next to the café or bar that operates them. They should be clearly marked with a well-designed temporary ‘fence’ that respects the historic nature of the streets and does not provide a hazard for partially sighted people. Tables and chairs should be ‘appropriate to setting’ – plastic will not normally be acceptable.
• Railings - There are some fine examples in central York, the document says. New railings and replacement railings “should always reflect traditional locally-distinctive styles in conservation areas”.
• Traffic signs - Where possible, these should be fixed to walls rather than poles, to reduce clutter. They should be as small as possible to satisfy regulations, and their use should be consistent and co-ordinated.
• Litter bins - There should be a single ‘default’ style of waste bin for the city centre, the Broxap bin.