2,000 sign petition opposing changes to paving in King's Square, York

York Press: The refurbished King’s Square in York The refurbished King’s Square in York

COUNCIL officials have defended an historic York square’s new look after more than 2,000 people signed a petition opposing changes to its surface.

The first phase of City of York Council’s £490,000 revamp of King’s Square was completed last month, and the team behind the work said the new paving and layout had improved its “shabby and cluttered” appearance.

A 2,130-name petition opposing the use of the repaving materials will go before a full council meeting tonight, having been set up by Michelle Wyatt, 38, from Acomb – who suffers from chronic fatigue condition ME and uses a wheelchair – while the work was taking place. It had called for the “cobbles and cart tracks” on the square to be retained as a “beautiful historic inspiration and an experience of times gone by”. It also said “heritage” should not be removed to prevent “litigation”.

In a report responding to the petition, the council’s regeneration architect Guy Hanson said there were several reasons for smoothing King’s Square surface, but the implication that this was to prevent legal claims was “a very incomplete impression”. He said a study by external consultants found the square’s damaged and uneven surface caused problems for people with mobility issues, most of whom walked across the area.

The report said fitting “uniform” stones had strengthened the square’s surface, and those removed could have been designed in a way which made them look look worn. It said: “No cobbles have been removed from King’s Square as a result of this project - the stones removed were stone setts which were machine-cut in the 1970s.”

Ms Wyatt started collecting names for the petition after saying the square should keep its “traditional look”, even if the stones replaced only dated back to the 1970s, and raised concerns about the amount spent on the project and that residents were “poorly-informed” about the proposals. The council said “significant” public consultation was held ahead of work starting.

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