RADICAL improvements must be made to the areas around York’s historic Bars, a masterplan for city streets has claimed.

City of York Council’s “streetscape strategy”, designed to guide the future of York’s streets and public spaces, also says major work is needed to make the “confusing” and poorly-designed route from York Station to the city-centre more welcoming.

The review, due to be discussed by councillors tonight, says navigating York can be “complex and difficult to understand”, the city-centre is too cluttered and lacks enough public art, cycle-parking and seating, and more should be spent on cycling schemes but pedestrians using footstreets may need extra protection from bikes.

It says funding will be limited, but proposes immediate steps including considering banning “for sale” and “for let” signs in conservation areas and looking at whether street performers should be able to use amplified sound. The report says York does not have a “consistent street environment” and many parts of the city-centre lack “harmony”.

The document was recommended by several parties - including urban design expert Professor Alan Simpson, who produced 2010’s “New City Beautiful” vision for York – with organisations including English Heritage and York Civic Trust taking part in a consultation.

The strategy said roads and footpaths either side of the Bars should be improved to “enhance the special qualities of these remarkable structures”, saying: “These are the main historic gateways into the city and their settings should be dramatically improved.”

New lighting schemes between the station and the city-centre have been suggested as one way of improving the route, while the document advised planting more trees on “gateway” roads and considering riverside public art installations in locations such as New Walk, Terry Avenue and next to the Museum Gardens. It said Exhibition Square could house temporary or permanent art displays or performances.

Other suggestions include extending a city-centre “decluttering” campaign to other areas and explaining York better. The strategy said: “Museums and other attractions do an excellent job, but streets, public spaces and their relationship with York’s urban landscape are sometimes difficult to understand.”

It also said the council should work with estate agents to ban signs in conservation areas, as they often stayed in place for long periods and their commercial effectiveness was “questionable”.

In his consultation response, York Civic Trust director Peter Brown supported reviewing use of amplifiers by street artists, saying some “take it to extreme levels”, and said the Trust was “greatly encouraged” by the document.

Tracy Dearing of the RNIB charity voiced concerns a “shared spaces” approach – such as removing signs, road markings and kerbs - could be taken, increasing risks for blind or partially-sighted people. Conservationist Alison Sinclair said Micklegate should be promoted as an alternative route from the station to the city-centre “to assist its regeneration”.