CARS and motorbikes are set to be banned from Lendal Bridge in York, under new plans revealed by city leaders.

City of York Council says the move is being considered to make the city more appealing to pedestrians and help speed up public transport, with a six-month trial set to begin in August.

If it is rubber-stamped by the council's cabinet on May 7, cars and motorbikes would be prevented from using the bridge between 10.30am and 5pm every day. Following the trial - during which a consultation process will be held - a decision will be made over whether to make the ban permanent or even extend it to between 7am and 7pm.

The council recently extended its footstreet hours in the city centre, saying it was designed to improve visitors' experience of the city and support businesses, although these changes sparked anger from market traders.

If the Lendal Bridge car and bike ban is approved, buses, cyclists, pedestrians, taxis and emergency vehicles would not be affected. The trial would cost about £170,000, with the money coming from Better Bus Area Fund money allocated to York from the Government and the council's capital programme for infrastructure schemes.

Coun Dave Merrett, the council's cabinet member for transport, said: "In the 1980s, the city took bold decisions to implement the footstreets area and close Deangate, removing 10,000 vehicle movements a day from in front of the Minster.

"It proved to be very successful and was rapidly supported by retailers, residents and visitors. New public realm improvements and the removal of the bulk of traffic from the Minster corridor and Lendal Bridge is the next phase of improving the pedestrian environment and boosting York's world-class status."

Coun Merrett said the scheme would help ease city-centre congestion and be an "important first step" towards making public transport more reliable. August has been chosen as the start date for the trial because traffic levels are lower and more pedestrians are in the city-centre during the summer holiday period.

The council said York's traffic network would be "closely monitored" to see how the scheme affects car and motorbike movements through the city, allowing traffic lights to be manually altered. Automatic number plate recognition cameras would also be installed to enforce the Lendal Bridge traffic rules.

Council leader James Alexander said: "City-centre congestion results in public transport which is less reliable and less efficient, and these plans will help tackle this issue. 

"People prefer to shop and do business in a more attractive environment. By reducing traffic through the city-centre, we aim to make pedestrians feel safer, make our city look more attractive and entice even more residents and visitors to shop."

The Lendal Bridge plans have been backed by Visit York, whose chairman Jane Lady Gibson said: "York's city-centre is, quite simply, the most attractive and appealing in the country and we are keen to support initiatives which encourage higher usage of Park&Ride services and help York continue to win accolades."

Giles Fearnley, national director of UK Bus at First group plc, said the move would allow bus services to "run more freely" through the centre of York and cut journey times, and the company would look to make its services more attractive as a result.

However, Conservative councillor George Barton said: "We have so few crossings over the River Ouse that the thought of this frightens me to death.

"Any trial should be far shorter than six months, which strikes me as an awfully long time. If there is going to be chaos, one wants to be able to revert quicker than after six months. We would do anything to support improving the flow of traffic in York, but I cannot quite see how that will work."