AN improved traffic management plan will be put in place when York Balloon Fiesta returns to the city this September - after the city was “brought to a standstill” last year.

The event, which attracted about 40,000 visitors in 2018, caused “gridlock” in the city centre for drivers and bus passengers.

And the future of the festival was thrown into doubt as a result of the chaos, a council meeting heard in December. At the meeting, former council leader Ian Gillies said the festival was a big success but the local authority had to take some responsibility for the transport problems.

York Balloon Fiesta has now confirmed it will be returning to Knavesmire on September 27 to 29 - and that a “better plan” for traffic during the weekend will be rolled out.

A spokesman for the event said: “An event like York Balloon Fiesta takes a huge amount of planning, and work is going on behind the scenes to create an event of which York can be proud, and of course, this involves better traffic management.

“We’ll be announcing more details later this Spring.”

City of York Council says it is also looking at “lessons learned” from the festival last September.

James Gilchrist, assistant director of transport, said: “Following last year’s event we held discussions with the event organiser, North Yorkshire Police and Make it York to look at last year and the lessons learned so the event can be better managed this year.

“We look forward to receiving the proposals for traffic management from the event organisers so that these can be considered.”

During the event last year bus company First York tweeted that services were delayed by an hour or more and that the fiesta had “brought York centre to gridlock”.

Meanwhile, Cityzap tweeted: “Due to very heavy traffic on Tadcaster Road due to #YorkBalloonFiesta our buses are running between 30 to 45mins late.”

The three-day festival was hugely popular, with crowds treated to mass balloon launches each day.

Fifty balloons took part in the fiesta.

There were also dazzling balloon night glow events and a firework display.

The festival also featured a fun fair, birds of prey show, children’s activities and entertainment, along with live music, a beer tent and street food stalls.

At the council meeting in December, former Make It York director Steve Brown admitted the event had “brought the city to a standstill” and added that if it did return, organisers would work with bus companies.

More details about this year’s festival are set to be released later this month.