ORGANISERS of York’s Christmas market say they have taken a series of measures to try to tackle overcrowding problems at peak times.

The Press reported last year how pedestrians were reduced to a shuffle in Parliament Street on Saturday afternoons because of the sheer volume of visitors.

Hundreds of readers joined an online debate about the problems, with many raising concerns about the safety of shoppers and suggesting the stalls should be spread around town, in streets such as Coney Street, or open places such as the Eye of York.

One said: “It’s absolute hell. I won’t go into town on Saturday until after Christmas. It’s a nightmare for residents who just want to go about their everyday business and can’t move for the crowds.”

Another said: “As a resident, I had the misfortune to go into the centre today. It was so busy that walking was ‘snail pace’ and actually a pain in the @@@@. Never again!”

Some feared the crowding could result in a tragedy, with one saying: “If anything were to panic the crowd at the St Sampson’s Square end and people rushed towards Thor’s Tipi end, there is nowhere to go, and there is a real danger of crushing and people being trampled underfoot.”

Many said some more effective stewarding was needed, at least at weekends, and some called for a one-way system to be introduced for shoppers walking through the market to reduce congestion.

Now Sean Bullick, managing director at Make It York, which organises the market, has said that safety was its "utmost priority" and following feedback from last year, it had reviewed the layout of the stalls to allow for more people to flow through the market.

“This includes the introduction of a number of break-out areas to reduce congestion, allowing pedestrians to leave the busy areas of the market more quickly,” he said.

“Stewards will be on-site each day to monitor the flow of the crowd and take action as required to move people through to the break-out zones – with additional stewards scheduled in every weekend.”

He said other factors which would allow for a better flow of visitors to the market this year included moving street performers out of Parliament Street to other areas in the city and removing the toilet block in St Sampson’s Square earlier this year, which had created more space.

“Our aim has been to ensure that everyone who comes to the market has an enjoyable and memorable visit and we believe these measures will help to improve the overall experience for all residents and visitors over the festive period,” he added.

The market opens on Thursday.