Proposals have been put forward for a complete revamp of York's congested Bootham/ Gillygate junction.

Emergency repair work to faulty traffic light cables at the junction will see both Gillygate and Bootham closed at various times between September 19 and October 7. But York Civic Trust says much longer-term improvements to the junction and the surroundings of Exhibition Square are needed - and that it hopes to 'start a conversation' with its proposals.

The suggestions include:

  • restricting traffic on the St Leonard's Place approach to the junction to a single lane
  • setting the traffic lights on Bootham, Gillygate and St Leonard's Place much further back, so that cars waiting at the lights don't clog up the area around Bootham Bar and Exhibition Square
  • increasing pavement space
  • creating a through cycle route from High Petergate.

The proposals also include suggestions for a complete revamp of Exhibition Square itself, to allow it to be used for performances, exhibitions and pop-up fairs.

The suggestions include:

  • removing the 1971 fountain
  • repositioning the William Etty statue to protect it from car pollution.

York Civic Trust chief executive Andrew Morrison said the area around Exhibition Square and Bootham Bar was one of the most historic in York.

It includes sections of 2,000-year-old Roman wall; the walls of the St Mary's Abbey precinct; medieval King's Manor and the foundations of St Leonard's Hospital; Bootham bar itself; and the 'grand terrace' of St Leonard's Place - not to mention the Theatre Royal and the Victorian art gallery.

"But this is all potentially blighted because it is such a busy junction," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said the proposals were drawn up by the Civic Trust following a series of zoom workshops with local people and businesses and an event in Exhibition Square where locals were invited to come along and draw or sketch their own ideas.

York Press:

Some of the local people who helped come up with ideas for improving the Bootham/ Gillygate junction. PictureL YCT

They follow an initial consultation by the council on plans to upgrade the traffic lights at the junction earlier this year. The council deferred a decision.

The Civic Trust says that council consultation was a 'missed opportunity'. The idea of it's own proposals is to suggest much broader improvements to the whole area which would still allow the junction to remain in use as a key part of York's inner transport system, Mr Morriison said.

"This is not about removing traffic," he said. "This is a key junction, and we need to keep that. (But it) is currently unattractive and chaotic. There are major issues for all users, and it could be enjoyed by residents and visitors in a much better way."

Detailed maps show a raised, paved 'slow traffic' area stretching from the junction itself some way along Bootham, Gillygate and St Leonard's Place; and traffic lights set further back along the three roads so that vehicles do not queue so near to Bootham Bar. As well as reducing pollution and improving the appearance of the area, this would allow emergency services to get through the junction more quickly.

York Press:

A map outlining the Civic Trust's traffic proposals at the junction

The Trust now wants to get feedback from York people, before submitting a revised proposal to the city council later in the year.

Welcoming the proposals, York transport boss and council deputy leader Cllr Andy D'Agorne said: "The Council welcomes this independent piece of work from York Civic Trust which lays out a bold and ambitious vision for this important city centre location.

"As we develop the city’s Local Transport Plan, we will continue to engage with the trust to have a conversation about these proposals. It is important to fully understand the impacts of any specific scheme before deciding to adopt them into our strategies and plans for the future."

Cllr D'Agorne added that money spent on emergency repairs to the traffic lights would not be wasted in the event of a futuire redesign of the junction.

The repairs had been 'designed in such a way as to minimise any abortive work should there be any major changes at this junction in the future', Cllr D'Agorne said.

Ward councillor and former Lord Mayor Cllr Janet Looker added: "I know and appreciate the many frustrations, and risks, so many of us deal with on a regular basis when trying to cross this junction - pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles often struggle. I therefore welcome the work that has been led by the Civic Trust to come up with some new ideas."

Fellow ward councillor Denise Craghill said: "This has been an excellent example of co-production, working with local people to produce design proposals. These proposals give an inspiring view of what could be possible to improve this junction and the surrounding area for all users whilst also improving air quality and the setting of the historic Bootham Bar."

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