YORK has pipped London, Birmingham, Manchester and Las Vegas on a table of the top hen and stag party destinations this weekend.

According to figures from stag and hen weekend firm, Last Night of Freedom, this weekend (July 15) York will be the ninth most visited hen party destination behind in a list topped by Liverpool, Newcastle and Brighton.

The data shows that 69 groups are set to land – with hens outnumbering stags 62 to 7.

In May, York’s Labour MP Rachael Maskell claimed the city needed to move away from stags and hens to benefit locals.

But Last Night of Freedom managing director, Matt Mavir, claims that would ‘spite’ the city, robbing several key industries of much-needed revenue as rising bills continue to cripple firms.

“York is a fun, friendly and welcoming city, so any suggestion of closing it off to anybody – including stags and hens – seems ludicrous,” he said.

“The stag and hen industry is a real lifeblood for York, directly and indirectly creating jobs and bringing money into the city.”

And figures supplied by the firm show bookings to York have soared dramatically compared to the pre-pandemic period, with the number of trips organised by the company up by over 60% so far this year compared to 2019.

York Press: Last Night of Freedom managing director, Matt MavirLast Night of Freedom managing director, Matt Mavir

Mr Mavir said: “When you consider the size of some of those groups, that’s some serious spending – we will likely be talking tens of thousands of pounds pouring into the local economy each weekend.

“York’s hotels – as well as the hospitality and leisure industries – benefit big time from this, so any discussion of somehow curbing the stag or hen market in York seems not only counter-productive, but also spiteful to those working in those industries.

“And for centuries York had Romans and Vikings marauding through the streets. The idea that a bride and her friends are causing chaos by enjoying a few cocktails seems totally over the top.”

Responding to the comments Ms Maskell hit out at City of York Council's approach to the industry.

She said: “York needs to determine who it is for.

"Failures of the local authority to develop York into a family friendly city, accessible for children and families as well as disabled people and the elderly, has fuelled a party culture which simply drives local families away from their city.

"I want York to be returned to the people of our city so that they can determine what their city centre should be like.

"Rather than encouraging more and more party venues, York’s LibDem/Green Council need to get a grip of what is happening, not least as this is also harming our neighbourhoods with so many short term holiday lets replacing homes for residents; this is having a significant detrimental effect on our communities.”

York Press: City of York Council's Denise Craghill, Executive Member for Housing and Safer CommunitiesCity of York Council's Denise Craghill, Executive Member for Housing and Safer Communities

City of York Council's Denise Craghill, Executive Member for Housing and Safer Communities said the council is working hard to try and strike the right balance.

She said: "I am very aware that some residents are very concerned about this and related issues particularly in the more central areas of the city where hen and stag parties tend to stay in short term holiday lets and where a small but growing number of properties have become large ‘party houses’ which are having very negative impacts on surrounding residents.

"I have asked officers to bring forward an initial paper on short-term holiday lets to a cross party scrutiny committee of councillors to help us come to a shared view on what actions we can and cannot take within current national legislation. I support our MP’s efforts to bring forward proposals for more national controls on large short-term holiday lets and am happy to work with her on that."

Cllr Craghill said that in the meantime, the council's planning enforcement officers have a caseload of ‘party houses’ which they are pursuing as potentially representing ‘material change of use’, but under current legislation they do have to do this on a case by case basis.

She said: "I would urge residents who have concerns about particular large properties where visitors are disturbing neighbourhoods to report them to planning enforcement for assessment.

"I do think it is important to add however, that not all hen parties are badly behaved and not all hen parties choosing our city for their celebration stay in residential properties – many are well behaved and many also stay in hotels, do not cause any disturbance and are an important part of our visitor economy. We should also note that the emphasis on hen parties rather than stags in some ways reflects well on our city in terms of women’s safety and a perception that York is a safe place for a group of women to come for a special night out. It’s important to say that York welcomes all visitors who are well behaved and respectful of York residents.

"In terms of the age profile of visitors to York city centre data presented to me via Make It York confirms that the largest number of visitors to York are in the older age group. The younger 16 – 24 age group is relatively low. “My City Centre” has been an extensive consultation process involving York residents in creating a plan for the future of the city centre. This puts residents at the heart of the plan and a report on this will be going to the council’s Executive on July 28.”

City of York Council's Corporate Director of Place, Neil Ferris, said: “We want everyone, whether they are visiting or living in York, to be able to enjoy the best York has to offer, including a welcoming and safe city. It is clearly not acceptable for people’s lives to be negatively impacted by alcohol-related crime or nuisance. Hospitality and tourism is a very significant employment sector in York, with over 20,000 people working in that area. We have worked hard with these businesses and organisations to help them recover from the impacts of the pandemic and continue to provide excellent customer service to the millions of visitors that come to our city every year.

“York has recently been awarded the prestigious Purple Flag Award for our evening and night-time economy, but it is very important that we continue to address the challenges we face both within the walls and in communities around the city centre. The award recognises our multi-agency approach to tackling alcohol-related anti-social behaviour, and is in addition to the council investing more than £1.6 million in drugs and alcohol rehabilitation schemes.

“With respect to street drinking and alcohol related intimidating behaviour we also recently renewed measures to help protect the city centre, and give police and council officers the powers to confiscate alcohol from people engaging in anti-social behaviour.  The orders were introduced to actively address anti-social activity such as street drinking and have taken into account feedback from residents and businesses along with police data."