YORK residents have the city's history in their hands.

That was the message from council leader Steve Galloway as he spoke at the official launch of the Without Walls community strategy.

The ambitious masterplan will plot the city's future for the next 20 years against a series of improvement targets in key areas like crime, housing, education, health and the environment.

As reported in later editions of yesterday's Evening Press, Coun Galloway said York residents boasted an "amazing, single-minded determination to succeed".

Hailing Without Walls at the City Screen launch yesterday, he said the success of York Pride would pave the way for the pioneering community project to reach its goals.

He told an audience of more than 100 dignitaries and guests: "York has always been a city making history. But that history is now in your hands."

Coun Galloway said he hoped "tangible and significant" progress would be made on the first masterplan by next year, with the whole community moving the city forward on a broad front.

Yesterday's event saw the launch of the Without Walls policy document - published after lengthy consultation - and an accompanying film.

This starred city residents speaking on hot topics like schools, hospitals and how they wanted the city to look by 2024.

The premiere also heard how the York@Large cultural partnership wanted to transform York into a "world-class city of festivals" - cementing its position on the world tourist map and setting the city head-to-head with Edinburgh and Bath.

The plans come as part of the cultural vision of the multi-agency Without Walls project.

Liz Page, managing director of York & County Press and chairwoman of York@Large, said the aim of the partnership was to launch the City of Festivals next year.

This will coincide with high-profile events like Royal Ascot and the 60th Anniversary of VE Day, adding to successful music, comedy and food and drink festivals the city already boasts.

Mrs Page said: "York@ Large aims to expand the existing festival programme so that all year round there is something going on - a reason for residents to get out and about and a reason for tourists to visit."

She said it would be "wonderful" if York could host a major fireworks display to mark the 400th anniversary of the gunpowder plot.

However, Mrs Page said challenges ahead included the availability of high-profile venues and high licensing costs. None of these hurdles was insurmountable.

Updated: 08:52 Friday, July 16, 2004