THE new Lord Mayor of York plans to help fuse York's proud past with its future potential to find a new direction for the city.

Charles Hall said that rapid changes in York, particularly in its business and industry sectors, meant a forward thinking view was needed.

He hailed the Without Walls project, a project which sees York's most influential community groups meet to discuss a vision of the city in 20 years time, as hugely important to the future.

Coun Hall said: "York is undergoing a complete change, it is a new era. I recognise there needs to be change in York and perhaps, in this apolitical position, I can act as a catalyst for that change, bringing disparate groups together.

"York no longer has its links to the railway industry, there have been changes to the confectionery and tourism industries, but other areas are gaining in prominence, such as science.

"We can maintain York's famous historic traditions while finding a new route for the 21st century."

Coun Hall said his roots were in the voluntary sector, roots he planned to use to bring the various groups and organisations together, including voluntary groups.

A former member of the Liberal Democrat shadow executive, he admitted to some disappointment he would not now become the city council's education chief.

He was confident in his ability to remain politically neutral in the Lord Mayor's role.

Coun Hall said: "This is an exciting time for Liberal Democrats in York, it would be wonderful to be involved.

"But I chose to accept the nomination to be Lord Mayor, that is my responsibility and one that I am honoured to have. This role dates back hundreds of years, you realise that you will have quite an impact and could leave a legacy.

"The civic tradition here has always impressed me. I am really looking forward to being part of it."

The Haxby and Wigginton councillor joined City of York Council after the 1996 local government reorganisation brought the two communities into York from Ryedale District Council's jurisdiction.

He was the first ever Liberal to serve on the Ryedale authority, and had a spell as council chairman in 1995 to 1996.

The Lady Mayoress for 2003 to 2004 will be Coun Hall's wife, Janice.

Updated: 09:22 Wednesday, May 21, 2003