LONG-awaited plans for a new £5 million scheme to redesign Stonegate Walk, York, could at last get under way.

Oakgate Group plc is considering tenders from five contractors for replacing 23 shops on the listed site with only four stores in a scheme which includes 17 exclusive apartments on upper floors with views of the nearby York Minster.

Most of the tenants in the L-shaped glass-roofed listed area linked by alleyways from Blake Street and Stonegate have left and Stonegate Walk has been under lock and key for months.

The Wetherby-based property group which received planning consent early this year, had hoped to start the project in March, but there were legal and other delays.

Alison Stewart, Oakgate's property development manager said: "We had a number of legal issues over land title, but these have now been overcome with the Land Registry and the tendering process has begun. We also had to satisfy planning conditions.

"We hope to start the work early in the new year and the project could take between a year and 60 weeks for completion and occupation."

Hairdressers Roberta Miguel would continue to trade from Hornsby Passage, where its lease has a year to run. Next will continue to occupy its Stonegate premises and Classics, the ethnic artefacts, clothing and jewellery shop would continue to occupy Blake Street frontages.

York Against Cancer will open another Christmas shop in Blake Street next week, and York Lions will continue to run book sales next door to Classics.

"It means that all the units with street frontages will be occupied," Alison said.