CITY leaders have agreed to spend £3.3 million improving areas of York city centre.

The Reinvigorate York scheme will address various parts of the city, including Piccadilly and Parliament Street, King’s Square, and Fossgate, the last of which could be pedestrianised.

The scheme is based on previous initiatives in Sheffield and Durham and would also involve improvements along the route between the railway station and the city centre, Minster Piazza, Micklegate and Pavement, with the removal of much “street clutter”, including signs.

Coun Dave Merrett said the changes would be the most important for the city in more than 20 years. He said: “There’s so much more that we could make of our wonderful city, and that is what this paper is beginning to address.”

But Conservative councillor Paul Healey criticised the council’s spending priorities, suggesting more money spent on maintenance and regular cleaning could have a similar benefit.

He cited the renovation of Library Square as an improvement which had not been maintained, and said “like much of the rest of the city it looks tired and shabby”.

Coun Healey said: “Labour concentrates on funding grandiose capital projects while cutting the revenue budget needed to support these very projects on a year to year basis.

“On the one hand Labour talks about Reinvigorating York by upgrading public spaces, but at the same time it cuts road maintenance, cuts the number of waste bins, cuts street cleaning and ends up with a city more and more people, residents and visitors alike, are finding dirty and unkempt.”

Cabinet member Sonja Crisp said the major changes were overdue and would be better for the city than minor maintenance.

She said: “At the moment, York is really bucking the trends in city centre economy, but we can’t get complacent about that. We’re competing now on a national and international stage.”

Work is set to begin before next year.

Campaigner in cycling access fears

A CYCLING campaigner says he is concerned that the council plan does not guarantee bike access to Fossgate in York.

Paul Hepworth,  who is press officer for the cycling organisation CTC, said: “It makes no commitment either way, in respect of daytime access for pedal cyclists along that street.

“Fossgate provides a useful and pleasant outbound link between many cyclists’ journey origins and destinations. A compulsory detour via the heavily-trafficked Piccadilly corridor, would reduce the attractiveness of cycling as a travel choice.”

Nobody at City of York Council was available for comment.