The debate by councillors in response to Michelle Wyatt’s petition. (The embedded video above is set up to begin at the relevant point. If it doesn’t work, try this link instead, King’s Square discussion begins at 24 mins 30.)
We’ve read so much, in online comments, about what the public think to the changes in King’s Square. The controversial repaving was even featured in the Daily Mail. I wrote about it at the time. I’ve written about it a lot.
Interesting to hear what our elected representatives think of it.
Quotes and notes below, for anyone who hasn’t time to watch the whole thing. Mainly comments I found most interesting. Yes, it is biased. I’m allowed to be, it’s my website. Add a comment to redress this if you wish.
Cllr Merrett (Cabinet Member for Transport, Planning & Sustainability) (Labour)
(at 24 mins 35)
Outlining the works that have taken place. Said there had been consultation, and that there were only ‘a handful’ of concerns/objections raised on the possible removal of the cart tracks and setts. I just want to remind everyone that one of that ‘handful’ was English Heritage. So if the council improvement projects ignore their wise advice, then I doubt they’ll take much notice of us. But still. The point has been made. And many of the comments below show that it has been noted.
Cllr Watt (Conservative)
(at 29 mins 25)
‘Initial impression was that the new works looked very smart indeed’
but … ‘I looked at the cart track bit in front of the chocolate museum and I thought the patterns there did look rather tacky and perhaps inappropriate.’
Mention of the ‘heritage brigade’ (who are they? I’m in no ‘brigade’). Discusses ideas of authenticity/appropriateness regarding heritage.
Recognises that 2,000 residents objected on the petition, and ‘I would call upon you to respect the historic vernacular of the centre of York’
Cllr D’Agorne (Green)
(at 32 mins 33)
The 1970s remodelling it was ‘probably an exemplar scheme of its time’.
Reminds us of the city’s historic importance and how much it is valued by visitors: ‘…we are the custodians of that heritage’.
Makes important point regarding the artists impressions and small scale plans put out for consultation – they ‘..don’t get over the message that when you say you’re using heritage materials that’s not the same as retaining the heritage setts or stones or whatever is there at the present’
Cllr Semleyn (Labour)
(at 36 mins 38)
Congratulates petitioner on getting so many signatures.
There was a consultation. In the future consultations could make it clearer: more diagrams, models etc.
Thinks Reinvigorate York programme is important, to improve ‘visitor experience’ & city centre in general. Need to ‘keep York very vibrant’. ‘On lots of levels Kings Square is better’ ‘I personally like it.’ But council could have been better at showing options.
Cllr Reid (Lib Dem)
(at 39 mins 13)
Reiterates the view previously expressed that it would be a waste of money.
‘In my view it now looks bland and bleak’. Looking very dirty already and will need regular pressure washing to keep it clean.
Square does need to have an even surface but ‘also needs to reflect the essence of York’ & not be a ‘this could be anywhere square’
‘we remain of the view that this was an unnecessary spending on a vanity project’
Cllr Boyce (Labour)
(at 41 mins 55)
Difficult to see what could be considered a traditional surface. Shows photos of square at different times, with different surfacing. ‘Now, most of us want a traffic-free city centre’ and thinks smooth surface more appropriate for that, and for the future.
Cllr Healey (Conservative)
(at 43 mins 58)
‘People – when they come to York – no one has ever said to me, ‘That square really needs half a million pounds spent on it to make it look like a shopping plaza.’ Instead say city is untidy, dirty in places.
‘All King’s Square needed was fifty grand spending on it, cleaning it up, giving it a spring clean and resetting some of the flagstones.’
‘You’ve spent half a million pounds, and the debt on that, the interest, is £45,000 a year for 25 years.’
Opinion on the result: ‘it could be anywhere’
In times of austerity and cuts, ‘half a million pounds on that square is a waste of money’
And (many Labour voters may have cheered at this point): ‘Labour back benches here – get a handle on your cabinet. They just seem to be running off’
Regarding the wider Reinvigorate York programme, another six schemes: ‘if they’re as unsuccessful as this you’re going to have blown three million pounds’
Cllr Alexander (Leader) (Labour)
(at 46 mins 30)
Welcomes petition, it shows how much people care.
Suggests that ‘you can’t reset worn stone’. Talks about paving elsewhere being ‘done on the cheap’, eg Coney St, causes problems (so, we wondered, why didn’t you spend the money on Coney St instead?)
‘we’re investing in the city centre’ and ‘no one really has in the last twenty years’
The ‘Revenue impact’ will be ‘£45,000 per year’. (Perhaps someone can translate what ‘revenue impact’ really means.) (See comment below, and Cllr Healey, above)
Jokes that Daily Mail is ‘really not a reputable paper’.
Cllr Horton (Labour)
(at 49 mins 20)
Welcomes petition as a basis for discussion. Urges ‘wait until you see the finished product’
‘I know that the responses from the businesses in the square has been positive. The chocolate factory, and one well-known hardware store… I know the managers there are quite happy’
(yes, he did say chocolate factory, slip of the tongue, he meant the chocolate related visitor attraction)
Cllr Warters (Independent)
(at 52 mins 11) (wrongly captioned as Cllr Horton)
It’s a ‘very very sorry state of affairs’. Should have been spent on residential streets. Instead, money ‘Wasted. You’ve ruined it. Simple as.’
Obtained figures on number of people who have tripped on King’s Square paving. Ten minor accidents in ten years. None involved compensation claims. Says it will be interesting to see how many there are as a result of the ‘skating rink’ created by the new paving.
Cllr Taylor (Green)
(at 53 mins 25)
Remodelled square ‘could have been a lot worse’
‘Sadly we failed to reinvigorate the square. I think it is miserably anodyne’
But acknowledges Cllr Merrett’s comment that it’s too late as the job is done.
‘We note this petition, I hope we learn from this petition, and in the further reinvigoration projects that we do take note of what has been said.’
There are many other pages on this site on the subject of King’s Square, going back to summer 2012. The most important is probably this one, written a few months ago: A changing aesthetic.
Thanks to Michelle Wyatt for taking this debate to the council and making more people take notice.