1971 ring road plans (again)

3 August 2011

Forty years ago today our city council voted in favour of the first two stages of a new inner ring road. The local paper announced the ‘convincing’ 31-14 vote in favour in its 3 August 1971 edition.

As I’ve just been reorganising my pages on the inner ring road plans, I’ve got in front of me a photocopy of that front page. In those days the local paper, which cost 3p, was produced in broadsheet size, and in 1971 it was called the Yorkshire Evening Press. A ‘Late Extra’ was necessary for breaking news, in the days before the internet.

The front page headline declared ‘Ring road green light – now to sort out traffic’, and included an illustration of the proposed route. This was obviously an exciting development, one which looks totally bonkers now.

At the top of the paper’s front page are adverts – for EvaPrest trousers (£3.75) from Edmund Jackson, in Davygate; and typewriters from Ben Johnson & Co, on Micklegate.

Ring road plans, 1971. View in a larger map

There’s a tendency to feel nostalgic about the era of typewriters and Evaprest trousers, and the big old Evening Press that cost 3p. But the 60s and 70s also saw the destruction of many historic buildings, and in many cases their replacement with buildings most of us still find hideous, mainly made of concrete.

Perhaps one of the most suprising things about the 1970s ring road plans is that apparently there were only 208 objections. Not many, considering the vast implications, and the proposed destruction of so many properties, homes and businesses.

Apparently, according to Councillor Douglas Craig (yes, that one), much of the protest was ‘by people from or on the fringe of the university‘.) Now, forty years on, when there’s a really crap plan put forward, thousands of people can more easily raise their voices in protest. Whether it’s a local issue, or something on a bigger scale. I guess that’s something to remember, and be thankful for.


  1. I was involved and would like to add some things to this stream,

    Mike Smith

  2. Sam Rowntree

    I remember how angry and worried my parents were when the proposed York inner ring road was announced. Not only did they see a devastating future for their beloved York but also the loss of their beautiful Georgian house on the Mount.

    Having attended many infuriating council meetings my parents, along with other members of the Inner Ring Road protest group York 2000, were ready to ruffle some feathers.

    Upon hearing that the Queen and Prince Philip were due to travel along the Mount on their next visit to York, people began to wonder if this might be a good opportunity to cause a bit of a rumpus.
    My father, who was not prone to placard waving or noisy protesting, came up with a subtle plan.

    Knowing that Prince Philip was a nautical man he had the idea of spelling out the words ‘SAVE YORK’ in international maritime signal flags and hang them from the house. It was a great idea because it looked like welcoming bunting to us landlubbers but actually had striking message to a seafarer like Prince Philip.

    My father and I had a very memorable visit to Hull to get the flags made. I remember climbing some very rickety old stairs and entered a long, low-ceilinged loft in the roof of a what seemed like a derelict building. Down both sides and tucked right into the eaves were two rows of huge black industrial Singer sewing machines and each one had a blue-rinsed, pinni-clad operator sat buzzing away at high speed.

    My father handed over his order of letters (jumbled up so as not to give the game away) and asked when they’d be ready to pick up. “Come back in an hour.” was the reply. The lady laughed when she saw the surprised look on my dad’s face. I think we thought we’d be coming back in a week or two to pick them up. But the lady pointed out that occasionally they might have to do a full set of flags for a ship before the next high tide.

    Anyway, the day of the royal visit came and the Queen and Prince Philip passed along the Mount in an open horse-drawn carriage. Prince Philip did look briefly at the flags but I doubt he had time to work out what they spelt.

    Each flag indicates both a letter of the alphabet and also a meaning so he may have got stuck on the first flag ’S’ which also means, ‘I’m operating astern propulsion.’ The story of the flags appeared in the Evening Press at the time, so the protest group York 2000 got a bit of useful publicity and they give me a smile each time I trip over them as they now live in a bag in my garage.

    Thankfully York Council did a bit of astern propulsion and the Inner Ring Road plan was dropped.

  3. Nigel Lowey

    “Perhaps one of the most surprising things about the 1970s ring road plans is that apparently there were only 208 objections.”

    Actually, there were 205 …plus three petitions with a total 14,798 signatures – which included 10,642 adult York residents: 13.5% of the then York electorate.

    Planning officers are allowed to count a petition as a single objection. If you’re ever asked to sign a similar petition, tell them that they’ll have more impact by getting signatories to write even short unique letters individually to the Planners.

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