The recent history of King’s Square

King’s Square is now the focus of much attention. I’m very pleased about this.

We love it, but perhaps we took it for granted and overlooked its particular and unique charms, until recently.

I’ve been following news about King’s Square, and writing about it every now and then, since last summer, and thought it would be useful to collect together all the information on one page.


Overview: ‘Reinvigorate York’

The changes planned for King’s Square and other parts of the city are part of ‘Reinvigorate York’ (summary here) (City of York Council). It’s essentially a modernisation programme. York is viewed as in competition with other cities, and a critical eye has been cast over its ‘clutter’.

Funding for Reinvigorate York was agreed in September 2012. More information on CoYC site

Recent history: cafe tables row (2012)

Last summer the visitor attraction Chocolate Story put in a planning application for cafe seating in King’s Square. This was strongly opposed.


The application for cafe seating was withdrawn by Chocolate Story before it was due to be decided.

This appeared to be in light of newly-revealed plans to remodel the entire square. As reported by the Press. (It wasn’t just a ‘backlash by buskers’, there were around 80 objections formally lodged, from a cross-section of the community. The comments underneath the article are also interesting.)

Recent history: consultation (2013)

In February 2013 City of York council held a consultation on the proposed changes to King’s Square. One of the questions was about whether we were in favour of cafe tables in the square (see above). The information was widely available and comments could be made in a variety of ways. Just under 200 people sent in comments.

Report to Cabinet (PDF) — important document describing reasons for proposed work, consultation process, etc

After the consultation, council voted to approve the scheme, in a meeting in April 2013.
Information on 2 April meeting and background documents (City of York Council) See item 115 on page. And decision, etc (CoYC)

Information on the planned changes to King’s Square (CoYC)


What we’re losing: paving

The entire area of King’s Square and the nearby tarmac roads is to be resurfaced, to make it more obviously a pedestrian-focussed area, so not so much space is taken up by road. But it has been decided that it’s not possible to extend the existing surfaces: it all needs to be replaced. According to the council, this repaving has to include removal of the curved line of cart tracks (the large rectangular blocks) with the setts (aka cobbles) between.
More on the paving (cart tracks and setts), 3 Jun 2013

What we’re losing: a tree

The ‘reinvigoration’ also involves the removal of one of the trees. This is the tree nearest to the phone boxes in the corner near Tulliver’s. It was planted as a commemorative tree (in 2001) and is healthy. It is planted in a raised brick planter with a railing around. It has been decided this is ‘aesthetically displeasing’. It appears it’s not possible to move it so it will be cut down in the early spring.
More on the mulberry tree, 22 May 2013
[Update: the plans have been changed and the tree is to be retained.]

What we’re losing: commemorative benches

There are two commemorative benches in the square, with plaques. One remembering a person (dating from 2007 or soon after) and one remembering a record shop (dating from 1970). The benches are to be replaced with benches of a standard design. There’s no plan to keep the plaques. The council seemed unaware of the existence of one of them. Which says a lot.
More on the commemorative benches in the square, 18 Jun 2013
[Update: the bench in memory of Paul Woosey has been retained.]

Earlier pages on King’s Square

The commemorative bench apparently forgotten about, 23 Sept 2013

Paving becomes a national concern, 20 Sept 2013

The lost church of King’s Square, 6 Sept 2013

King’s Square remembered and captured – York Street Band (1970s/80s), and 2012 time lapse film of square, 21 Jun 2013

Commemorative benches in the square, 18 Jun 2013

Appreciating the paving, 3 Jun 2013

On the mulberry tree, 22 May 2013

Consultation, 6 Feb 2013

Update on planning application and wondering why … 13 Aug 2012

Notes on the square’s grave slabs and church, 1 Aug 2012

This land is our land?, response to the planning application for cafe tables, 1 Aug 2012

And more about the many sets of cart tracks and setts in the city

Even older (2011): reaction to the New City Beautiful report (see below)

Other documents of interest

City of York Streetscape Strategy and Guidance Consultation Draft (May 2013) (City of York Council) gives an indication of how much work has been done on analysing our city’s streets, protecting their historic features and planning for future work. Recommended, an interesting read. Several PDFs including two main reports.

It’s also important to note that the ‘Reinvigorate’ programme was inspired by the York: New City Beautiful report/vision.
More on New City Beautiful (CoYC) It was intended ‘to help York to step up its game’.

Recent media coverage

The Mail online ran an article which resulted in widespread confusion. I’m not linking to that again. Previously discussed here

See also:
King’s Square: ‘This modernisation didn’t need doing’, by Michelle Wyatt, in York Mix
Petition launched over King’s Square cobbles in The Press. With quotes from this website. Which is nice.


The above is intended to be factual and useful. Please pass on the link. If you think I’ve missed anything or if you think any of the above is factually incorrect, please add a comment or use the contact link to email me.

I tried to be open-minded on the proposed changes. My considered opinion now is that I think they’re a total disaster, a shameful waste of money, and a complete erasing of the character and personality of the place. Encapsulated by that small plaque to Paul Woosey, which ‘Reinvigorate York’ wasn’t even aware of. (Note/update, Oct 2014: many aspects of the original plans have been changed, so it ended up being not a ‘disaster’ (in my opinion). Please see this more recent page for thoughts on the square in October 2014.)

When ‘Reinvigorate York’ has turned this square into a bland featureless any-city type place it’s moving on elsewhere to do similar in other parts of York, so look out for that.


Several updates were added to the text above in October 2014, to reflect the fact that the plans changed. For more information, and other recent news, see all pages on King’s Square.

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories
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