All four of our initial challenges are now closed for ideas however we still need your help. Welcome to our honorary 'fifth challenge'! Open until Friday 30th March.

York has an opportunity to take stock and look to build on the strengths of it’s city centre as a major economic asset. 

One resource that has been identified to start to focus this, a fund of £100k to create transformational change, starting with one city street, through the Portas ‘Town Team’ scheme.

High streets all over the UK are facing challenges with regard to changes in retail trends that will force an evolution of their services and the purpose of this challenge is to think positively about how we can act as a city to not only maintain, but actually promote the role of the city centre for the future.

The Council is already working with partners to bring together a city centre action and investment plan that will join up current initiatives – ‘Reinvigorate’, the ‘Core Strategy Action Plan’, the area-based initiatives like ‘Micklegate and Minster Quarter groups’ – and build on these to develop a clear and proactive plan for acting to support and promote the city centre.

Attached (see below) is a slideshow which provides some background information on the changes the City Centre has faced over the last few years.

But we also need your ideas and help!

The Challenges:

  • The spread of supermarkets offering needs-based services, like doctors and opticians often drive business away from the smaller city centre practitioners.
  • We need to understand what a good deal is for consumers, thinking wider than price towards wellbeing and long-term sustainability.
  • The cost of business rates for small or new businesses is currently high.
  • Lack of and expense of parking in town and city centres can cause additional problems for city centre businesses.
  • Owners of city centre property ‘sitting on’ their assets or leaving them empty rather than actively taking part in the city centre community.
  • High streets and town centres need to offer a mix, not just shopping – an experience.
  • Bridging the gap between the high street, the bricks and mortar and the online world.

So this challenge is to explore:

How can we positively address some of the current and future issues to ensure our city centre is a vibrant, lively and enjoyable place to be with all the services that it needs to have?

How can we reduce the current issues causing the city centre difficulties in terms of encouraging smaller and start up businesses, understanding what people need now and in the future and responding to a changing world?

How can we pilot some of your solutions, starting with one street (please suggest the street you have in mind), with a view to rolling out if successful?

Please do think outside the box!! All ideas welcome.

PLEASE NOTE: Although we are using the GeniUS! web platform to generate discussion and ideas, these will not be subject to same selection process as ideas under our four previous challenges.These ideas may or may not be used within a Pilot Scheme.

You need to be a member of GeniUS! York to add comments!

Join GeniUS! York

Email me when people reply –


  • The Esplanade in front of Museum gardens offers a great location for 'bring your own stall', e.g. book sellers, artists, second-hand goods, foodies, crafts, designer products, more cafe barges, etc. to sell their products/produce. Should operate either on a first come first serve basis or rotating basis so that anyone who's interested and legit can get a look in. Newgate market and food festival and farmers market and St.Nicholas fair all very good, but it's the same stall holders every time. The Esplanade could present a car boot sale/festival style approach for entrepreneurs whom never get a look in in the centre of York otherwise.

    • Sounds a great idea.. perhaps a Sunday morning market in the summer months, with Quayside cafe and acoustic buskers? It would be a good opening for new traders before venturing into a regular market stall or Shambles' premises that require some confidence in the market for their business idea.

  • Dear all

    Just a quick update to say thank you to everyone for submitting your ideas, which have helped shape our bid to the Portas programme that has gone in today on behalf of the city of York.  However, the work does not stop here, and the Portas bid is only one project - we are keen to look at all of the ideas put forward - from the many pop-up ideas to the problems raised with regard to the challenges facing small and start-up businesses finding space in the city.

    To view the Portas video pitch for York that went in this afternoon, please see the following link:

    Otherwise, please keep those ideas coming as we would like to continue to keep the dialogue going with the business and wider community on the issues and opportunities for the city centre from YOUR perspective...

  • Start with Newgate Market.  Some great recommendations have been put forward previously here:- 

    There was only a failure to aply any budget to undertake these excellent suggestions which would reinvigorate Newgate Market, create new elements of public art, draw customers into the market, encourage entrepreneurs to start up retail enterprises.  It's all here and didn't require this ridiculous website to re-present it!

  • At a recent meeting about the city centre accessibility framework one resident commented on the dramatic reduction in traffic that resulted from Gillygate being closed for resurfacing. Linking this fact to the proposal in this framework for Ouse and Lendal Bridges to be designated routes for public transport and essential service vehicles only between 7am and 7pm, I suggest its about time York had a trial closure of through traffic on Gillygate. A 3 month initial period Jan - March would be long enough, using temporary planters and road signs to create a one way street with loading bays, cycle parking and passing places to allow emergency ambulances etc to continue to pass in either direction if needed. Once that was achieved and the alternative routes observed more priority could be given for public transport on key routes across the city centre. This is not so bad as it may sound for city centre businesses - look at the level of business on Coney St now, and think about the increased ease for disabled people and deliveries if the pavement is not blocked by lorries trying to keep the road clear for traffic. When the road was closed, cafes did more business as people could easily pop across the road to reach them and noise was (mostly, except for the diggers!) reduced.

  • Create A Car Free Area in York City Centre
    York City centre is a popular tourist attraction and CYC is actively promoting tourism in York. Part of the City Beautiful initiative aims at promoting tourism and encouraging business, especially retail, in the city centre, which will attract both tourists and York residents alike.
    The city centre already throngs with pedestrians at busy times, yet there is in practice no de-confliction of pedestrians and motor cars in the city centre area, especially in the area between Parliament and Museum St. Because the area is full of businesses, deliveries need to take place, but these can be regulated, say before 10am and after 5.30pm. At present, despite some signs indicating “no motor vehicles”, the area is full of parked cars, many of which appear to stay there for most of the working day. There does not appear to be any enforcement of the ban on cars.
    If the desire to promote tourism and retail activity in the centre of York is more than just rhetoric, some positive steps need to be taken. Creating a truly car free zone in York centre would be one such. It would have immediate impact, be positively received by all pedestrians and cyclists as well, have great promotional potential and could be part of CYC’s contribution towards a more sustainable and more beautiful city. My suggested street to use as a pilot would either Daveygate or Parliament St.
    Chris Chambers

    • Good afternoon Chris.

      In answer to your points above. The City Centre is regulated between the hours of 10.30/11.00am to 4.00/4.30pm whereby the streets are pedestrianised. During which access only is restrcited to "permit holders" only. Most of these are Blue/Green Badge holders (disabled drivers who require to park closer to the City Centre than say the car parks). There is a time limit on these parking for 3 hours max. However when they pull away leaving a space another will back fill hence looking like a vehcile is parked there all day...Unfortunatly only a few streets are car-free (Parliament Street is one after 11.00 and before 4.00/4.30). The City of York Council employ an Enforcement Officer who patrols the streets (similar to a Traffic warden but they dont like to be called that). The street/areas you mentioned are designated disabled parking areas. In promoting the city as a retail destination we of course have to accommadate all shoppers able and not so able bodied.

      I would agree a truly car free approach would be a safer shopping street and as part of the current Pedestrianisation Review this is a key consideration and we may find more and more areas become car free.

      Hope this answers your comments.

      Darren Lovatt


      • Darren,

        How can the area be pedestrianised if it is full of cars!  It doesn't matter who drives the cars, its their very presence, intermingling with crowds of pedestrians, that creates a potential hazard.  If as you say 'we have to accomodate all shoppers', then let parking be free for all.  We either have a pedestrian area, free of cars, or we don't, not some sort of surreal pretence where 'ordinary' cars are a potential hazard but blue badge holders aren't. It's totally illogical!


        • HI Chris

          There are certain streets that are 100% pedestrianised (controlled by bollards) if you are aware of the York Streets  - Parliament Street, Coney Street, Market Street, Feasegate, Spurriergate, Ousegates for example. However there are streets that are classed as "permit holders" only - the areas where you mentioned vehiciles parked up...

          I fully agree with your comments of the potential hazards, the access only streets do minimise vehicles drastically - the powers that be (Traffic officers/Councillors possibly) see this as a benefit to the city centre. The bollarded streets minimise vehicle movement to almost zero. As mentioned earlier this is all under review hopefully to the better whereby we have none all day our visitor numbers ever increase (last year a rise from 3million to 7million last count) then something has to give to make it a safe environment the deletion of vehicile movement is one such consideration


          Darren Lovatt (Senior Markets officer in case you were wondering my position)

          • I would support this. Also if we could review movement on Parliament, perhaps to allow two way movement for deliveries, with loading bays (outside footstreet hours) we could then close off a part of Coney St to ALL traffic - most deliveries now use a trolley cage or sack barrow that could be used to get the goods the last 50 yards from the nearest point rather than having big trucks mixing with pedestrians in this busy street up to 11am in the morning. Certainly would be better at night to cut off Coney St to through traffic so that remove taxis and boy racers from using this route.

This reply was deleted.

What is GeniUS York?

This website is for anyone and everyone to share ideas on how we can tackle the challenges that York and its inhabitants face. We want to encourage and develop new and imaginative ways for the city to meet some of its key challenges.