Fossgate traffic ban under review after traders say it could ‘bring down businesses’

Closed to traffic: Fossgate. Photographs: Chloe Laversuch

The temporary closure of Fossgate to traffic is under review after businesses and residents raised concerns about the sudden decision to ban vehicles between 10.30am and 8pm daily.

One business owner said the closure at the bottom of the street led him to use a wheelchair to push customers with mobility issues to and from his salon, on one side of Foss Bridge, and their cars, behind the temporary barrier on the other side of the bridge at Merchantgate.

City of York Council announced on July 6 that Fossgate would shut to traffic under temporary coronavirus rules – to make more space for social distancing and pavement cafes.

A barrier was put up at the junction with Merchantgate near Loch Fyne. But some traders said the move has caused them difficulties with deliveries, collections and access for customers.

No consultation

Mamselle on Fossgate. Photograph © Google Street View

Ken Heald, who has run Mamselles salon on the street for about 50 years, said the closure happened quickly without local councillors being informed and that it had an impact on business.

He said the salon has survived two floods, the miners’ strike and the virus – but warned road closure decisions could “bring down businesses within weeks”.

He called for the council to speak to businesses before taking decisions, adding: “When they put the barriers up they didn’t explain it – so my customers just saw the barrier, turned around and left.

“I have been wheeling our customers over the bridge to their taxi on the other side of the barrier. We didn’t even have time to tell our customers this was happening.”

Guildhall councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick says businesses want the barrier to be moved to outside the Hairy Fig and Mamselles.

She said: “Whilst recognising that less cars in the city centre is a good thing and that pedestrianisation of certain streets brings benefits to the hospitality traders, who are desperate to get back to business in a safe and distanced way by utilising pavement space; these measures need to be carefully thought through.”

Alternative options

Open for business

The council will review the situation.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne, executive member for transport, said: “We have continued to review the responses received from businesses and residents on Fossgate and the surrounding area affected by the temporary traffic regulation order.

“In response to this feedback, a number of temporary amendments were introduced, whilst consultation is undertaken on alternative options available.”

“We want to introduce a longer term workable solution which involves consulting with businesses and traders on Fossgate.

“During the temporary measures, vehicle access to Fossgate will remain restricted to ensure a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists, and facilitate the use of the footway.

“This is through a ‘no motorised vehicles, except for access’ restriction between 10.30am and 8pm seven days a week. There is also a loading ban in place for most of the street.

“There will however, be two dedicated loading bays between 27 Fossgate and Merchantgate, to be used for deliveries and taxi collection/drop offs, which will support those with mobility issues accessing the street.

“Access is also permitted to the yards and private parking areas off Fossgate, including for the purposes of deliveries and access for residents and businesses.

“The access point at the junction of Walmgate and Merchangate will continue to be staffed during footstreet hours restricting unauthorised vehicle access, mainly through traffic.

“Vehicle usage of Fossgate should still be restricted sufficiently to allow safe pedestrian and cycle movement as well as facilitate businesses utilising the footway adjacent to their premises as pavement cafes (subject to securing the necessary approval).

“These changes have been implemented through an emergency change to the Temporary traffic regulation order and came into effect on July 25 2020. This is an interim solution whilst further consultation work can be carried out with the businesses and residents on Fossgate and the surrounding area who are effected by the changes.”