Money off for residents – while tourists pay extra: Bold vision to ‘rebalance’ York for locals
A bold new city centre vision for York could see visitors being asked to “offset” their impact on the city by making donations – while residents are offered discounts – in a bid to rebalance the city towards being a place which puts residents first.
Visitors that support the economy and sustain shops, markets, restaurants and jobs will follow if York is the best it can be for locals, according to the My City Centre plan.
The ten-year vision has been created following extensive public engagement over the last two years, with more than 5,000 people contributing.
According to City of York Council: “The vision sets out the important role that tourism plays in the local economy, but crucially recognises that first and foremost our city centre exists to serve the needs of our residents.”
The vision centres around eight themes, including: ‘family friendly city centre’; ‘investment in public spaces’; ‘making tourism work for York’ and ‘embracing our riversides’.
It could see visitors able to make voluntary financial contributions through a ‘York Gift’ scheme, possibly through ‘tap and pay’ measures at attractions or voluntary contributions at bars and restaurants.
The funds could then be invested into providing facilities for residents or to support employees in the tourism sector.
In addition, the council will look at ways of making the city centre’s amenities and businesses more affordable for residents in comparison to visitors.
This could mean reduced transport costs, priority access to services and facilities and the “reinvigoration” of the York Card.
According to feedback, many York residents feel the city can be unwelcoming in the evening and at weekends and the My City Centre vision would look at ways of encouraging better behaviour from groups such as stag and hen parties.
Encouraging retail and cultural attractions to open in the early evening, as well as supporting the emerging cafe culture that has arisen out of the pandemic, are also part of the plan.
It also hopes to make the city centre more family friendly by creating new play spaces, improving public toilets and providing more covered and indoor spaces for all weather conditions.
The council acknowledges that the actions are aspirations at this stage, with external funding essential to deliver the full ambition.
Pop-up use of empty buildings, re-purposing historic buildings and creating a ‘living heritage’ app are among other ideas being considered.
Better facilities for the disabled are part of the vision, though related plans to ban blue badge holders from driving into the city centre have attracted significant controversy.
Andrew Waller, executive member for economy and strategic planning, said: “The final vision will now guide investment and shape development and improvement projects in York city centre for decades to come.
“Having a clear vision that has buy-in from our residents and partners will leave the council best placed to secure future government funding and private sector investment.”
The council’s executive is set to approve the plans on Thursday.