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Shambles on the Shambles

If we can't save our cobbles, perhaps we should learn a lesson about town planning and pay more attention to future schemes put forward by the council.

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Removing the cobbles as part of the Council's Kings Square improvements comes with a hefty price tag. Much furore has been raised over the City of York Council's diabolical plans to revamp the King's Square public space, namely the ripping up of the historic cobbles leading up to York's most-treasured street, The Shambles.

But unless "historic" means 1970s, there's not much heritage to be found in these stones - certainly nothing medieval.
With that, on top of the confusion in thinking The Shambles itself was in danger of being re-paved, it seems most of the anger that has been vented recently is based on misinformation and instant reaction.

Even so, there are several reasons why the council's plans shouldn't go through. For one, those cobbles are pretty authentic, fitting into that whimsical, Hogwarts-esque allure which made many a student or tourist choose to come to York. Our city is loved for its quaint streets and picturesque alleyways; adding splashes of grey concrete would take something away from this image.

However, it's the £490,000 price tag attached to the council's proposals that's the real kicker. The council's recent financial forecast for 2013/14 warns of multimillion pound overspend, and at a time of national austerity, should these "improvements" really be something of the council's considerations?
The council sees their investments in King's Square, which are a part of their £3.3 million Reinvigorate York scheme, as necessary to improve pedestrian access. York's residents disagree.

Wheelchair user, Michelle Wyatt has started a petition against the refurbishment, arguing that she has been travelling between the Shambles and King's Square over the past 17 years with sufficient access: "You simply followed the paving path next to the cobbles... This area doesn't need new paving stones - just the current stones adjusting with a spirit level.

"The reason it doesn't need reinvigorating is that the tourists come to see the cobbles, the history. They are killing our source of strength not invigorating us." Wyatt's comments herald common sense; while change shouldn't be resisted for the sake of change, one of the council's top priorities should be to preserve the charm that makes York such a popular tourist destination in the first place. Investments that contradict this goal are poor ones.

Plus, modern paving is the ultimate embodiment of blandness when it comes to town planning. As Wyatt mentions, councils are under pressure to keep health and safety up to scratch, but there's a certain irony to be found in calling such a scheme "Reinvigorate York" when the city's being reduced to look like any other.
Unfortunately Wyatt's efforts may not amount to anything; the consultation period passed long ago, before the scheme was agreed. If we can't save our cobbles, perhaps we should learn a lesson about town planning and pay more attention to future schemes put forward by the council. Hopefully further developments in the Reinvigorate York initiative won't be met with as much distaste.

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