Guest Blog: Outdoor Seating Plans for York City Centre

We invited Make it York and City of York Council to tell us about the outside seating that’s being introduced as part of the plans to reopen the city. Here you can find out about the ways that disabled access has been incorporated into those plans. As well as how to feedback on your thoughts and experiences, good or bad, about the public seating around the city centre.

As a forum we aim to promote discussion about topics that affect the disabled community in York. Please let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Dominic Berry, Senior health and safety event manager at Make it York and Andy Kerr, head of regeneration programmes at City of York Council tell us more:

York Minster on a sunny day

We are working with York businesses, public services and cultural organisations to prepare for a safe reopening of the city.  We want every York resident to be able to enjoy the shops and services they’ve missed so much, support local jobs and play a role in the city’s recovery.

While some rules change, the formula for keeping the transmission rate down and the places we love open remains the same.

Hands. Face. Space. Fresh air.

And that means plenty of outdoor space… 

While around 80 businesses have secured pavement café licenses, City of York Council, Make it York and York BID are working together to use York’s public spaces better. This will include adding 560 seats across the city centre, including:

Parliament Street

A covered area run in partnership with Thor’s Tipi. The seating area will offer extra space where you can take food and drink from nearby businesses. The space will be fully managed, with regular cleaning and stewards on hand to ensure social distancing is in place.  We’re putting in extra public toilets, more litter bins and increasing city centre cleaning. 

Shambles Market

Traders are offering local produce, crafts and delicious street food. To spread out the crowds, some of them will trade from St Sampson’s Square. We’ll provide extra bench seating there as well.

College Green, Library Square and Exhibition Square

York BID are also providing 60 benches in locations including College Green, Library Square and Exhibition Square. Around half of these went out on Friday 16 April, with the rest going out the week commencing 19 April.

We’ve talked to the designers to make sure the spaces are as accessible as possible. Here are some of the features we’ve discussed:

  • There won’t be as many structures as you see at the Christmas market, so there’ll be no obstruction of dropped kerbs or other access points. 
  • The tipi on Parliament Street will have a shallow floor that follows Parliament Street’s current floor levels. If the uneven ground means we need to build raised floors, those floors will all be accessible by ramps that meet access specifications.
  • There will be plenty of space between the furniture, and most of it will be fixed to the floor so it shouldn’t move around.  
  • We’ve adapted some of the seating areas to offer integrated access for wheelchairs. These will be put in place over the next fortnight, we’ll update you and share pictures when they are installed.
  • There will also be an adapted accessible picnic table in each of Exhibition Square and College Green from Friday 23 April. As most users won’t necessarily recognise them as accessible, and they can’t be booked, we’ll add a notice on each asking for them to be given up for disabled users.
A wooden picnic table with fixed benches on either side. One end of the tabletop projects towards the camera and has a 'wheelchair symbol' on it
A wooden picnic table with fixed benches on either side. One end of the tabletop projects towards the camera and has a ‘wheelchair symbol’ on it.
Picnic tables on a grassy area surrounded by buildings. The picnic table in the foreground has one end which projects out leaving additional space underneath the tabletop.
Picnic tables on a grassy area surrounded by buildings. The picnic table in the foreground has one end which projects out leaving additional space underneath the tabletop.
Diagram of a picnic bench which indicates space for wheelchairs at either end of the table
Diagram of a picnic bench which indicates space for wheelchairs at either end of the table. Text reads ‘wheelchair space on each end’.


We are adding two additional temporary plumbed toilets at the bottom of Parliament Street to help reduce the pressure on Silver Street. We have tried to source an accessible toilet alongside these, but there are significant issues with supply, so unfortunately we have not been able to secure one.

The only alternative would be a temporary accessible toilet which would not be plumbed in. These toilets are often lower quality environments, have issues with smell and need emptying every day. 

A Changing Places toilet can be found nearby at Silver Street, and those in department stores and hospitality venues next to the seating areas will provide far better facilities than we can secure on a temporary basis. If you find this is not the case, please let Make It York know.


You can’t book a table in these spaces as a booking system wouldn’t work due to the number of businesses which would have to coordinate tables. Most pavement cafes and outdoor spaces run by individual businesses in York will be running on a strict booking system so do check their website or social media to plan your trip and avoid disappointment. 

Getting Better

We will of course keep the toilet situation, and all other aspects of how the seating operates, under review. If you want to tell us what we’re getting right or wrong, or have any concerns or questions, please send an email to and we’ll get back as soon as we can.  

Blue Badge Parking

We also understand that the extended footstreets hours has an impact on Blue Badge parking. For the latest on where you can park – and to respond to a council consultation on some possible additional locations for Blue Badge parking in the city centre – please visit

We welcome guest blog posts such as this. If you are interested in writing a blog, please check out our blog submissions guidelines and get in touch.

7 thoughts on “Guest Blog: Outdoor Seating Plans for York City Centre”

  1. Great to read guest blogs like these. What consideration has been given for people with visual impairment please?

  2. The diagram of the picnic style seating shown in the article whilst providing wheelchair user space at each end ( although the crossing seating support may be in the way). is okay. The seating could be improved by incorporating further design features for people with ambulant mobility impairments such as arm support at the ends of the benches. It would also be useful to provide some visual contrast between the bench and table surfaces for visually impaired people. It also appears the bench height is the same all the way along again providing seating at different heights is recommended.

  3. Pingback: Pavement Cafés and Street Furniture: Not For Us – York Disability Rights Forum

  4. I’ve used the college green and it is good esp3cislly with big brolleys.
    Find it strange that the Crosskeys is serving drinks but nobody can use there toilets havevtpbgobtonthe snicklewaybinn instead.

  5. It looks as if you need to be able to swing your legs over the bench to sit at the picnic table. There are people for whom this would be a problem. Could the bench be extended so that the ends could be sat on without the need to swing your legs over?

  6. Thank you for your responses, we will take this feedback on board for future events or seating.

    With regards to considerations for visual impairment, the seating across the city has looked at the following:

    Visual contrast – brand consistent vibrant painted surfaces on table tops and benches, positioning – ensuring not to block footpaths or drop curbs. They also maintain 2m distance between benches and 1.5m (Government guidance – ‘No obstruction condition’) where not possible. and the Parliament St benches will be fastened to the floor / not moveable.

    We have also offered to consult with the forum for future events in the city centre as part of the planning process.

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