Back to the River, Pt 2: Coney Street and the River Ouse

Possibly one of the few European cities to try to keep a riverside a secret, York is hiding the Ouse behind Coney Street. Aren’t we missing out? In a StreetLife workshop, run with York Civic Trust, we highlighted potential benefits of reconnecting Coney Street to the Ouse.

Stephen Lee Hodgkins capturing participants answers in 'visual minutes'

And reconnecting is the important word. Because via waterside activity and common lanes, the street historically was well connected to the Ouse.

We posed the following questions to our participants, and Stephen Lee Hodgkins captured the answers in visual minutes with his amazing doodles.

  • What are your top priorities for reconnecting Coney Street with the river?
  • How would you like the relationship between Coney Street and the river to feel in 20 years' time?

Here are a few key points from our participants:

  1. Mixed use please!
    Everyone is agreed that creating a new, vibrant river and street area should include mixed uses with space for residential, leisure, retail, and creative maker spaces. The riverside art markets of continental cities are much envied!
  2. Let’s use the Ouse
    Some people said water taxis... others said tourism... others said barge shops... others said for servicing businesses, deliveries or industry. We’re not yet sure how, but people would like to see the Ouse in use.
    And if we’re not on it, we might be looking at it. Making more of river views is a priority.
  3. The Common Lanes need a bit of TLC
    The alleyways between Coney Street and the river (called Common Lanes) are identified as having room for improvement. With better lighting, signage to the river, and making them clean, safe and accessible, participants see their potential.
  4. Bridges
    Participants prioritise pedestrians and cyclists for any new bridges, and welcome the integration of shops and routes that they would bridge.
  5. Integrating the river and city
    Lots of words came to the fore about the relationship between the river and street. Texture... equality... porosity... interconnected. It is clear that reconnecting to the river does not mean disconnecting from the street.
Stephen Lee Hodgkins' visual minutes from the 'Reconnecting Coney Street to the River' StreetLife workshop.

Overall, a clean, safe, vibrant feel to the riverside and street is envisaged, with mixed-uses within a unified character. Reconnecting to the Ouse feels like a big opportunity not just for Coney Street, but for York more widely and several participants highlighted that this needs to be thought-through within a holistic vision for the city.

With many thanks to our wonderful participants for all your contributions, and for partaking in what must be one of York’s least glamorous walking tours! (What do you mean you didn’t sign up to trample through a bar, stand by the bins, and investigate an alleyway?!)