2026 Dystopias: Back to the future in York

2026: '‘Have they really still not agreed a plan?’ I ask the taxi driver. ‘You know how it is, Love,’ she says. ‘The Tories blame Labour, Labour blame the Lib Dems, the Lib Dems blame the Greens, the Green blame the Tories. There is good news though. I’ve been told our city councillors have all agreed to celebrate the centenary of not having a strategic plan. They’re calling it KEEP YORK SPECIAL DAY.' Photo Credit: Catherine Sotheran
2026: ‘‘Have they really still not agreed a plan?’ I ask the taxi driver.
‘You know how it is, Love,’ she says. ‘The Tories blame Labour, Labour blame the Lib Dems, the Lib Dems blame the Greens, the Green blame the Tories. There is good news though. I’ve been told our city councillors have all agreed to celebrate the centenary of not having a strategic plan. They’re calling it KEEP YORK SPECIAL DAY.’ Photo Credit: Catherine Sotheran

Contributed by Christian Vassie

2026:
It must be ten years now since I left York and went to live in a sustainable city and I realise that I have forgotten how tiring and depressing it was to live in a place that refused to join the 21st century. It is 2026. I have grandchildren now and we are coming to York for the day to see how people used to live. Being a passive house, our home costs only £40 a year to heat, and that heat comes from the district heating network that is linked to the incinerator. Half the homes in the city are heated from rubbish. It’s brilliant. I remember dreaming that one day York would be like this; cycle paths and tramways linking all corners of the city and its villages, electric cars, properly insulated homes for all, fuel poverty a thing of the past, secure underground cycle parks, buses running on biogas, a city protected against flooding, renewable energy installed across the city, district heating … Apparently everyone preferred coughing in the pollution, admiring the gridlocked ring of cars around the city walls, shivering in single-glazed historic splendour, and traipsing through annual floods like Vikings; it’s what made York special everyone told me. It still does because York hasn’t changed a thing in 2026.

Anyway, our current passive house in our sustainable city (well away from York) is programmed to wake up a 6.45am. It’s a smart house. First the rooms are heated (it doesn’t take much), then the insulated kettle boils, using solar energy stored in the main battery. The water stays at near boiling point for hours, that way we can make toast and everything else we want to do when we get up, without overdrawing on the battery. Through the day our smart house does everything that needs doing in order – washing clothes then dishes then heating the water and so on – as soon as the power has built up from the solar PV. No waste,
maximum efficiency.

Once the kids have eaten I bundle them in the electric car and take them to the tram stop for the start of our big day out. No need for big car parks anymore, the car takes itself home. I’ll call the car from the tram when we’re on our way home later and it will come and meet us at the tram stop.

In our new city they converted all the car parks to vertical greenhouses, to grow vegetables within the city, taking filtered grey water recycled from the roads. It cuts down on food miles: tomatoes, turnips, peppers, salad, radishes, even bananas and ginger are all grown in the city. In the UK! Oh, yes, that’s another thing we do, at the city hall they get all their hot water from the pipes that are laid beneath the roads outside the building. The sun heats the road, the road heats the pipes – it’s not rocket salad … but you know all that already, it’s what you do in your city too.

I digress, I was meant to be telling you about my trip to York – the city that never changes. Our tram stops just outside the station and we catch the high speed electric train to York; 300 miles and fifty years back in time in just over an hour! Amazing. Against expectations, the new generation of nuclear power stations have proved very effective. (The Tokamak reactors have finally passed all the tests so nuclear fusion is set to
get the go ahead this autumn … At last! ;-). The children have been making fun of me for weeks. They simply don’t believe a word I tell them about York. One of the hardest things has been persuading them to carry gas masks and high vis jackets. When the ticket collector arrives in our train compartment, they tell him
where we’re going and he confesses that he comes from York. So they start asking him questions but it turns out he’s rather embarrassed and doesn’t want to talk. He checks with me that I know what I am letting myself in for, then wanders off up the train shaking his head. We arrive in York bang on time. As we step onto the platform the children’s eyes are big as Yorkshire puddings. Zethan immediately starts coughing and I remind them to put their gas masks on.

None of us has smelled diesel fumes for years; the children have never smelled them. And we’re still in the station! I’m wondering if it fake smoke, to get us in the mood. York has always been famous for its museums, and rightly so, but now in 2026 it has become a museum itself. The whole city. I remember going to Beamish a long time ago to see how the Victorians lived, and now people come to York to experience life in the Elizabethan age. Elizabeth the Second obviously. You can spot the tourists, we’re all wearing face masks or gas masks. As we step out of the station the stink takes your breath away. There’s a long line of taxis, all with their engines running and belching out diesel fumes, just like I remember it. The taxis are like a row of
Roman soldiers carrying burning torches, blocking our way into the city. Axana asks me if they’re real. I assure that they are but she wants to touch one to make sure. She leaps back laughing when she feels the engine shaking beneath the bonnet.

‘What’s that cloud of smoke coming out of the back? Is it like with dragons in the olden
times?’ she asks.
‘Yeah, just like dragons,’ I answer.

A large sign advertises trips to an authentic village experience.

Step into the Past
WHELDRAKE
The Way we Were!

‘That’s where you lived, isn’t it, granddad?’ Zethan asks. ‘Let’s go there.’

I hesitate. We only have eight hours and it is nearly eight miles. The taxi driver assures me that it will be fine so we climb aboard. The taxi smells as bad inside as it does outside and I instruct the children to keep their gas masks on, much to the driver’s amusement. It’s not just diesel fumes, it is clear that the driver is a smoker, something else the children have never witnessed.

We come out from under the station arch and are immediately stuck in a line of taxis, lorries, and other vehicles, just like I remember it a decade ago and for 30 years before that. It must take ten minutes just to do a little loop around a group of six parked cars. The road in front of the station is awash with dirty buses, vans, and huge wheeled cars that were designed to climb up mountains in the snow but became insanely fashionable in cities like York, even though they cost twice as much in fuel and couldn’t fit in the thousands of parking spaces that covered the city, and probably still do.

I don’t remember seeing the pollution when I lived here back in 2010 but I do now, a yellow fog hanging in the air, thick as custard. I am half-expecting to see residents wandering about with mobile phones powered by combustion engines instead of batteries, with the exhaust pipes emerging from under their armpits.
When I was a child they spent their whole time cleaning the Minster, going from one end to the other and then starting all over again, scrubbing the pollution away and replacing the stones that had been eroded by acid rain. I don’t think I ever saw the whole building without scaffolding up somewhere. In most cities all that is just a distant memory, but not in York. As we join the stationary traffic, the taxi driver turns and hands me a copy of the York Press, telling me it will take a while to get across the city and I might like to catch up with the news.

‘Are we there yet?’ asks Axana.
I shake my head. ‘Why don’t you play a game?’ I suggest.
Zethan has found an App about living in a scarily cold house. I leave them to it.
I look at the newspaper. News? It’s like stepping into a time capsule.
‘Latest plans unworkable say councillors’ reads the headline on the front page, alongside a
photo of a bunch of angry men in grey suits and ties, crouching in front of a pothole. (see
page 4 for full story)

The strange thing is that potholes don’t exist anywhere outside the UK and even in the UK they are only found in cities like York. In the rest of the world they long ago switched to rubberised surfaces that dramatically reduced the amount of money it cost to repair the road. The rubber surface prevents ice from getting in to cause damage. Keeps the road quieter too. Been around for 30 years. But not here. Except in York, there are very few private cars on the road in 2026 and the cars, all electric, that do exist are lighter and designed for only one or two people. And in any event most people use trams or bikes to get around. It’s how modern
cities are designed: bikes and pedestrians first, trams second, buses thirds, cars last. I can’t remember when I last saw a row of large lorries nose to tail inside a city.

Still that’s why we’ve come to York; to see how people used to live in the olden days. On page 4, the three angry men in grey suits are having an argument about potholes. One says his party wants to spend more money on fixing them. Another wants to spend even more money on fixing them. And the last one wants to talk about pollution, which makes the other two men very angry. I wonder whether there are women councillors and whether they get as angry about potholes.

‘We cannot abandon cars in favour of unproven new-fangled technologies that will not
work,’ says Councillor Brassneck.
‘It is simply intolerable that they want to spend money on youth centres instead of
investing in our road infrastructure,’ says Cllr. Meek.

The Press quotes a resident who points out that trams and bicycles have existed over 150
years.

‘The survey clearly showed that most York residents do not trust them,’ responds Cllr
Brassneck.

Beneath the pothole article in the paper is a smaller one revealing that next week is the 80th anniversary of the last time the city had an agreed Local Plan.

‘Have they really still not agreed a plan?’ I ask the taxi driver.
‘You know how it is, Love,’ she says. ‘The Tories blame Labour, Labour blame the Lib Dems, the Lib Dems blame the Greens, the Green blame the Tories. There is good news though. I’ve been told our city councillors have all agreed to celebrate the centenary of not having a strategic plan. They’re calling it KEEP YORK SPECIAL DAY.

I’ve almost lost the will to live by the time we reach Fishergate. It’s been nose to tail all
the way, people driving vehicles that have been banned across most of the world. It’s a bit
like those old photos you see of Cuba when Castro was alive, with cars that were sixty years
old and held together with bits of string.

‘There’s a minibar if you’re hungry,’ says the taxi driver. ‘Parkin biscuits baked in an
authentic oil burning stove. I’m Caroline by the way. Are you from York?’
‘From Wheldrake,’ I answer. ‘Many years ago. I can’t believe that nothing’s changed.’
‘That’s York for you.’
‘Granddad, it says here that crossing York today takes twice as long as it did 120 years
ago,’ Zethan says, pulling my sleeve.
‘Only twice as long? Are you sure?’

It takes just over two hours to reach Wheldrake. Caroline tells me that when the houses
started being sold at Germany Beck in Fulford they had an extra 1000 cars on the road every
morning. Slapping a road on the Ings didn’t help exactly, she confesses. What with climate
change getting worse every year. The road floods twice a year and only way in and out of
York to the south is blocked for at least three weeks every winter.

‘Why didn’t they build a tram?’ I ask. ‘Everywhere else has them. They opened one in
Dijon, one of York’s twin cities, nearly twenty years ago. Their tram network was carrying
50,000 a day with months of its being launched. York could have had a line from Wheldrake
through to Haxby, via Germany Beck, and the university all the way up past the station and
on through York Central to the north of the city. And another one from east to west.’

Caroline laughs. ‘You’re joking, aren’t you? Cars are part of our heritage,’ she says. ‘Can
you imagine anything as ugly as a tram going along main street in Fulford? It would ruin the
look of the village, destroy its character.’
‘What village? What about the ten thousands of cars that jam up Main Street for hours a
day?’
‘They’re what makes us special.’
‘They’re what makes you a laughing stock,’ I said. ‘and lead to half of you going to
hospital with respiratory diseases.’
‘That’s all hearsay. Besides look at all the tourists we have. Oh, by the way, have you seen
they took those houses down and rebuilt the old petrol station. Lovely, isn’t it?’

I get Caroline to wait for us in the car park at the WHELDRAKE the WAY we WERE Museum, just to make sure we can actually get back to the station before dark. The kids are entranced. They have never seen a village without wind turbines, where every street is blocked with parked cars and where every third house has an oil tank outside.

‘But why would they do that?’ they keep asking me. ‘It doesn’t make sense.’
The tour guide, Mr Smirthwaite, explains that the huge clouds of smoke on the horizon are
no longer coming from the ring of power stations that used to be to the south of the village.
With a distant look in his eye he reels off the names of his favourite coal-fired power stations
as if reciting the names of lovers: Ferrybridge, Drax, Eggborough …

‘They all shut down years ago, sadly, but the village were determined to keep the visual
amenity they had provided, Smirthwaite tells us. ‘We missed the view so the village applied
for funding to have giant video screen erected along the southern boundary of the village, to
show the cooling towers as they used to look. The smoke pouring into the sky is actually
steam generated behind the giant screens, with a bit of soot added for effect. Anyroad, we do
still use all our own oil.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘We bought shares in an oil field in Libya when the price of oil collapsed in 2023,’ he
explains. ‘Most of us didn’t want owt to do with renewables. We prefer the old ways. We
have a tanker come from Tripoli every six months. The oil is brought to us from Hull in these
heritage oil delivery lorries you can see.’
‘But it must cost a fortune just to deliver it.’
‘Aye, there’s some say that, but at least we don’t have to put up with those whirling
eyesores in the fields or those ugly blue panels stuck on roofs. You won’t find a wind turbine
here.’
‘But you’ve got four rusting oil delivery lorries stinking to high heaven in front of the
church, in the middle of the village!’
‘They’re part of the character of the village, son. Like the telephone kiosk.’
‘Which is being used as a petrol pump.’
‘Times change,’ says Mr Smirthwaite says proudly. ‘Times change.’

Day in My Life 2016+2026: ‘It’s got a bit post-hipster hipster around here…but there are some benefits’

2026: 'Need some new clothes for my big pitch in Reykjavik on Thursday, so pop to York Central Makers Quarter to get some inspiration from independent local designers. Really pleased we got plenty of family housing and green space here too. The place is buzzing with small kids who are out playing in the water-fountains. It’s nearly the end of September! Might try to squeeze in one last dip of the year in the Ouse Lido, or perhaps I should have a run on the new Pedestrian Cross Town Sky-Link.'
2026: ‘Need some new clothes for my big pitch in Reykjavik on Thursday, so pop to York Central Makers Quarter to get some inspiration from independent local designers. Really pleased we got plenty of family housing and green space here too. The place is buzzing with small kids who are out playing in the water-fountains. It’s nearly the end of September! Might try to squeeze in one last dip of the year in the Ouse Lido, or perhaps I should have a run on the new Pedestrian Cross Town Sky-Link’. Photo Credit: Catherine Sotheran

Contributed to the My Future York project, 20th September 2016. The writer prefers not to be named.

2016:
I get up far too early and try to coax Lexie into watching Cbeebies to give me more sleep. Programmes are only 7-minutes long! Eat a quick breakfast, battle on some shoes, beg to brush her hair and take Lex on her scooter to nursery. Come back and have breakfast, read latest news on Hilary Clinton.

Go upstairs to work where I have a contact call with my virtual team in my clothes which are really only one step up from pyjamas. Feel very modern until Skype gets glitchy. Work all day through lunch until 3.20 when I go to pick up Lexie from pre-school. Have play-date planned for after-pre-school but its wet and in Holgate and there is nowhere to go. Make excuses and go round to Grandpas instead.

Fancy going for an outdoor swim but choices are limited, so instead we go to Rowntree’s Park. Covered in Goose Poo. Dad says this didn’t happen when dogs were allowed off leashes. Agree to tell someone about this. We all have an ice cream.

Go back to Grandpas. He makes Lexie a fish supper. I bug him about getting his blood-tests done. To be fair the combination of getting through the traffic congestion, paying for parking and a potential wait at the hospital makes it a fairly stressful process, especially for someone already feeling pretty weak.

Dad drives Lexie home while I run home via river. Wish there was a way to run by the river without having to run through town. There isn’t. (First world problem). Instead I try to accelerate through Coney Street, aiming to look fast when I’m feeling really tired and sweaty. Get home. Olly has started the bath, books and bed plan for Lexie. Lexie really wants to sleep on my knee. That is what happens.

Get a shower and then eat, and then watch netflix box-sets until it is far too late. Crash.

2026:
8.30 getting nervous. Lexie still not out of bed. We get our runners on and run to school remembering to turn on our EasyPE sensors to earn PE credits. Three more running commutes this week, and she’ll get out of PE this week entirely – no Hockey – hurray!

School situation improving. Parent’s in York clamoring to get into “authentic” Local Authority controlled schools. We don’t have a chance, as only academies in our area. Luckily the school is finally starting to offer some term time flexibility, so with a combination of compressed weeks, remote work modules & parent mentoring credits, Lexie is able to travel with us for work. November = California – yay!

Get back to find two Grandpas and Olly cooking high fat, high salt breakfast in the kitchen. At least now they both live with us they are on the cleaning rota. Check Dad’s blood levels which are now collected from his implant. All good & green light back from surgery. No meds changes today & no need to call on the Community-run Health Squad.

We’re out of bread, so use my digital-detox hour to take Dottie the Dog to the park to pick up a faken-sarnie from the community bakery in West Bank Park & do some weeding in the stress-less garden. It’s all got a bit post-hipster-hipster round here, but there are some benefits. Dad arrives to run the Young Folk singing session. Get a bit nostalgic about bringing little Lexie to the Young Friends Group. Sigh.

Need some new clothes for my big pitch in Reykjavik on Thursday, so pop to York Central Makers Quarter to get some inspiration from independent local designers. Really pleased we got plenty of family housing and green space here too. The place is buzzing with small kids who are out playing in the water-fountains. It’s nearly the end of September! Might try to squeeze in one last dip of the year in the Ouse Lido, or perhaps I should have a run on the new Pedestrian Cross Town Sky-Link. Amazing!

Head home via new forage-your-own food café for some take-out. Still not quite sure about this but I offer the a few herbs I gathered earlier and get something interesting in return. I then pay using my YorkYen contact-less card, which generates community credits for the school-supper club & bringing back the Holgate Matterhorn. Bonus.

Finally back to work. Facilitate virtual seminar on history of new media for online Learning Co-op. Sociocratic organising & peer assessment principles means there is no lesson plan or marking scheme. Can sometimes be a transformative process, but today (in my opinion) we spend far too long exploring the word ‘web’.

Should really be thinking about dinner, but this evening Mum & I are going to retro-roof-top cinema on Stonebow House & Lexie is at ballet, so I pop a Tesco Value 500cal pill instead. Feel a bit guilty, but I save 3 hours and leave Olly and the two Grandpas free to dig on more swine – so not all bad. Walk home accompanied by personal pavement-projection trail, stopping only for a quick, virtual Street-Up with my bezzie in London en-route.

Finally back at home. All is quiet. Programme-in my berry-breakfast & set the Alarmbiante to Brighton Seafront, before jumping into my temperature controlled side of the bed!

Day in My Life 2016 + 2026: Gardening, Dancing and Theatre

2026: ' It has been a good gardening year, a huge range of fruit and vegetables. The water storage and irrigation system is working well so we are able to counteract the drier weather conditions York is experiencing. I catch up with news from fellow gardeners as we work. Since the ex-Rowntree factory has been turned into homes there are a lot more residents joining in community activities.' Photo Credit: Catherine Sotheran
2026: ‘ It has been a good gardening year, a huge range of fruit and vegetables. The water storage and irrigation system is working well so we are able to counteract the drier weather conditions York is experiencing. I catch up with news from fellow gardeners as we work. Since the ex-Rowntree factory has been turned into homes there are a lot more residents joining in community activities.’ Photo Credit: Catherine Sotheran

Contributed to the My Future York project, 14th September 2016. The writer prefers not to be named.

Saturday 10th September 2016
Get up and after breakfast do some jobs around the house and garden. Then I have a list of tasks to tackle out and about, and I pack what I need. I cycle round to the library, in Museum Street, trying to rebrand as Explore. I return my books and have a quick look on the shelves, my next deadline is 11.30, so not long to look. Find a slim volume of volume of essays – Men Explain Things to Me. Great find, I think. I push my bike through town and walk the last bit to Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate where I do my weekly half an hour gardening at Edible York’s fruit and herb garden. My colleague arrives so we tidy up and chat. We talk to people going past, flourishing borage plant that will be seeding soon. Uncertainty about what will happen to this outdoor space, will it remain public with a garden and bike racks or come to resemble the picture on the building that used to be Heron Foods? Our final visitor is going to the Kyra garden open afternoon, so more sharing of info and ideas. Then on to a Click and Collect mission to pick up the laptop my sister and I have bought for my grandson’s 18th birthday. All OK but of course the parcel is a lot bigger than the laptop inside and is cumbersome to carry. So I push my bike to the medium-sized supermarket nearest to my home and on my way remember to buy a birthday card. Buy 3 essential items at the shop and walk home. At home I have lunch and see how much of the Guardian crossword I can do. Then I go outside, do some more of a major shed clear out and pruning of my greengage tree. I find a few greengages for tea. I have been asked a financial question by a fellow Edible York trustee, so I double check the answer with my bits of paper and spreadsheet.I plan to spending the evening reading the paper and my new library book. The Guardian states at interesting radio programme starts at 10pm, but they have got the time wrong, should be 11pm, so I listen to the end of the Last Night of the Proms. And so to bed.

10th September 2026
It is Saturday again, and today is the monthly Saturday morning gardening session at Greenfields community garden, which has been going now for about 15 years. I get up and have a leisurely breakfast, I have just made some greengage jam so I can eat that with my homemade bread. Then I pack the few things I need for gardening, I still have the waterproof ‘kneeler’ I made in 2010’s. It has been a good gardening year, a huge range of fruit and vegetables. The water storage and irrigation system is working well so we are able to counteract the drier weather conditions York is experiencing. I catch up with news from fellow gardeners as we work. Since the ex-Rowntree factory has been turned into homes there are a lot more residents joining in community activities. I walk home in time for lunch. I bring some produce home from Greenfields, including salad vegetables and a whole bunch of grapes, and a melon and aubergines for tomorrow. In the afternoon I am going shopping so I get out my electric tricycle to cycle round to the nearest supermarket. I have had to have had a bit of building work done so I can store the tricycle outside and get it on to the street without there being a step. I take a detour to see if there is any entertainment in the city centre, I think we are due for the Folk Dance festival, and I find that on every street corner there are clog dancers or sword dancers, and it is amazing to think that it once very unusual for women morris teams to perform at festivals like this. And on the way back another detour by the river Foss to see all the tiny fish. Sadly, the library is closed today, so no new books. I will look online and see if there are any electronic versions to download. I have a gadget that is very readable and matches my eyesight, is adaptable in size and layout to read in bed if I want, and I charge it with solar energy everyday. After tea my grandson texts to explain how the updated skype works as he wants me to use this improved video 3D system to tell me about his birthday in Venezuela. This evening I go to Rowntree Theatre to see She Stoops to Conquer. Professional actors have joined up with an amateur company to put on this show. There is a production every night now, all the year round. Before I go to bed I reflect on: was this a day of work or a day off? It is 10 years since I last did any paid work but I work everyday, most women do.

Day in My Life 2016+2026: Zero Carbon Houses and Flood Resilience

'2026:I call in for my morning coffee at the Cycle Heaven internet cafe on Hospital Fields before heading on for a meeting with the Chief Executive to talk about the new sustainability challenge fund bid which could see all our pre-2016 housing brought up to zero carbon standards. This is something that our Green MP's got through Parliament in the hung Parliament of 2019-24.
I call in for my morning coffee at the Cycle Heaven internet cafe on Hospital Fields before heading on for a meeting with the Chief Executive to talk about the new sustainability challenge fund bid which could see all our pre-2016 housing brought up to zero carbon standards. This is something that our Green MP’s got through Parliament in the hung Parliament of 2019-24′.

Andy D’Agorne (Councillor, Fishergate Ward)

2016:
York Press arrives through the letter box about 7.30am, just in time for me to glance through the stories about pollution in York, concerns about how many houses might be built under the latest version of the Local Plan and the usual letter debate between ‘cyclists’ and ‘motorists’ about road tax, parking and council priorities. I finish off a letter I’ve been drafting and email it in before getting on my bike to cycle across the Millennium Bridge to work at York College. On the way I’ll maybe stop to phone in a report of graffiti or verges that need cutting. My work will include responding to students and parents concerns about their course choices but also any complaints that have come in about college buses being late. It might also involve talking to the bus operator about the timings and pick up points on one of the 14 routes from across the region, checking on ‘google street view’ to establish a safe location. for students to wait. Because the college tries to encourage walking cycling and use of public transport, we have transport details for students when they enroll and I am responsible for overseeing the staff car share scheme and the cycle to work challenge – last year we managed to get a higher proportion of staff taking part than York St John or the University of York! Staff will also ring me to ask about the cycle-to-work scheme if they want to buy a new bike and to ask where they can get cycle and bus maps for their new students. Later in the morning I am talking to a classroom of Norwegian students giving them some tips on staying safe on a bike in York. where to buy lights and locks and how to get cheaper bus travel. At lunchtime I make a call to the Press journalist to discuss a local story and read some of my planning committee papers in advance of next weeks meeting. In the afternoon I have a meeting at West Offices with a council officer to discuss our ward budget plans before cycling back to college in time to oversee the departure of the college buses, making sure that they are all displaying the route number and leave at the right time. If I’m lucky there won’t be anyone left after they have all left, if not there maybe someone who has been left behind who needs some advice on getting home by ringing Mum or borrowing some money to catch a service bus or train. Once that is over I have a meal at college because there’s an open evening- more advice on careers and transport! At 8pm I am most likely then to be cycling into town for a Green Party meeting or back home to deal council emails and preparing for the next council meeting.

2026:
So now I’ve retired from college, but I’m still a Green Party councillor, with more time to devote to local and national campaigns. Now that we are the main opposition on the council after a period of being in a ‘rainbow coalition’ its nice not to be responsible for council budgets. Since its a nice day I go out for my morning bike ride along the dedicated cycle track linking Germany Beck to Heslington East, coming back crossing the tram route that now links the university to the city centre and Monks Cross stadium. I call in for my morning coffee at the Cycle Heaven internet cafe on Hospital Fields before heading on for a meeting with the Chief Executive to talk about the new sustainability challenge fund bid which could see all our pre-2016 housing brought up to zero carbon standards. This is something that our Green MP’s got through Parliament in the hung Parliament of 2019-24. At lunchtime I meet up with some other people planning York’s Car-free Sundays. These started as a trial in September 2018 but have now proved so popular that they take place on the first Sunday of each month from April to October, funded by a levy on the parking spaces at the few remaining out of town supermarkets. Many of these have closed in recent years with the rise of internet shopping and home delivery. As its turned wet I decide to leave my bike at the secure park and use one of the electric ‘tuk tuk’ buggies that you can borrow from the city centre. If it was a nice day I would more likely use the electric water taxis from North St landing to the Millennium Bridge. These run every 10 minutes in the summer months and provide a really popular alternative to the bus services along Fulford Rd which gets snarled up with all the traffic from Germany Beck. This our one big headache as a city because plans were approved before the Local Plan specified that new housing had to be designed around walking cycling and public transport rather than private car ownership. The afternoon will probably be spent with a visit to the Foss Barrier marina park where I am meeting a flood engineer to find out more about our local flood resilience plans. After the floods of 2015 an interpretation centre was created to help visitors and residents understand the impact of climate change and higher rainfall with interactive simulations demonstrating the importance of slowing upland flow. Many of our visitors go away understanding what they can do in their everyday lives to manage rainwater runoff and protect their families from the risks of flooding. Since 2016 all the city’s drains have been checked and cleared and all new developments have 30% more capacity to reduce the risk of surface water floods.

York in 2026: 10 ideas for the city’s future

Trees in York Central and new woods on the outskirts. Ten ways York might be different in 2026 - as contributed through the My Future York Day in My Life stories.
Trees in York Central and new woods on the outskirts. Ten ways York might be different in 2026 – as contributed through the My Future York Day in My Life stories.

All week we’ve been pulling out the key ideas from the My Future York Day in My Life stories submitted so far. The job of final blog of this week is to draw out 10 key design ideas that might be in York’s 2026 future. These are just the ideas from the first batch, we will be adding and adapting the list as more stories are submitted.

Add your visionary ideas, though writing your Day in My Life 2016 + 2026.

1. Homes to live in
2026: Affordable housing is enabled by new types of financing from self-build to co-operative house. All underpinned by legislative change to regulate buy-for-investment.
2. Trams
2026: Air pollution and congestion has been reduced through cheap, regular and reliable public transport enabling people to leave their cars at home and live further outside the city.
3. A pedestrian-priority Bishopthorpe Road
2026: Bumping into people you know and enjoying the trees and flowers is part of everyday life on Bishopthorpe Road.
4. York Central – beautiful footpaths and bike bridges
2026: Fly through the air over beautiful trees as you cycle from Acomb into town via York Central’s network of beautifully designed foot and bike bridges.
5. York Central – designed by a local collective
2026: York Central is developed through the talents and enthusiasms of a local team of architects and planners with lots of community discussion and involvement.
6. Local Food Assembly
2026: Locally grown food for everyone through a scheme which connects growers of all sizes (including allotment holders with a surplus) with local shops and restaurants. Optional 10% paid on top of the food bill to support a communal pot that reduces food costs for others. Local food deliveries enabled by bike couriers paid York’s living wage.
7. Welcoming (and taxing…) Visitors
2026: New models of tourism based on deep engagement with local histories and cultures, reciprocal cultural exchange and a 10% per night Visitor Contribution (sometimes known as a Tourist Tax). Taken together they are used to underpinning a free and life long learning ethos in the city.
8. Gender neutrality
2026: All toilets are gender neutral and no assumptions are made about anyone’s gender in York’s cafes and restaurants. York is well-served for self-organized queer and LGBTQ spaces. Local pubs are welcoming to all.
9. Networks of indoor public spaces
2026: York library network expands to create volunteer-led indoor public spaces around the city. Here you can meet up, work, collaborative, use the wifi, eat lunch, get a cheap cup of tea/coffee and debate the issues of the day (as well as keep out of the rain).
10. Trees
2026: The city is green. With beautiful planting in York Central and new woods on York’s outskirts for ecological diversity and leisure.

And one final one, which raises a crucial question – how might all these ideas be delivered? A reading of the stories submitted so far might suggest the need to combine the public sector, entrepreneurship and community and volunteer approaches.

11. A mixture of local authority led and community and volunteer-led services and spaces

2026: The ideas above are enabled through a mixture of national legislative change (to change the housing economy in York) and the local authority using its ability to draw on resources through tax and public investment combined with the energy of enterprising individuals and well-supported and nourished community-led initiatives.

My Future York plans to organize public events around these design ideas over the coming months. How have other cities managed to innovate and create livable cities? How might we ensure that the ideas generated locally get put into practice?

In the meantime we’d love to hear more and more people lend their voices and ideas to York’s future… what is your ideal day in 2026?

Come and share your ideas:
24th September, 2-4pm. My Future York stall on Bishopthorpe Road.
1st October, 2-4pm. My Future York stall on Front Street, Acomb.

Join us to make sense of all the ideas at our next Open Analysis Workshop:
19th November 2-4pm
Venue to be confirmed. Express interest via myfutureyorkresearch@gmail.com

How are different aspects of our lives connected? / How do we hope to be living together?

From cycling over Hob Moor (pictured) to ways of co-existing better with the Race goers: the Day in My Life stories indicate new ways of being connected and living together.
From cycling over Hob Moor (pictured) to ways of co-existing better with Race Goers: the Day in My Life stories indicate new ways of being connected and living together.

In the second of our blogs this week, we will explore the second and third of our 2026 analysis questions. These questions focus on how our Day in My Life correspondents are imagining the different aspects of their lives to be connected and the ways in which we might hope to be living together?

2026 Q2: How are different aspects of our lives connected?

Work and life merging together
One notable thing from our first crop of Day in My Life stories is that in the future work and life seems well integrated. On one hand for some there seems to be less work – some people have retired or talk about slowing down or working less. Or work is distributed differently. Either in the sense that work, and types of work, are distributed more fairly between people. Or in the sense that work is spread out throughout the day more flexibly to enable time for cycling, walking, bumping into people, seeing friends and family.

Infrastructure for connection (travel / bike parks / routes / wifi)

There was a very strong emphasis in the stories on the infrastructure necessary for connection. Public transport and bike infrastructure, as mentioned in the previous blog, was almost universally mentioned. Wifi was clearly the backbone of few people flexible and public spaces work plans.

2026: ‘Then I hop on a tram (heavily subsidised for residents, and running every five minutes) that takes me back down Bridge Street, along Rougier Street and up Museum Street’.
2026: ‘At 8am the tram stop is busy, but since they are every 10 minutes nobody is too concerned. The new eco tramways into and around the city have made it possible for most people to leave their cars at home. Annual passes can be paid for through salary sacrifice schemes making public transport very affordable. Putting the trams in was hugely disruptive but nobody would want to go back to the pollution and traffic jams of ten years ago’.
2026: ‘Sort out all the online work information exchange, and then sling the tablet in a rucksack and head for the tram stop’.

Moving between is itself is important
Yet one thing to note is a sense that movement itself – negotiating York – is also crucial. In some of the stories there is a real sense of enjoying passing through areas of York, whether that catching a sight on the Minister, imagining new ‘shared spaces’ with less traffic on Bishopthorpe Road or the joys of cycling over the Millennium Bridge, Hob Moor or a beautiful new bridge over trees imagined for York Central.

2026: ‘Once I get to the end of Hamilton Drive, there’s a great new bike route. One of the first things to be built with the York Central site was a series of bridges and bike paths to link the west of the city up with the city centre. The biggest one is as elegant as the Millennium Bridge, although rather than looking down on the river it looks over the trees planted before the development work began’.
2026: ‘Cycle home via Walmgate Stray, the Millennium Bridge and Hob Moor. Good to see the cattle grazing on the stray and moor, and people enjoying the sunshine on Millennium Bridge.
2026: Today it’s quiet, and I pause to look up at the Minster against an overcast sky. Someone once told me that you’re never “from” York until you can pass the Minster without looking up; I’m not from here, I’m from Lancashire, but it’s my home and I reserve the right to respond to it with childlike wonder’.
2026: ‘In my lunch-break I nip down to Bishy Road, loving its pedestrianised through-route that means traffic has to slow down to a crawl since it shares the road with schoolkids, mums with buggies, wheelchairs and perambulatory pedestrians like me. And I adore its big, shady trees at the pavement edge that I can shelter under in sun and rain alike. The lack of traffic lights has put an end to the horrible, scary incidents where traffic speeds up to beat the lights and quite often goes through on red, endangering pedestrians and cyclists alike’.
2026:’It’s early, and there’s a deer peering out above the crops in the fields. I never thought I’d move out of the town centre but when the chance came up to build on a custom build plot out at Whinthorpe, among like-minded oddballs – well, we signed up’.
2026: ‘At the end of the afternoon it’s still sunny and calm and I regret taking the tram, so take a bike from the hire rank in Parliament Street and after a quick wander round the newly-pedestrian-priority Bishy Road head down the riverside, over the Millennium bridge and out of town along the cycle path. Lots of others out too – cars are so expensive to use that it only takes a whisper of sun for them to get forgotten’.
2026: ‘now Cinder Lane is populated by trees and planting and always alive with singing and movement’.

2026 Q3: How do we hope to be living together?
The third of our research questions came from our reflections on Ruth Levitas’ idea that utopia contains different ways of imagining how we might live together and the kinds of social relationship that we might build. The stories submitted so far are full of a sense of a rich and complex social fabric. There is a lot of chatting, bumping into people as well as the joys of family and friends. Direct connections between less traffic and it being quieter and new casual social interactions are imagined: ‘In fact, most traffic during the day now takes a different route into York to avoid Bishy Road. Hurrah: it adds to the sense of community and allows people to stop and chat together without noise or fumes’.

Alongside these type of daily social encounters, there is also some ambitious new type of social relations imagined too.

Co-existing better with the Races
One interesting issues was people in their 2016 story noting that the Races causes them issues – as they live on that side of town. Yet in their 2026 stories there was specific imaginings not of completely transforming the Races and Race Goers but of enabling better forms of co-existence.

2026: ‘At the end of the day my partner and I venture into York to see a film at City Screen. It’s a race-day and the drunken people staggering down Bishopthorpe Road make the walk less pleasant than usual… so we cycle around the back streets from Bishy Road into town, which is a much nicer experience now that the back roads have been traffic-calmed’.
2026: ‘I awake to an automated text message reminding me that this Saturday is a race day. I’m grateful for the warning; perhaps I’ll go for a bike ride that afternoon to get away from the noise. It should all be over by 5pm in any case; the racegoers will have walked into town, sobered by the tap water provided by the racecourse to every departing guest, and helped en route by the friendly team of racecourse employees who give directions and clean up mess as it’s left’.

Welcoming new comers and visitors
For some York tourism 2016-style was clearly an issue. For example: 2016: ‘At lunch time I head out into the city for some shopping. It’s busy with visitors and I dodge in and around people taking photographs or consulting maps. It feels very much like a tourist attraction’.

Yet there were also hopes for 2026 of a different type of social interaction with visitors.

2026: ‘My big task today is to take part in the York Welcoming Collective. 1000s of us volunteer, as part of the work the city needs, to welcome visitors, tourists they were once called, to the city. Our aim is to develop interpersonal interactions with our visitors from all around the world so they enrich our lives and understanding and we can introduce them in a meaningful and enriched way of the city of York. I’ve learnt so much this way and now many of us have friends in China, Indian, Pakistan, Mexico and Russia as well as across Europe. We want people to engage locally with us just as we are open to their localities across the world. We build our own translocal community in the wake of the EU referendum. We ask everyone who comes to bring something to share, their language, a dish – and we share with them the complex histories and cultures of York. No visitor can just see York as pretty old buildings any more’.
2026: ‘The clinic is even more popular now than it was 10 years ago, because nobody – even those on a low income, of whom we have plenty since York signed up for the Welcome European Economic Migrants initiative to support the servicing of its tourist trade – have any issue getting into town easily, quickly and cheaply via buses and trams’.

Volunteering/Collectives
There were many imaginations of people voluntarily and co-operatively contributing to their places and communities. These ran from straightforward volunteering to redistribution of wealth schemes through food co-operatives and shared housing.

2026: ‘We go down to the library and spend an hour volunteering. The library is open until 10pm and busy with classes, homework clubs and events’.
2026: ‘Pass by Mum and Dad’s house and Dad, Mum and I walk out to the new woods on the edge of the city. Dad’s been part of the volunteer team researching the new and rich ecosystem and biodiversity created’.
2026: ‘Then I’ll be going to one of my volunteering jobs which is the upkeep of the planting which happened in Bishopthorpe Road when I was still running the shop with funding from winning the Great British High Street’.
2026: ‘The community is built around shared space, including growing spaces, play areas and learning spaces, including a centre with a library and health drop-in. There is a micro-pub down the street in a neighbour’s garage, and many residents have joined the ‘pop-up restaurant’ rotation, taking it in turns to cook for those who want to go out for the evening. There is an excellent balance between public service provision and community action, which is co-produced between the council and the community’.
2026: ‘I chose to pay an additional 10% on top of my shopping bill which goes back into a communal pot that all members of my assembly can draw on if they have a time of need’.

Our final blog in this series will pull out the specific policy ideas – so we can open them up for debate and plan public events to explore alternatives.

‘What we want to be able to do?’

In the Days In My Life Stories words of home, belonging and connection dominate. In this blog we explore the first of our analysis questions. In 2026: 'What do we want to be able to do?'
In the Days In My Life Stories words of home, belonging and connection dominate. In this blog we explore the first of our analysis questions. In 2026: ‘What do we want to be able to do?’

One of the things we hope to do through the My Future York project to enable a slow and deep form of political engagement. We’re seeking to start something quite different from either the most common forms of public consultation or many forms of community activism which are often, for obvious and understandable reasons, against something. My Future York is about what we might be for. Or to put it another way, it’s utopian. It asks us to bring into being another time where others things might be possible. It is a leap of personal and political imagination. More Days In My Life are rolling in all the time but we also appreciate that writing isn’t everyone favourite activity so we’ve in the process of developing a quick fire version to use on public stalls and in workshops. More details on these soon.

In a series of blogs this week, we will offer a close reading of the fifteen Days In My Life stories submitted so far under the four 2026 questions we identified at our first Open Analysis workshop in the early summer.

2026
Q1: What do we want to be able to do? (practical things)
Q2: How are different aspects of our lives connected? (home, work, fun)
Q3: How do we hope to be living together? (social relations)
Q4: Ideas for designing alternatives? (specific ideas that we can follow up with events)

A word cloud analysis of the stories – image above – indicates a strong sense of ‘belonging’ and ‘movement’. Home and house are mentioned often as are words of travel and connection.

In this first blog we will start with 2026: Question 1 ‘what we want to be able to do’.
A close reading suggests we want to be able to breathe, feel free, feel safe, eat locally and well, bump into people we know, love our friends and family, welcome those we don’t know and see signs we belong everywhere.

Breathe – no air pollution
Mentioned explicitly by one writer yet implicitly there for everyone is the right to be able to breathe easily:

2016: ‘Wake up coughing and simultaneously apologising to my partner for waking him up again.
2026: ‘No medication needed now the air quality is better and the traffic pollution problem has been addressed.’

Move around safety (walk, cycle safely and park your bike, buses, electric buses, trams, trains)
Travelling was by far the most mentioned issue. The idea of cheap, affordable, reliable clean public transport and well maintained and safe cycling infrastructure was mentioned by all but two of the stories.

2016: ‘I cycle over to Museum Street (back down Bridge Street, right onto North Street which is pretty dangerous with a narrow road and traffic thundering both sides of you) and perform a complicated bit of slightly dangerous traffic negotiation from North Street onto Lendal Bridge because there are no cycle paths nor any way of turning right without going round the whole cenotaph loop. So I part-walk across the pavement, part-cycle across the pelican, and judge to a ‘t’ my moment to nudge into a gap in the traffic coming from the station.’
2026: ‘an anonymous donation made possible the plan for a “Shared Space” along Bishopthorpe Road shops which now means that traffic goes at walking pace, winding it’s way around colourful plant beds.’

Live in affordable and sustainable housing
A pervasive York issue… the idea of a stable, affordable and long term place to live – a home – was present in every one of the stories more or less explicitly.

2026: ‘as I walk into our house, a two-bedroom terrace we’ve owned for a few years now thanks to strict regulation of the housing market and a ban on landlords amassing houses for profit.’
2026: ‘We were able to move back within the City of York boundary a couple of years ago, joining a new housing scheme that means we can have a secure and reasonably priced home in a cooperative community.’
2026: ‘I never thought I’d move out of the town centre but when the chance came up to build on a custom build plot out at Whinthorpe, among like-minded oddballs.’


Buy local food affordably (shop in independent shops / local food assembly / allotments / independent York restaurants delivery by bike)

Local food appeared in many different ways.

2026: ‘At lunch time I nip out to grab my shopping from the local food assembly. I’ve ordered what I need online from local suppliers and producers and it has been brought to one place to pick up. The mini supermarkets are mostly gone now – who needs them when there so much available locally? I chose to pay an additional 10% on top of my shopping bill which goes back into a communal pot that all members of my assembly can draw on if they have a time of need.’
2026: ‘since many of York’s restaurants now offer a delivery service using our fabulously comprehensive, stringently maintained network of cycle lanes that the Council made national headlines for guaranteeing to be pothole-free at all times of year, we decide not to cook, but instead we use a City of York Council-sponsored app to order some delivery food from one of a network of small independent restaurants that enjoy subsidised business rates – and we cycle home to arrive just before our food.’

Be welcome and feel safe in local cafes pubs
Local cafes and pubs were woven in to many people’s stories.

2016: ‘Even the designated gay pub in the city centre isn’t a safe space for trans people’
2026: ‘We spend the evening in a pub chosen simply because it’s local to us’
2026: ‘There is a micro-pub down the street in a neighbour’s garage, and many residents have joined the ‘pop-up restaurant’ rotation, taking it in turns to cook for those who want to go out for the evening.’
2026: ‘We never used to risk the local pubs (the handwritten sign in the ladies’ toilets about drug dealers being reported suggested it wasn’t a good place) but we’ve now got a couple of really good ones which provide a welcoming place to spend an evening – and serve a good cold pint.’

Indoor public spaces / places to work / places to eat lunch / place to meet friends and family
2026: ‘Lunch is a short walk into town – every year the weather’s weirder so short walks are good – but today it stays fine and shuffling meetings to tables outside cafes works well – WiFi everywhere so work happens everywhere.’

Access to parking for those that need it (Blue Badge holders and others) to freed by safer bike infrastructure and better public transport

2026: ‘The car park is much smaller now, with space only for 15 cars plus a few disabled parking bays. What used to be for cars is now a bike park, most of it covered with green roofs to provide shelter from the rain.’

Gender neutrality
2016: ‘The wrongly gendered address slams into the pit of my stomach. It’s so unnecessary: why do people feel the need to say anything that implies gender? I grimace, wondering whether to correct her and tell her I’m actually a trans man, but decide it’s not worth the anxiety of how she might respond.’
2026: ‘When I tell the cashier the milk jug is empty, she calls to her colleague, “Can you bring some milk out for this customer, please? They need it for their tea.” I smile at the fact she hasn’t assumed anything about my gender from the way I look: the comprehensive awareness training offered free to every business by the Yorkshire Assembly’s elected trans representative has really taken off.’

Welcoming new comers and visitors
2026: ‘Welcome European Economic Migrants initiative’
2026: ‘York Welcoming Collective. 1000s of us volunteer, as part of the work the city needs, to welcome visitors, tourists they were once called, to the city. Our aim is to develop interpersonal interactions with our visitors from all around the world so they enrich our lives and understanding and we can introduce them in a meaningful and enriched way of the city of York.’

Signs of belonging
Yet perhaps the most moving aspect of the stories is a sense that all who have written suggested they were seeking signs that they belonged. One writer smiles when they see a LGBTQ rainbow flag and relaxes when gender-neutral pronouns are used; many writers bump into people they know; they chat; they see other people chatting; people walk round the city with friends; they move knowledgably around the city via short cuts or so they can glimpse favourite views.

Our second analysis blog – to be published later this week – will explore further this sense of belonging through the second and third questions:
How are different aspects of our lives connected? (home, work, fun)
How do we hope to be living together? (social relations)

A final blog this week will draw out the hard nosed policy ideas people’s stories have implied – from how housing might regulated to become affordable to local means of redistributing wealth (and via potholes and local history community networks!).

An open letter to our Utopian Fair Letter Writers

At the Utopian Fair at Somerset House in June 51 people wrote to the Utopian Council in 2066 imagining what they would like to see changed and what they would like to contribute.  The My Future York team has written back to everyone personally and with the open letter below.
At the Utopian Fair at Somerset House in June 51 people wrote to the Utopian Council in 2066 imagining what they would like to see changed and what they would like to contribute. The My Future York team has written back to everyone personally and with the open letter below.

Dear Utopia Letter Writer,

Thank you so much for writing to us at the Somerset House, Utopia Fair in June. We have written back to you personally and have also written this letter to everyone who wrote to us.

Who are the Utopian Council?

As we said on the stall:

We are the Utopian Council. We are a collaboration of minds and hands. Together we are the ears to your queries, dreams and fears and a catalyst for your actions.

The idea of this ‘council’ derives from an ancient concept left behind from earlier days, where cities, towns and constituencies were ruled by tiered management structures and elected members. However the Utopian Council is open to your interpretation. There are no limits to our duties as a council, or yours as ‘the people’, we are here for you as you are for us.

As well as being your Utopian Council we are also the My Future York research team who are exploring how histories of the city can be used to open up alternative futures and different political visions for the city. Reading and responding to your letters helped us think a lot about how we might conceptualize differently the relationship between local council and the people that live in localities.

‘Manifestations of feelings from all people will be encourage at all times’

To read your letters and organize our responses, we met in the City of York Council chamber in the Guildhall. Our stall in London was inspired by inverting a sign which hangs in the chamber, directed at the public gallery. The sign reads:

‘No manifestation of feeling from the public will be allowed during the council meetings.’

Our Utopian Council sign that hung above our stall at Somerset House instead stated that, ‘Manifestations of feelings from all people will be encourage at all times’. It was in this spirit we read and replied to your letters.

The sign which helped us design our Utopia Fair stall, City of York Council Chamber, c1891.
The sign which helped us design our Utopia Fair stall, City of York Council Chamber, c1891.

How we read and responded to your letters (or bureaucratic democracy!)

Of course it is very common to criticize governments for being bureaucratic but as we started our task we realized there was a lot of paper to manage! The number of letters we received called on us to have to order our work in some way. We also wanted to make sure we were being fair to each letter.

We began by testing the categories by which our current council works – did they work for your utopian imaginings and hope? The current City of York Council is structured into six big departments as follows:

• Structure of Office of the Chief Executive (CEX)
• Structure of Children’s Services, Education and Skills (CSES)
• Structure of Adult Social Services (AS)
• Structure of City and Environmental Services (CES)
• Structure of Communities and Neighbourhood Services (CANS)
• Structure of Customer and Business Support Services (CBSS)

We first tried to sort the letters into the into 2016 structure for the council. The first very obvious thing was that the pile under ‘Communities and Neighbourhood Services’ was by far the biggest. There was also a very big pile that was ‘Communities and Neighbourhood Services’ and ‘City and Environment Services’, indicating that in your letters many of you linked people and place. The size of these piles was also an effect of ‘children’ or ‘adult social care’ not quite being adequate to the social worlds imagined in your letters. You were imagining more holistic and intergenerational activities and interventions.

Noticing these categorization problems drew attention to the kind of people and kinds of relationships imagined by the City of York Council in 2016. The current structures imagine you in specific ways. You might be an adult receiving care. Or you might be a customer, implying some form of financial translation. Or you might be a child. Or you might be the community. But these are odd and overlapping categories. Do these different social identities add up to a whole city? But for you – our letter writers – ‘community’ dominated. Perhaps this is not entirely surprising at a Utopian Fair based on a research programme called ‘Connected Communities’, however the very things you linked required us to bust out of the 2016 categories into something else.

The My Future York team does some utopian sorting and grouping
The My Future York team does some utopian sorting and grouping

We started to read in more detail the large batch of fifteen letters which we had filed in two places, both ‘Communities and Neighborhoods’ and ‘City and Environment’. We noticed and colour-coded the positive and negative words. We analyzed the key ideas and used the interpretive writing approach associated with Margareta Ekarv to concentrate meaning to, as she puts it, ‘an almost poetic level’.

We hear you.
We see you.
You are making your homes.
You are doing it yourself.
You are sharing.
You are together.
You are building community spaces.
We will pass on stories and share your ideas.
We will be part, with you, of a spiders web of co-operative housing.

A second large pile of nine letters seemed to relate broadly to governance and decision-making. In this pile there were more negative words: Lies, self and corporate interest, demagogy, money. As well as many alternative positive imagining: love, care, collective, collaboration, democratic, empathy, equal, fair, citizen.

We hear your calls for honest.
We hear that with power has rarely come with respect.
Instead we offer our dreams to meet yours.
You will teach consensus-decision making in schools, in workplaces and in our council.
We will work not on your behalf but ‘hand in hand’.
We will think of people beyond our shores.
We will ‘make a difference without creating differences’.

There was a strong emphasis in another grouping of seven letters on reimagining work. Key words used in these letters were: exchange, swap skills, need collective work, support, free, fun and welcoming.

Land reform.
You are coming together.
You are swapping your skills, your knowledge, your ideas.
We can help you make the spaces.
You will make them welcoming.
You will make them friendly.
You will make them safe.
You will meet people different from you.
‘You are sharing in nature’s commonwealth more equally.’

Another batch of seven letters took energy as a focus. Key words were local energy, clean, renewable, wind, solar and family:

Power to every family.
Where solar and wind meet local consensus decision making.
We share our environment.
Recycling: nothing ever goes only transforms.
We will sustain it and it sustains us.

Six letters focused on better transport and key words and phrases used were: sunlight and air, beautiful buildings complements, enrich society, community, artists, involved.

‘Days of play’.
‘Gathering’.
‘Signing beautiful songs’.
Being adult is being creative.
The path to happiness is
‘Truly looking at each other’
not GDP.

Finally, there was a pile of six letters interested in learning. Notable vocabulary included: diverse, positive, resourced, mutual benefit, contact, share produce and contribute,

Learning together.
Mutual benefit.
Sharing the produce.
New curriculum, philosophy and play.

Perhaps the most crucial thing was that we carefully noticed exactly what you were asking of us as the Utopian Council. The things you imagined the Council doing were notably not in the tradition of representational democracy. This made us wonder for our work in York today how we might mix differently representational, direct and what you might call facilitative forms of democracy in York.

You were not asking for us to take actions on your behalf.
You wanted to work with us to create conditions.
To make spaces where things can happen.
To connect up.
To collectivize infrastructure (waste; electricity).
To spread good ideas.
To reflect back and recognize your successes.
And to be something more multiple than a ‘you’ and an ‘us’.

Yours in Utopia,

Helen, Lianne, Richard and Victoria with Reet So

Day in My Life 2016+2026: Local responses to climate change

'2026: Back to my bike, parked opposite the affordable housing on the former car-park. A community initiative initiated by the Bishy Road Traders Association once the free local circular route electric bus service was brought in and the use of park and ride from outside the area became compulsory to improve air quality. There’s so much less parking in the area as car use and ownership reduces. Cycle across the Millennium Bridge to collect a grandchild (last of 7) from kindergarten. Notice that the river is quite low in spite of the flash flooding in June.'
‘2026: Back to my bike, parked opposite the affordable housing on the former car-park. A community initiative initiated by the Bishy Road Traders Association once the free local circular route electric bus service was brought in and the use of park and ride from outside the area became compulsory to improve air quality. There’s so much less parking in the area as car use and ownership reduces. Cycle across the Millennium Bridge to collect a grandchild (last of 7) from kindergarten. Notice that the river is quite low in spite of the flash flooding in June.’

Contributed by John

A Day in Early July 2016:

Wake up 7am, downstairs to make tea for self and Carol, return to bed. Check emails on tablet. Shower, dress, prepare breakfast. Pleasant morning so we eat in the summerhouse. Newspaper delivered and we do the crossword.

Meeting in town, 10am, with a solicitor about property owned by a charity of which I’m a trustee. Cycle there via, mostly, back-streets using 4 cut-throughs for bikes and pedestrians only. Most dangerous section Castle Mills Bridge – fast traffic and no bike lane. No bike parking at the office I’m visiting so I lean bike on a planter. Face to face meeting. Takes longer but more productive than email or Skype.

Cycle back through city centre stopping to visit stationers for printer ink. Bike racks on Parliament Street full so I hitch bike to railings. Cycle to Bishopthorpe Road shops using 3 bike/pedestrian short-cuts. Sufficient bike parking but the usual unseemly scrummage from the cars trying to park in the Bishy Road car park.

Puchase all my current needs from Bishy Road shops: ironmonger, deli, bike shop, butcher, greengrocer, baker, convenience stores. Chat to several friends and acquaintances. Cycle home. Streets round here can hardly take any more car parking.

Read newspaper, check emails. Collect milk from doorstep.

12.30 by bike to collect grandchild from kindergarten beyond Millennium Bridge. On way call in at GP practice to collect new supply of hearing aid batteries (free). Collect grandchild and his bike and cycle home via Rowntree Park and back roads.

Lunch then entertain grandchild by reading stories from books, a little light gardening and watering together, then “football”. Grandchild collected at 3.45 by parent who works part time. Recover from grandchild by finishing newspaper then catch up with various paperwork.

Invited to nearby home of other child/grandchildren for early tea/dinner. Homemade pizza – delicious ! Leave as grandchildren taken off to bed. Cycle along riverside, Skeldergate, North Street and Lendal Bridge to pub for poetry open mic night at 7. Good age range – teens to over 70s. Pint of York Brewery Guzzler.

Cycle home, no bike short-cuts but pass York Brewery and enjoy the smell of brewing within the city walls. Appreciate the wide cycle lane on Blossom Street as cars park and swing their doors open outside the take-aways. Home, listen to news. Bed by 11.
Contemplate how much has changed, or stayed unchanged, in York over last 40 years.

A Day in Early July 2026

Up about 5am, sleeping downstairs because it’s cooler. Tea in bed – check messages and download newspaper as the print edition ceased a few years ago. It’s light out and already warming up to another too hot day in a too hot summer, a too hot year. Shower, dress. Have breakfast in summerhouse while it’s still cool. Garden still green thanks to torrential rain and thunderstorms in June. Do crossword online.

About 7 Carol and I walk into town to see solicitor about updating our Will. We find face to face still best. Find the walk up Micklegate on the way back a little warm. Use my bike to do the shopping 8ish. Shops and offices tend to open at 6.30am in these hot summers and close by 3 unless they have a long lunch closure and then they open late afternoon and early evening.

The independent shops on Bishopthorpe Road are still all there, solar powered fans keeping things cool. The dry cleaners is now community owned and the former betting shop is the offices for the local community association. Fill in survey about whether the community association should sponsor an early morning milk, eggs etc house to house delivery. They are also arranging special collections for the few types of plastic that the Council still doesn’t collect – plastic bags, film, yogurt pots etc so I call in for a container. Fruit and veg is increasingly local and organic, as is the meat in the butchers. Hardly any traffic, except bikes and buses, so plenty of incentive to stop for a coffee or ice-cream and chat. Remember to buy milk.

Back to my bike, parked opposite the affordable housing on the former car-park. A community initiative initiated by the Bishy Road Traders Association once the free local circular route electric bus service was brought in and the use of park and ride from outside the area became compulsory to improve air quality. There’s so much less parking in the area as car use and ownership reduces.

Around 10.30 I call in at the GP surgery for hearing aid batteries – still free and more efficient. They check my blood pressure at the same time – part of their preventative work, though generally they follow the new less interventionist policies. Cycle across the Millennium Bridge to collect a grandchild (last of 7) from kindergarten. Notice that the river is quite low in spite of the flash flooding in June.

It’s getting really hot now so lunch is inside the house with the solar powered fan on. (Panels installed recently following reintroduction of grants for installation. Then stories from the well-loved books, many of which we’ve had for 40 years, followed by the paddling pool in the shade outside. We fill it from one of the 4 water butts as there is a hosepipe restriction in anticipation of the usual August drought.

Grandchild collected at 1.45 by parent. They, like us, will probably take a siesta. We sleep for a couple of hours and get up again at 4. Read for a while then bike into town to the independent bookshop on High Petergate – the print book refuses to die. So much less traffic in town that some of the bike lanes almost seem unnecessary. Lots more through routes and rat-runs closed to cars. Electric bikes and trikes etc. are allowed to use the bike lanes and have become very popular.

City centre is busy. Many visitors though York itself is much more cosmopolitan than 10 years ago – one of the unexpected results of Brexit. Improvements to the East Coast Main Line, adopted after the abandonment of HS 2 mean that there’s a train up or down to London or Edinburgh every 15 minutes, as well as an improved cross-country and transpennine service. Local services to Harrogate and Scarborough are now half-hourly.

Home to dinner then back by bike to the pub for the poetry open mic at 9, still going after more than 20 years. Guzzler on tap. Home by midnight, passing the York Brewery on the way.

Day in My Life 2016 + 2026: Breathing Freely

Contributed to the My Future York project, 25th July 2016. The writer prefers not to be named.

2026: 'Once I get to the end of Hamilton Drive, there’s a great new bike route. One of the first things to be built with the York Central site was a series of bridges and bike paths to link the west of the city up with the city centre. The biggest one is as elegant as the Millennium Bridge, although rather than looking down on the river it looks over the trees planted before the development work began.'
2026: ‘Once I get to the end of Hamilton Drive, there’s a great new bike route. One of the first things to be built with the York Central site was a series of bridges and bike paths to link the west of the city up with the city centre. The biggest one is as elegant as the Millennium Bridge, although rather than looking down on the river it looks over the trees planted before the development work began.’

2016:
Wake up coughing and simultaneously apologising to my partner for waking him up again. Not too much before the alarm clock, so get up anyway. I can hear next door coughing too. I’ve never asked her if she also struggles with poor air quality, but her cough is exactly the same as mine. Take the extra-strong antihistamine and the nasal spray from the GP, and make a mental note to ask her when I can next have a spell on the stronger steroid spray, the one that nearly works.

Shower, breakfast, quick stroll round the garden and then get ready to go into the city centre. There’s a bus from the end of the cul-de-sac, but it only runs every half an hour and takes as long as the bike ride, so I prefer to cycle. A bit later than usual setting off, so get caught up in the school traffic, with impatient cars overtaking my bike and then grinding to a sudden stop just in front of me. Make it out of Hamilton Drive on to Acomb road, but get squeezed too close for comfort to the curb by a lorry as I cross the iron bridge. I cut down Lowther Terrace and across the station car park for a rest from the traffic. It’s not really a cycle route, but even with the idling taxis, it’s a better option than risking Blossom Street. But either way I have to go over Lendal Bridge. Here, the traffic is so tight to the curb that I get off and walk along the pavement. It’s a sunny day so the fair weather cyclists are out and it’s hard to find a spare bike rack, but eventually I get my bike locked up and head to my GP appointment. As predicted, the news from the latest hospital tests is that I’m healthy – apart from the affects of traffic pollution on my sinuses – and nothing much more can be done to reduce the sinus pain, headaches and cough unless the air quality improves.

Whilst I’m in town I do a bit of food shopping, trying to buy as much as I can in local independent shops, although it’s not always easy. Then head off to the University campus, nerves steeled at the junction at the bottom of Heslington Road for the inevitable red-light jumping car. Head home via Walmgate Stray, the Millennium Bridge and Hob Moor after a reasonably productive day, although less so than I’d like given my doctor’s appointment and the general fog of sinus pain. Good to see the cattle grazing on the stray and moor, and people enjoying the sunshine on Millennium Bridge.

After dinner, some friends come round. They’ve just bought their first house, on a fairly anonymous estate on the edge of York. They’re not settling in well, missing the sense of community from where they used to live. There are no shops or communal spaces on or near the estate, and they only see their neighbours when they drive passed. They used to be keen cyclists, but I understand why they’ve driven over to our house. The bike lanes the developer put in just cover the estate, and it’s a very busy main road to get anywhere else. We stay in and have a pleasant evening sat in the garden, enjoying the fine weather.

2026
Wake up with the alarm; shower, breakfast, a quick stroll in the garden and then get ready to go into the city centre. No medication needed now the air quality is better and the traffic pollution problem has been addressed. The bus from the end of the cul-de-sac is electric and since the congestion charge was introduced it runs every fifteen minutes and is much quicker than it used to be. I enjoy the exercise and have a few stops to make, so decide to cycle. There’s never much traffic on Hamilton Drive now, so it doesn’t matter that there isn’t a separate cycle lane. There’s fewer parked cars now too, since most households have reduced the number of cars they have, or got rid of them completely. Once I get to the end of Hamilton Drive, there’s a great new bike route. One of the first things to be built with the York Central site was a series of bridges and bike paths to link the west of the city up with the city centre. The biggest one is as elegant as the Millennium Bridge, although rather than looking down on the river it looks over the trees planted before the development work began. Even at this time in the morning, there’s some dog walkers sat on a bench, chatting. I take the route to the station to collect the tickets I need to pick up. The car park is much smaller now, with space only for 15 cars plus a few disabled parking bays. What used to be for cars is now a bike park, most of it covered with green roofs to provide shelter from the rain. It will take thousands of bikes, and is usually busy. Today I lock my bike on one of the ‘short-stay’ racks and go to collect my tickets. Then I head into the city centre. It was harder to make dedicated bike paths here, properly separated from other road users, but it doesn’t matter so much now that Lendal Bridge is closed to cars and lorries. There’s plenty more bike racks in town too, circling the new larger pedestrian zone. It’s helped that the roads closed to traffic during the day are now all shut for the same time, and that everything inside the walls on the Minster side of the river is part of the pedestrian zone. No one gets caught out by odd streets still being open to cars. With the rest of the city centre and the inner ring road being subject to a congestion charge, it’s all worked out very well.

I drop the book off at a friend’s house as promised, and take the new dedicated separate bike path to the university. A more productive day than 10 years ago, which is the norm now I no longer have sinus problems. Cycle home via Walmgate Stray, the Millennium Bridge and Hob Moor. Good to see the cattle grazing on the stray and moor, and people enjoying the sunshine on Millennium Bridge. Carry on up Green Lane to the Front Street. Proper planning and investment has encouraged new business and shops, and it’s a pleasure to do my food shopping near to home in independent shops with really high quality food. The hardware shop is busy as usual, but the late-opening bakery thankfully has some lovely bread left. I bump into a neighbour and we chat a while about the fine weather.

After dinner, some friends come round. They’ve just moved to a new build on an estate on the edge of York. It’s really lovely. Their house was built to a really high sustainability standard and costs very little to run. The estate itself has communal green space, including a shared orchard and allotments for those who want one. Cars are mostly keep off the site so children play outside more. There’s also a community building, which seems to always have something on. However, tonight they’ve cycled over to us, using one of the many routes the developers built to connect the estate to other parts of the city. We think about sitting out in the garden, but decide to head out to the nearest pub, where there’s a guitarist playing tonight. We never used to risk the local pubs (the handwritten sign in the ladies’ toilets about drug dealers being reported suggested it wasn’t a good place) but we’ve now got a couple of really good ones which provide a welcoming place to spend an evening – and serve a good cold pint.