The idea behind ‘Living Well with Water’ came from conversations about how we might live well with water as part of My Castle Gateway. (See here – https://mycastlegateway.org/masterplan-ideas/living-well-with-water/ ). This has turned into a PhD research project being conducted by Seb O’Connor which will focus on the links between values and decision-making related to rivers.

Through the My Castle Gateway process the importance of the rivers kept resurfacing. People drew attention to how important it was to have views of the Ouse and the Foss, to open up the river banks for walking and cycling, the possibility of cleaning up the rivers to make them more swimmable and the benefits that would come from there being more activity on the Foss in particular.

At the same time there was a general feeling that we need to accept that York will flood and that as a city we should innovate and work creatively with that idea.

So how does the project follow on from this?

York is well aware of its history of flooding. The confluence of the Foss and the Ouse and its tributaries combined with a concrete (impermeable) city centre means that when rain arrives in York the city can quite quickly become inundated with water.

This means decisions have to be made. Decisions about how we want to live with our rivers. Do we think of these rivers as a threat to the city or do we want to celebrate them? Should they be seen as drains or veins of the urban environment? This research project aims to explore these questions through talking to people who live in York and who experience the rivers in different ways on a daily basis.


Seb O’Connor


Email: fhso@leeds.ac.uk