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Decision over Norwich roads shake-up put on hold

A decision over a shake-up in the way traffic uses Norwich city centre has been put on hold, to the delight of campaigners who had concerns about part of the proposals.

Council transport bosses have come up with a scheme they say will ease congestion in the centre of Norwich, which includes making Chapel Field North two-way and preventing general traffic from using St Stephens Street and part of Surrey Street.

Officers say that will improve journey times, reliability and punctuality for buses, while making life easier for pedestrians in places such as Rampant Horse Street.

A decision was due to be made yesterday by members of the Norwich Highways Agency Committee, made up of city and county councillors.

But, after protesters presented a petition signed by 1,501 people and addressed the committee with their concerns, councillors voted unanimously to defer the decision.

Campaigners, many of whom live in Chapel Field North and Little Bethel Street, said they felt there had not been proper public consultation, figures used to justify the scheme were inaccurate and alternative plans they had put forward had not been properly considered.

David Harrison, from Chapel Field North, claimed there would be an increase of more than 300pc in diesel emissions, although council officers questioned that figure.

And Peter Jackson, also from Chapel Field North, questioned figures over how full buses using the road were likely to be.

After hearing their concerns, Graham Plant, Conservative county councillor and cabinet member for planning and transportation on Norfolk County Council, put forward the proposal to put the decision on hold until March.

He said, while he was confident in the figures the council officers had produced to back up the scheme and that there had been widespread consultation stretching back to 2009, it was clear the people at the meeting felt they had not been consulted properly.

He said: “Although the business community and 11,000 people’s views fed into that consultation some time ago, the residents feel they were not part of that. That has come out clearly and I am concerned about that.

“I believe what officers have presented is a good scheme and an honest scheme. But I would feel more confident if the facts and figures we have been presented with were backed up with a little bit more consultation.”

Gail Harris, Labour city councillor for Catton Grove said: “There have been some very eloquent speeches and we need to make a decision based on facts.”

Other speakers at yesterday’s meeting had stated their support for their scheme. Steve Wickers, commercial director of First Buses had said the scheme would help cut congestion and improve bus journeys, while Stefan Gurney, from the Norwich Business Improvement District, said it would help retailers and businesses.

After the meeting, Mary O’Brien, from the Campaign for a Re-Think of the City Centre Traffic Scheme, said campaigners were delighted with the deferral.

She said: “We are very pleased, because they want to work with us and we are going to give them every chance to do so.

“What was nice was that they recognised the issue we have was with Chapelfield North in particular. That’s a step too far for us and some of our group have been brilliant at questioning the data they have come up with.”

Campaigners have put forward alternative plans, which are show here along with the plan put forward by council officers.

• What do you think? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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