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Major traffic shake-up to ban cars from parts of Norwich city centre - what it means for you

Private cars on St Stephens Street in Norwich PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Private cars on St Stephens Street in Norwich PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Archant Norfolk

An ambitious scheme to transform the way traffic uses Norwich city centre has been given the go-ahead, to the delight of bus operators, business bosses and tourism chiefs.

The £1.45m scheme, will ban general traffic from St Stephens Street and part of Surrey Street, while making Chapel Field North two-way. Work will begin this summer.

Council officers have trumpeted the ‘Transport for Norwich’ scheme as a way to ease congestion in the centre of Norwich.

It has been given a warm welcome by bus operators, who say it will improve journey times, reliability and punctuality for their services.

Business leaders say less traffic will make the city centre a more pleasant place and will encourage economic growth, while tourism bosses say it will help make Norwich more attractive to tourists.

But the green light for the traffic shake-up has disappointed campaigners who were not happy with the changes to Chapel Field North.

And Tony Adams, chairman of the Highways Agency Committee, which approved the plans yesterday, voted against the changes, saying he feared they could lead to shoppers turning their backs on the city centre and heading to out-of-town superstores instead.

The Conservative county councillor for Drayton and Horsford said he feared making it harder for people to drive into the city centre would mean people from the fringes of Norwich would stick to superstores such as Asda in Hellesdon, Sainsbury’s in Thorpe St Andrew and Tesco at Sprowston. He said: “My concern is that the more you discourage traffic from the city centre, the more people from the fringe areas will not use the city centre.

“I recently visited Ipswich, where they have pedestrianised everything and there is row upon row of empty shops. I do not want that for Norwich in any shape or form.”

Mr Adams had said he was against the Chapel Field North proposals and in favour of the St Stephens scheme and wanted to split the vote.

But officers advised him against that approach, and the vote was taken on the whole scheme. The committee has four voting members and the scheme was agreed by three votes to one.

Campaigners against the proposals, who formed the Chapel Field Action Group, had raised concerns over pollution, safety, an increase in lorries and coach numbers and the impact on Chapelfield Gardens.

The scheme was due to be approved at a meeting in January, but councillors, having heard the concerns from that group, agreed to defer their decision.

That was to allow alternative plans put forward by campaigners to be considered and to enable officers to respond to claims that the traffic and bus use figures used to justify the changes were inaccurate.

However councillors decided to push ahead with the original proposals, after hearing from officers that, in their view, the alternative plans did not stack up.

Denise Carlo, Green city councillor for Nelson, said she hoped the public would be reassured that there were no plans to damage Chapelfield Gardens, contrary to some claims.

She said: “In my view, Chapelfield Gardens are safe and will be enhanced. There will be a short piece of concrete to extend an existing path where people walk already.”

The committee also agreed not to remove the hedge along the Chapel Field North in the park and to widen and level the footpath on the opposite side of Chapel Field North, with the footpath next to the park set to be removed as part of the project.

After the meeting, Peter Jackson, from the Chapel Field Action Group, said: “We are disappointed but not surprised. Our concern is that the councillors have agreed to do something because the officers said the figures were fine, so the figures must be fine.”

Having taken issue with the traffic data and bus use modelling used to justify the plans, Mr Jackson said: “We had demonstrated that the data was far from fine.”

Stefan Gurney, director of the Norwich Business Improvement District, said the changes would bring an economic boost to the city and said he did not agree with the chairman’s claims it would put shoppers off from heading into Norwich.

He said: “The out of town superstores might provide free parking but we have a completely different offer in the city centre.

“People who come shopping here do it for a more social experience. They visit a number of shops, they have a bite to eat or a drink, they go to the cinema or to the theatre. It’s a completely different thing to going to a supermarket.”

What it means for drivers

Car drivers will find it harder to get into Norwich once the changes are introduced, with one of the stated aims of the scheme to reduce city centre congestion.

The biggest and most obvious change for drivers is that they will no longer be able to head into St Stephens Street from the roundabout at the top of the road.

Surrey Street would also be off limits, leaving drivers with a rather roundabout route to get to the Castle Mall shopping centre car park entrance in Farmers Avenue.

Those drivers hey would have to head into All Saints Green and down Westlegate, turning right into Red Lion Street and looping around to the Castle Mall entrance.

Indeed, traffic heading down Westlegate would have no choice but to turn right. Traffic would no longer be able to continue across into Rampant Horse Street, up Theatre Street and onto Chapel Field North.

Drivers would be able to head into the city from Chapel Field North once it is made two way, but, other than to get to the car park near the Assembly House there would be little point in them doing so.

That is because general traffic would not be allowed to go any further than that car park, with a new restriction preventing vehicles other than buses, cycles and taxis from continuing down Rampant Horse Street.

Little Bethel Street will also be closed to traffic, except for cycles and emergency vehicles.

What it means for bus users

Bus operators say the changes will mean their services become more reliable and more punctual, which will encourage people to leave their cars at home and switch to public transport.

Council bosses say the changes will shave two minutes off each journey time, as well as improving the reliability of the services.

Buses will share St Stephens Street with taxis and cycles but, without cars congesting that street, bosses say it will improve journeys.

Making Chapel Field North two-way, will improve bus reliability for services from the west of the city, transport bosses insist.

Campaigners against the changes to Chapel Field North have disputed the figures which have been used to justify the changes and called for more accurate figures.

What it means for businesses

The changes will make the city a more attractive place and encourage more people to head into Norwich, according to business leaders.

Stefan Gurney, director of the Norwich Business Improvement District, said speedier buses would draw more people into the city centre, while reducing other traffic would make a street such as St Stephens Street much more pleasant and safe for pedestrians.

He said: “The view from businesses is that they support economic growth in the city and the transport links need to make the city as attractive as possible.

“The proposals will make a real impact on the visitor numbers who will come into the city. St Stephens Street and Surrey Street changes will make that area a much nicer environment for city centre users, while also reducing carbon emissions.”

What it means for tourism

Toursim bosses also welcomed the scheme, saying it would help attract more visitors to a city which, up to now, has not always been the most welcoming for visitors arriving by coach.

David McMaster, from Visit Norwich, presented a petition, signed by 17 businesses keen to see changes made to make it easier for coaches to get into the city centre.

The petition said making Chapel Field North open to traffic from Grapes Hill roundabout would have immense benefit to coaches carrying tourists who want to get to the city centre.

It stated: “We believe this development will have a considerable benefit to our businesses and generally to the Norwich economy.”

Disappointment for campaigners

Praised by councillors for their eloquence, attention to detail and contribution to the debate, the Chapel Field Action Group were, ultimately, not successful in convincing the committee to think again.

Formed in the weeks after what they described as a “woefully short consultation period”, the group consists, in their own words of “a concerned group of people living in the Chapelfield area, who are anxious to prevent the degrading of an historic heritage site in the city centre”.

They put forward alternative solutions to the proposals the council had come up with and questioned the traffic flow data and bus passenger figures the council officers were using to justify the scheme.

Their concerns included that a touted drop in car numbers would be offset by increased lorry and bus numbers in a narrow street, subsequently increasing pollution.

Richard Wilson, one of the group members, asked: “Do the committee really wish to preside over and sit comfortably with a ruinious planning decision which will see a street with listed buildings become a crawler lane for buses and HGVs with a reduction of two minutes in journey times?”

Peter Jackson, a member of the group, had told the committee the group was supportive of the plans for St Stephens, but had tried to come up with solutions for the Chapel Field North section of the scheme.

He told the committee: “It may appear to the committee that the group is opposed to change. The opposite is true. We, as residents of the area are very much in favour of the overall Norwich Area Transport Strategy.

“Where we have differences is the means of achieving those aims. As ratepayers, either directly or indirectly for this scheme, it is very much in our interests to find solutions which meet our needs, those of the council and committee and the population at large.”

But he said the traffic data being used was at least a year out of date and urged the committee to put the decision on hold until technology such as automatic number plate recognition could be used to provide indisputable data on traffic movements, which could then be used to find a solution.

34 comments

  • Yes, where are all our comments left earlier than these? I think you should include a link to the council group which attempts to answer all the criticisms. Had to smile at their reasoning that two minutes saved per trip is fifty hours overall. They used the reverse argument when I opposed the speed limit reduction on the Newmarket Road, telling me that I would only lose two minutes by having to go slower!

    Report this comment

    L.Deene

    Saturday, March 23, 2013

  • Can I be somewhat radical here – why not ban buses from the city centre and speed up traffic flow? Most of them I see during the day are driving around empty and we have a perfectly good bus station for them to stop in – ban then from St Stephens Street and the roads within the Inner Link Road and speed up traffic flow. I wonder what proportion of the gross spend in the city centre shops comes from people that drive in, rather than arrive by bus? I would suggest 80% v 20%.

    Report this comment

    banned user

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • Pedestrianisation? I think I'm missing something here. How is turning St Stephens into yet another giant bus station and taxi rank going to help pedestrians? Aren't Castle Meadow and the highly expensive bus station good enough? As many others are saying, it's buses that grid-lock St Stephens, not cars. The amount of large and ugly buses parked on or dashing up and down the street is ludicrous. It will be no safer after the scheme starts than it is now. Oh, and when pedestrians do stroll amongst the buses in the new and utopian St Stephens Street, please also be beware of taxis making constant unlawful U-turns!

    Report this comment

    iclone-2000

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • Derek McDonald, when their was a burst water main in Chapfield road not so long ago, they closed one side and had a contra flow system for sometime with no obvious problems.

    Report this comment

    Bloater

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • 2 minutes off a journey? Joy it will only take 58 minutes to get in from Drayton then! Any danger of the "experts" arranging park and ride for us mere mortals to shop on a Sunday? Presumably we will need less parking wardens as well?

    Report this comment

    The Boy Lar

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • They closed Castle Meadow to cars over 15 years ago but some still go through there. As Roddy said, at night there are hardly any buses. I'm also helping to pay for roads that I can not use.

    Report this comment

    hedley

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • A wel deserved pat on the back for the city council on this one. Its not before time and lets see it extended to cover other areas of the city. I'm sure that grumpy car drivers who complain and say they will now avoid the city will be replaced manyfold by happy pedestrians who think going out into the city is better than sitting in front of a pc shopping online.

    Report this comment

    expat

    Saturday, March 23, 2013

  • 2 minutes off a journey? Joy it will only take 58 minutes to get in from Drayton then! Any danger of the "experts" arranging park and ride for us mere mortals to shop on a Sunday? Presumably we will need less parking wardens as well?

    Report this comment

    The Boy Lar

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • My comments which I left last night have also disappeared. Perhaps we hit the truth of the matter!!! What happened ot freedom of speech?

    Report this comment

    Carol Bolton

    Saturday, March 23, 2013

  • i have to drive through the city every day, i have 3 children, 2 with disabilities,i do not get any transport for these children, so i have to drive from drayton road to hellesdon high school, then through the city to city college, every day, there is no way i can avoid the city and often it is the quickest way because of the time limit i have and the congestion on the ringroad !!

    Report this comment

    mamasuz

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • So having dropped off passengers in Theatre Street cars will have to do a u-turn causing disruption to traffic and exit via Chapel Field North.As normal the tourism and commercial spokesmen justifying their roles by trotting out the usual well worn statements regarding the increase in footfall and subsequent economy boost.

    Report this comment

    Grumpy

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • 2 minutes off a journey? Joy it will only take 58 minutes to get in from Drayton then! Any danger of the "experts" arranging park and ride for us mere mortals to shop on a Sunday? Presumably we will need less parking wardens as well?

    Report this comment

    The Boy Lar

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • Can I be somewhat radical here – why not ban buses from the city centre and speed up traffic flow? Most of them I see during the day are driving around empty and we have a perfectly good bus station for them to stop in – ban then from St Stephens Street and the roads within the Inner Link Road and speed up traffic flow. I wonder what proportion of the gross spend in the city centre shops comes from people that drive in, rather than arrive by bus? I would suggest 80% v 20%.

    Report this comment

    banned user

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • and how is the Grapes Hill roundabout going to cope with all these lanes coming on and off it? There are enought accidents on there as it is, with people trying to going right from the outside lane? the only people benefiting from this is the bus companies.

    Report this comment

    teresak

    Saturday, March 23, 2013

  • What brain dead pillock decided to make Chapel Field North two way, it is not big enough.

    Report this comment

    Derek McDonald

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • Well, change the headline and guess what? Your comments go missing!! Well done EEN! Guess what- this wil be barred!

    Report this comment

    biglingers

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • good idea to close off st stephens. it dont serve any purpose to the car driver coming in from the south and west.

    Report this comment

    canaryboy71

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • A couple of points. Firstly Chapel Field north, even with one of the footpaths removed, is still a narrow road. I really don't see how this will improve things at all. I shall increasingly shop on the internet rather than visit Norwich city centre - something I do ever less although I live only five miles out. Secondly - £1.45m. How on earth can that sort of figure be justified?? Sounds like an wonderful profit margin for someone, the council clearly has too much money to waste!!

    Report this comment

    andy

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • I think a great many car drivers will vote with their steering wheels, and steer clear of the city. St Stephen's will be lovely to walk down, but mainly because there will be less pedestrians!

    Report this comment

    julygirl

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • Note the photograph of St Stephens at the top of this article. Replace the private cars with more double decker buses or a couple of lorries. Better? Safer? Quicker?

    Report this comment

    iclone-2000

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • Nobody mentions the loss of the Blue Badge parking spaces in Surrey Street and St Stephens. More restrictions for the disabled. A city already restricted for the disabled and the buses are a joke. advice: shop out of town and fit the city centre retailers where it hurts...in the pocket.

    Report this comment

    jim

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • The city needs people, not cars and this will mean more people, fewer cars - win win for the city.

    Report this comment

    Only Me

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • I try and avoid the city for one reason and that is the traffic and the pollution it causes. The sooner our city becomes traffic free, the better for all.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • £1.45 million. Hmmm. Won't stay at that will it? And how much is the bus company, who will be the principle beneficiary, paying towards this? Or is it the poor old ratepayers that will foot the bill for someone elses profits?

    Report this comment

    marty r

    Saturday, March 23, 2013

  • This scheme although very welcome and not before time has missed the point of making the city safer, I believe it will be more dangerous for pedestrians, why not make the area like The Walk is now, in my opinion it will turn the city into one massive bus station. Why ? When we have 2 of them now.

    Report this comment

    christhorn6

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • Nobody really cares what the council does with traffic planning since most sensible people avoid Norwich like the plague anyway! Anybody in business who thinks this is a good idea is sadly deluded,it's not going to happen! Most drivers are fed up with the constant messing about involving traffic schemes ,nonsensical one way systems,pointless bus lanes and endless road humps.I wish these people would just leave Norwich alone but the council has to justify it's existence,and making things worse is what councils are all about!

    Report this comment

    Harry Rabinowitz

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • have the council considered those of us who have to drive right through the city every day from hellesdon high school to the college, those who do not get free transport for our children, yet they are disabled or have learning difficulties and have to be transported from one side of the city to the other in a specific time !!!!

    Report this comment

    mamasuz

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • Nobody really cares what the council does with traffic planning since most sensible people avoid Norwich like the plague anyway! Anybody in business who thinks this is a good idea is sadly deluded,it's not going to happen! Most drivers are fed up with the constant messing about involving traffic schemes ,nonsensical one way systems,pointless bus lanes and endless road humps.I wish these people would just leave Norwich alone but the council has to justify it's existence,and making things worse is what councils are all about!

    Report this comment

    Harry Rabinowitz

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • 2 minutes off a journey? Joy it will only take 58 minutes to get in from Drayton then! Any danger of the "experts" arranging park and ride for us mere mortals to shop on a Sunday? Presumably we will need less parking wardens as well?

    Report this comment

    The Boy Lar

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • The city centre will be quiet in the evening without cars and the buses will have stopped running by 7.00pm apart from the odd few. I just pity the tourists trying find their way around!

    Report this comment

    Roddy

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • I have lived in Norfolk all my 45 years and for the last 9 years I have lived in Norwich, and in those 9 years I have gone into the City to do shopping once, it is not worth the hassle of going into the city, you firstly que up to get into a carpark then have the hassle of people getting in your way on the pavements and in the shops, then you can't find what you want, and you end up wasting a day for nothing, when you can sit in the warmth of your lounge with a coffee and a laptop buying the items you do want with ease.. no hassle at all, no carpark charges, not using any fuel and also avoiding charity collectors !!!!

    Report this comment

    Footyboy16

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • Norwich currently in the 10 top for shopping venues in the country. If it aint broke, don't fix it - I fear (in fate more than fear) that this traffic change will push Norwich back 20 years in terms of trade, revenue and visitor numbers!

    Report this comment

    Engle1970

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • One further point, it is part of the transport strategy for the GNDP to restrict cars from getting near the centre of Norwich. This is the first of many changes which will see buses getting ever greater priority as the council tries to force more people onto buses. How long before a congestion charge is proposed?? More people, more cars, no increase in car parks and the ultimate result will be Norwich City centre entering decline.

    Report this comment

    andy

    Friday, March 22, 2013

  • 2 minutes off a journey? Joy it will only take 58 minutes to get in from Drayton then! Any danger of the "experts" arranging park and ride for us mere mortals to shop on a Sunday? Presumably we will need less parking wardens as well?

    Report this comment

    The Boy Lar

    Friday, March 22, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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