City centre road closures and new public space will bring economic and cultural boost to Norwich, says John Lewis boss

Richard Marks, boss of John Lewis in Norwich. Picture::Sonya Duncan.

Richard Marks, boss of John Lewis in Norwich. Picture::Sonya Duncan. - Credit: Archant

Norwich is in line for an economic and cultural boost because of controversial road changes and closures, according to the boss of one of the city's biggest stores.

All Saints Street and All Saints Green have been closed to traffic. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

All Saints Street and All Saints Green have been closed to traffic. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

And, with the area around All Saints Green set to become car-free, through the latest work in a multi-million traffic shake-up, council bosses are exploring the potential which a new public open space brings to the city.

All Saints Street and part of All Saints Green closed to general traffic on Monday as work started again on the Transport for Norwich project.

And, while the city centre traffic changes have come in for criticism, Richard Marks, head of branch at John Lewis, which is in All Saints Green, said the shake-up was already reaping benefits.

Mr Marks, who is in the midst of his year as Sheriff of Norwich, said: 'From our point of view, this really helps with the link to this side of the city centre.

'We are really pleased with how Westlegate looks and I think these changes will do more to link in Ber Street and even beyond to the King Street area with the rest of the city centre.

'We knew the changes were going to bring disruption and can understand why people were frustrated. But it will only be once all the work is done and the Norwich Northern Distributor Road is complete that we will really be able to judge.

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'But we are already seeing a bit of an economic boost from the changes. Even in the last few months, you can see how it has boosted Westlegate.

'Not so long ago, many of the shops there were empty, but now you have Evans Cycles, Warings and Paula Gundry which have moved in there and there's also the restaurant quarter at Castle Mall to come.

'I think that's a sign of economic confidence returning to this part of the city in an area which was quite run down not so long ago. That's all happened in quite a short space of time.'

And, with All Saints Street and some of All Saints Green being pedestrianised, he said: 'We are going to get a new open, public space for the city centre and I'm hoping we will see that being used for events.'

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: 'The changes to the All Saints Green area will create a brand new open space right in the heart of the city so we're currently exploring all available options of how we can best use that area.'

Alumno Developments, which has secured permission from Norwich City Council for a 244-bedroom student complex at the former Mecca Bingo site in All Saints Green has already signalled its intention to create a sculpture of a circus acrobat and a poetry wall in the area as part of its development.

Those will commemorate the life of Victorian circus owner William Darby, who lived in Ber Street and was better known in the 19th century through his stage name of Pablo Fanque.

He is mentioned in The Beatles' song Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite, with John Lennon's lyric: 'The Hendersons will all be there/Late of Pablo Fanque's Fair.' The latest road closures have, so far, not led to the gridlock which accompanied some of the previous traffic changes, such as making Golden Ball Street two-way.

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