Half of all journeys in Norfolk's urban areas should be made on foot or on bike by the end of the decade, the county council has said.

The ambition is outlined in a new transport strategy unveiled by County Hall to promote walking and cycling and get people out of their cars.

The initiative is likely to lead to more cycle lanes and footpaths across the county at a time when such schemes are already causing significant roadwork disruptions.

The plans will be welcomed by many but will also raise fears among motorists that more restrictions on car users could be on the cards.

Local authorities across the country have been accused of waging a 'war on motorists' by bringing in measures to force people to drive less.

The increasing number of schemes has prompted the prime minister to step in and say they should be curbed.

But critics of the government say ministers should be promoting public transport, cycling and walking, rather than entrenching congestion and reliance on driving for short, local journeys.

Eastern Daily Press: By 2030, Norfolk County Council wants 50pc of all journeys in Norfolk towns and cities to be made by cycling, walking or wheelingBy 2030, Norfolk County Council wants 50pc of all journeys in Norfolk towns and cities to be made by cycling, walking or wheeling (Image: Denise Bradley)

Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council has revealed its plans in its new Walking, Wheeling and Cycling Strategy.

It says it hopes the strategy will make walking, cycling or wheeling - using wheelchairs, mobility scooters, mobility aids - the "natural choice" for travelling from A to B.

It states: "The strategy vision is to create a healthier and greener Norfolk by enabling people to walk, wheel and cycle more often and as the natural choice for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey, with 50pc of the journeys in towns and cities to be completed by walking, wheeling and cycling by 2030."

Eastern Daily Press: Dereham is one of the towns where money could be sought to improve walking and cyclingDereham is one of the towns where money could be sought to improve walking and cycling (Image: Mike Page)

Earlier this year, the council produced maps for 25 towns and villages, including Dereham, Diss, Cromer, Fakenham, Sheringham, Swaffham and Thetford, outlining where changes and improvements, such as new cycle lanes, footpaths and crossings could be prioritised.

Council leaders say the new strategy would help attract government funding to make such changes, but the authority concedes its success is largely dependent on Whitehall money.

It states: "Achievement of our vision is subject to securing funding from government. This strategy will put us in a strong position to be able to secure government funding as it enables us to demonstrate our ambition and vision for walking, wheeling and cycling in Norfolk."

The strategy outlines how walking and cycling has health benefits, is low cost and is more environmentally friendly, producing fewer carbon emissions than driving.

Eastern Daily Press: The strategy is largely dependent on government money to provide new cycle lanesThe strategy is largely dependent on government money to provide new cycle lanes

The county council has a target to make its estate, including its buildings, net zero by 2030 - meaning a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it.

The UK is legally obliged to get its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The car is currently the main mode to get to school and work in the region. According to the 2021 Census, 54pc of people in Norfolk drove a car or van to work, 8pc walked and 3pc cycled.

That Census also revealed 83pc of households in Norfolk have at least one car, compared to 76pc for England, although it is lowest in urban areas such as Norwich.

Eastern Daily Press: Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructureGraham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure (Image: Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk)

Graham Plant, the council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: "Our draft strategy supports the government’s ambition for walking, wheeling and cycling to be the natural first choice for many journeys.

"We want to support the growing population in Norfolk to choose sustainable transport whenever possible.

"This will help create and support healthy communities, enable our transport network to run effectively, emit fewer harmful emissions, and help protect our environment as much as we can."

Eastern Daily Press: Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at Norfolk County CouncilSteve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at Norfolk County Council (Image: Denise Bradley)

But Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at County Hall, said: "It’s ironic that days after committing to borrowing tens of millions to top up the cost of the Norwich Western Link, this strategy is entirely dependent on outside funding.

"At the very least council investment in alternatives should match that which facilitates car journeys.

"Once again, something that looks positive on paper lacks real-world commitment, priority and cash."

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council has started public consultation over its cycling, wheeling and walking strategyNorfolk County Council has started public consultation over its cycling, wheeling and walking strategy (Image: Mike Page)

The strategy makes no mention of the controversial 20-minute neighbourhood concept which sparked controversy earlier this year.

The county council had voted unanimously to explore the idea of creating such zones, but senior councillors said in August there were no plans to bring in the measures.

The idea of such neighbourhoods is that people can get to key services, such as healthcare, schools, parks and shops selling fresh food, with no need to get in a car.

Their supporters claim they do not entail any specific restrictions against motorists, but simply promote alternative forms of transport.

Eastern Daily Press: Protesters in ThetfordProtesters in Thetford (Image: LSB Film Productions)

However, there were protests and public meetings in Thetford, amid claims from opponents that the policy was 'anti-car' and part of a wider conspiracy to restrict freedom of movement.

County Hall had insisted there was no intention to stop people using their cars, but the fresh initiative to get people on bikes and walking could revive concerns among some motorists.

Consultation over the council's draft walking, wheeling and cycling strategy runs at norfolk.citizenspace.com/environment-transport-and-development/walking-wheeling-and-cycling-2023-2036 until Friday, November 24.