Traffic ban risks ‘strangling’ Norwich city centre, property expert warns
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
Norwich is on the brink of driving shoppers away from its city centre by making it inaccessible to drivers through over-pedestrianisation, a commercial property expert warned.
While pedestrianisation was appealing in parts, too much could lead visitors to head to out-of-centre sites such as the Longwater retail park, said Adrian Fennell, a partner at Roche Chartered Surveyors.
'Personally I like a certain amount of pedestrianisation but we have to be exceptionally careful we are not strangling our city centre,' he said.
'If we do people are going to go out of town.
'Norwich has always been a very accessible city. We are trying to make it a nicer retail environment but we also need to make sure we are not strangling it – and we are on the cusp of doing that.'
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The warning came at a property seminar held at Norwich City Football Club and in conjunction with law firm Birketts and tax advisers BDO.
Mr Fennell said the completed project in the Westlegate area, by John Lewis, had been a success but he feared additional schemes would do more harm than good.
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'It is becoming more and more difficult to access the city centre,' he said. 'We would love to live in a utopia where everybody cycles or uses public transport – but they don't.'
The Westlegate pedestrianisation took five months and cost £3.3m and is part of an ongoing programme of improvement projects in the city. Proposals for Prince of Wales Road due to go out for consultation next year.
Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council's cabinet member for transport, said Norwich's above average occupancy rates showed the city was getting the balance right.
He said: 'It's clear we're doing something right in Norwich. We have the region's largest economy, are its highest ranking retail centre and have seen footfall rise year on year while other cities have seen theirs fall.
'Recent Transport for Norwich changes to the Westlegate area not only provided a fantastic new public space but also improved access to the area's car parks.
'Through TfN, we aim to strike a balance between creating a city centre that's a pleasant place for pedestrians while still providing good routes for other modes of transport.
'Since work has finished, it's great to see so many people making the most of the area and local cafes and restaurants expanding to provide outdoor seating areas – something that wouldn't have been possible a couple of years ago.'
Other focuses of the seminar included lawyers from Birketts talking about issues for landlords and agents around asbestos and fire risk as well as BDO experts discussing ways to save VAT on property.