Congestion charge in Norwich needs to be 'carefully considered'

A big increase in traffic in Norwich. Pictured is the A146 Barrett Road from the Tuckswood roundabou

Could a congestion charge be the future of fighting climate change in Norwich - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

A Norwich congestion charge will have to be "carefully considered" a councillor has said, as city carbon-cutting plans gear up for public consultation. 

On Thursday, the Transport for Norwich joint committee met to discuss the future of the city's transport strategy.  

A range of suggestions have been put forward, including congestion charges, workplace parking levies and banning certain vehicles from the city centre

Liberal Democrat county councillor Brian Watkins stressed the need for balance between achieving the zero carbon target and growing the local economy. 

"We've got to try within the city to move away from single-car occupancy, particularly at peak hour times.

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Eaton. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Eaton - Credit: Liberal Democrats

"That will involve behavioural change and it will only happen if public transport is good, frequent and reliable. 

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"Ultimately we may well have to face tough choices on environmental issues. 

"It's ok having nice words on how we will tackle climate change and cut down on carbon emissions but phrases won't bring about change. Actions do that. 

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"I think issues like the workplace levy and the possibility of congestion charging within the city will have to be considered carefully." 

While councillors from across the political divide welcomed moves to cut carbon emissions and improve air quality in the city and beyond, the plans were criticised for being too "high level" and without specifics.

Norwich city councillor Mike Stonard. Pic: Archant.

Norwich city councillor Mike Stonard - Credit: Archant

Labour city councillor, Mike Stonard, said the plan lacked a "what, where and when".

"What's going to be delivered, what the timescales are, where's the budget coming from, what's realistic?"

A commitment to walking, cycling and public transport in the strategy was welcomed by Mr Stonard, but again said it lacked specifics.

He also welcomed a commitment to review bus travel costs and reducing speed limits to 20mph, but said this would have to be extended into parts of the districts.

Conservative Kay Mason-Billig, deputy leader at South Norfolk Council, stressed that Norfolk is a rural county and electric buses may not be viable here because the technology to allow them to travel that distance does not exist.

Ms Mason-Billig added that public transport needs to become the easiest and cheapest option if they are to encourage people to move away from their cars.

Arthur Mason's mother, Kay Mason-Billig. Picture: SOUTH NORFOLK COUNCIL

South Norfolk Council member Kay Mason-Billig - Credit: Archant

While welcoming the revision, Tory Barry Stone, said buses continue to be a big polluter in Norwich, adding: "Any kind of taxes or the pedestrianisation, you're looking at the possible reduction of viability of businesses in the city." 

County Councillor Emma Corlett branded the Western Link Road the "elephant in the room" and the carbon cost of construction could "blow everything else out of the water". 

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport - Credit: Simon Parkin

Martin Wilby, chair of the committee and cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, disputed Ms Corlett's assertion, saying it would take traffic out of the city and villages.

Committee members unanimously agreed to send the review to public consultation, which is due to start on August 25.

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