Congestion charge city? Idea to be discussed in bid to cut emissions

Norfolk councillors consider carbon reduction measures including congestion charge

Councillors will consider carbon reduction measures including a congestion charge. - Credit: supplied

Could drivers heading in and out of Norwich soon find themselves hit by a congestion charge?

That's one of the suggestions put forward for investigation to the Transforming Cities joint committee, alongside a workplace parking levy and banning certain vehicles from the city centre.

The committee, which is made up of councillors from Norfolk, Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk councils, has been asked to comment on the draft plans at a meeting on Thursday, ahead of finalising the strategy for public consultation.

If the congestion charge went ahead, it would be just the fourth in the country, following Durham in 2002 and London and the Dartford Crossing in 2003.

Martin Wilby, chair of the committee and cabinet member for highways and infrastructure said: “The proposed Transport for Norwich (TfN) strategy sets out our intention to investigate possible measures through which we can deliver our aims, such as carbon reduction and improvements to air quality.

"If approved for consultation, we will then be asking stakeholders and the public for their views on its content before putting forward a final version for adoption later in the year."

Norfolk County Councillor Martin Wilby on one of the Beryl bikes. Picture: Lauren De Boise.

Martin WIlby. - Credit: Archant

Because the proposals are in the early stages, no locations have been suggested where a congestion charge or other measures could start. 

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Mr Wilby said: “The adopted strategy will form a basis for further research into the detail of these proposals, exploring the specific options that sit behind things such as parking spaces, congestion charging and the possibility of workplace parking levies.

"Before taking steps towards delivering such measures, there would be further consultation and evidence gathering to make sure we strike the right balance before putting anything in place.

County Hall in Norwich

The Transforming Cities Committee will hear the plans on Thursday - Credit: Archant Norfolk

“The consultation will be an opportunity for anyone interested in this strategy to share their views on what we’re putting forward and to suggest other ways in which we could shape the future of transport in the Greater Norwich area.”

The strategy also commits to:  

• An investigation of the impact of traffic and traffic speed on neighbourhoods within the city 

• Developing the role of park and ride to support connectivity for longer distance trips into Norwich from the surrounding area

• Supporting growth proposed in the Greater Norwich Local Plan

• Reviewing the existing Transport for Norwich governance to form a robust partnership for taking forward delivery of the strategy

How are groups responding to the strategy? 

While elements of the strategy have been welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Green Party, both raised concerns.

County councillor Jamie Osborn said the strategy showed promising moves to encourage walking, cycling and the use of buses in built-up areas but failed to tackle the issues on the rural outskirts.

"I fully support the workplace parking charge levy, we have been calling for that for some time.

"We need to look at ways of reducing cars coming into the city centre and the amount of space taken up by cars. That's absolutely a really good idea."

Norwich City councillor Jamie Osborn has a plea hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court in London.

Green Party Councillor Jamie Osborn - Credit: Jamie Osborn

Mr Osborn was uncertain on congestion charges, saying they take different forms and he would need to look at which was the most beneficial. 

Andrew Mower of the FSB East Anglia said it was great to see plans aimed at cutting the carbon footprint, but said they fail to address some critical issues.

"Additionally, at a time when high streets are already under the cosh, these measures would hit small businesses even harder just as they are trying to recover from the pandemic.

"If you are to limit petrol and diesel cars, then in its place we must see infrastructure in place to replace that. This includes good local bus and train networks as well as the provision for more electric car charging points.

"Also, by increasing car parking costs this will only deter those who already have a hybrid or electric vehicles from parking.

"These measures can have hugely positive impacts, but only if the infrastructure in place supports the people and small businesses who need them most." 

What is the congestion charge like elsewhere? 

When the congestion charge was first introduced almost two decades ago in London it cost £5 a day.

On Wednesday it was announced that it would permanently rise to £15 a day.

Transport for London is consulting on stopping the charge at 6pm every day, and delaying its start until noon on weekends and bank holidays. 

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said they needed to strike a balance between the economic recovery and ensuring a green and sustainable one.

"These proposals support the capital's culture, hospitality and night-time businesses which have struggled so much, as well as encouraging people to walk, cycle and use public transport.

"We must not replace one public health crisis with another due to filthy polluted air, and our measures to create more space for walking and cycling have already had a huge impact."

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