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Extinction Rebellion to shut down city centre street

PUBLISHED: 13:24 21 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:34 22 September 2019

Protestors from Extinction Rebellion Norwich staged a

Protestors from Extinction Rebellion Norwich staged a "die-in" to highlight high levels of air pollution in parts of the city. Picture: Bethany Whymark

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Climate change protest group Extinction Rebellion will close down a city centre street on Sunday, in protest at what they claim is a failure by Norwich City Council to take Car Free Day seriously.

Protestors from Extinction Rebellion Norwich staged a Protestors from Extinction Rebellion Norwich staged a "die-in" to highlight high levels of air pollution in parts of the city. Ames Wilson, from Extinction Rebellion Norwich (left) and Lesley Grahame, Green Party city councillor. Picture: Bethany Whymark

It comes two days after hundreds of young people gathered at City Hall in the fourth Youth Strike 4 Climate rally.

In March, the city council agreed to back World Car Free Day - an international day of action which urges people not to use cars to improve air quality.

It was after a motion lodged by Green city councillor Ben Price, but campaigners from Extinction Rebellion say the council is not fully committed to the day, which happens on Sunday.

The council is not planning to close any city centre roads itself.

A strong message brought to the steps of City Hall in Norwich last Friday at a climate change protest. Picture: Neil DidsburyA strong message brought to the steps of City Hall in Norwich last Friday at a climate change protest. Picture: Neil Didsbury

So, Extinction Rebellion, which brought parts of London to a standstill earlier this year with its protests, has announced it will be "taking matters into its own hands" and shutting St Peters Street - opposite City Hall.

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A letter sent to the council's chief executive Laura McGillivray by the Norwich Extinction Rebellion group stated: "it is our opinion that you have failed to take Car Free Day seriously, by refusing to officially close a single road on the day or to impose any other restrictions on car travel.

"This failure suggests that your 'participation' in Car Free Day amounts to a token gesture. This is not acceptable in the current crisis, and a particular insult to the many Norwich citizens who suffer from respiratory diseases, and the children whose still-developing bodies will be permanently stunted by air pollution.

Hundreds of young people left school to join the Fridays for Future climate protest on the steps of city hall in Norwich. Picture: Neil DidsburyHundreds of young people left school to join the Fridays for Future climate protest on the steps of city hall in Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"We are therefore writing to inform you that we are taking matters into our own hands in order to give Norwich citizens the Car Free Day they deserve.

"We will be peacefully closing St Peters Street at both ends on Sunday, September 22, creating a space for the public to use and enjoy as they see fit."

Kevin Maguire, the city council's cabinet member for safe and sustainable city environment, said: "We're really surprised and disappointed about this as we've met with them on a number of occasions and believed we had a shared understanding about the day. They have obviously changed their minds.

"We remain committed to promoting car free day. Part of this has involved waiving fees for community road closures as well as encouraging people to leave their cars at home.

"Car free day isn't just about one single day this year. It's about how it can evolve and grow."

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