Graphic: Major changes to road layouts in Norwich city centre given the go-ahead
- Credit: Simon Finlay
An ambitious scheme which will transform the way traffic uses Norwich city centre, banning motorists from St Stephens Street, has been given the go-ahead.
The 'Transport for Norwich' scheme has been trumpeted by council bosses as a way to ease congestion in the centre of Norwich.
It includes making Chapel Field North two-way and preventing general traffic from using St Stephens Street and part of Surrey Street.
Officers say that will improve journey times, reliability and punctuality for buses, while making life easier for pedestrians in places such as Rampant Horse Street.
But the proposals were vigorously opposed by campaigners who were not happy with the changes to Chapel Field North.
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They raised concerns over pollution, safety, an increase in HGV and bus numbers and the impact on Chapelfield Gardens.
At a meeting last month, where the scheme was due to be approved, councillors agreed to defer their decision so alternative plans put forward by campaigners could be considered and officers could respond to claims that the figures used to justify the changes were inaccurate.
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However, at today's meeting of the Norwich Highways Agency Committee, councillors decided to push ahead with the original proposals, after hearing from officers that, in their view, the alternative plans did not stack up.
Chairman Tony Adams said he was against the Chapel Field North proposals and in favour of the St Stephens scheme and wanted to split the vote.
But officers advised him against that approach, and the vote was taken on the whole scheme.
The committee has four voting members and the scheme was agreed by three votes to one.
Last year, highways bosses successfully bid for £2.6m from the government after submitting a Better Bus Area bid. That money was to pay for a package of measures to speed up buses and one of the key things council bosses said was needed to do that was to stop the estimated 3,000 cars a day which use St Stephens Street.
Buses, taxis, coaches, bicycles and emergency vehicles will still be able to head down the street, but cars wanting to get across the city centre will instead have to head down Queens Road to All Saints Green and then travel down Westlegate to rejoin Red Lion Street.
Traffic heading down Westlegate will no longer be able to cross into Rampant Horse Street, in front of Marks and Spencer and Debenhams, but instead forced to turn right.
Buses will also be able to travel two ways down Chapel Field North, with cars heading into the city from that direction only able to get as far as the car park next to The Assembly House.