Norwich city centre shake-up agreed despite fears it will drive people away

Exchange Street, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Exchange Street in Norwich will be permanently closed to all traffic. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Key parts of a multi-million pound shake-up of traffic in Norwich have been given the go-ahead - but angry critics warned it risks driving people out of the city centre.

The Connecting The Norwich Lanes project will see major changes, including stopping all traffic, including taxis, from going down Exchange Street and banning traffic from heading eastwards on St Andrews Street.

Temporary restrictions on how traffic can use St Benedicts Street will also be made permanent.

Council officers say it will mean improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, improve air quality and boost businesses.

The changes were agreed at a heated meeting of the Transport for Norwich joint committee - made up of Norfolk, Norwich, South Norfolk and Broadland councillors.

The approval came despite one Conservative councillor saying changes made to Norwich in recent years had squeezed drivers out - and these would make it even worse.

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

South Norfolk councillor Kay Mason Billig - Credit: Archant

South Norfolk Conservative councillor Kay Mason Billig, who represents Loddon and Chedgrave, said closing Exchange Street would be "disastrous" and feared the changes would heap pressure on the ring road.

That was a concern also raised by the Norwich Business Improvement District.

Most Read

Mrs Mason Billig, who voted against changes to Exchange Street and St Andrews Street, said: "Norwich is not a city for the people who live in Norwich. It's a city for everyone who lives in Norfolk.

"The more we squeeze people the less likely they are to want to shop here. They will go out of town or carry on online.

"We need to look at all sorts of transport, not just cyclists, pedestrians and disabled people, but ordinary people who want to shop and visit our city.

"My husband is Norwich born and bred and says he doesn't know which way to go around his city any more, because of all the restrictions we are putting in place.

"We don't have to pedestrianise the whole thing and squeeze people out and that seems to be the way we are heading.

"I represent South Norfolk. We look at Norwich and we don't see that much of a success story."

The completion and opening of Norwich City Council’s new Rose Lane multi-storey car park in Mounterg

Labour city councillor Mike Stonard. - Credit: Steve Adams

Labour's Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council cabinet member for inclusive and sustainable growth, took issue with that comment.

He said the changes did not prevent people from parking in the city - and that Norwich performed well in retail analysis of city centres.

And Emma Corlett, Labour county councillor for Town Close, said: "The idea that it's the car or nothing is ridiculous. There are numerous park and ride sites that the county has invested in."

She said the government had awarded Greater Norwich millions of pounds to encourage modal shift - getting people to swap cars for public transport, walking and cycling.

But Conservative Broadland district councillor Sue Lawn, who represents Thorpe St Andrew, also voted against the changes in Exchange Street and St Andrews Street.

The phone boxes on St Andrews Street which are up for sale. Picure: Danielle Booden

Traffic will no longer be able to go eastwards along St Andrews Street in Norwich. - Credit: Danielle Booden

She said: "I have got serious concerns about closing Exchange Street. I do not see the necessity of it.

"By closing that link, that will not be beneficial to the elderly who use disabled parking.

"For them to have to turn around and go back up Gaol Hill to get back out into the Chapelfield roundabout I think would cause a lot of confusion."

However, the St Andrews Street and Exchange Street changes were agreed by six votes to two. The St Benedicts Street element was unanimously agreed.

Council officers, responding to concerns from Cookes Band Instruments shop. said there would be bays where people could load or unload heavy instruments.

Council officers also sought to reassure concerns raised by Norfolk police.

They said the £330,000 revamp of Grapes Hill roundabout should mean queues do not build up near the Bethel Street police station and that emergency vehicles would be able to use Exchange Street and go right into St Andrews Street.

Other elements of the scheme, including moving the taxi rank away from Guildhall Hill, a new £1.8m Riverside Walk 'missing link' bridge between Duke Street and St Georges Street and a £1.75m widening scheme for St Giles, will be decided at future meetings.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter