St Stephens Street road works branded 'pointless' by bosses and shoppers
- Credit: Maya Derrick
Millions of pounds are being splashed to redevelop Norwich's St Stephens Street - but as work begins businesses and the public alike are underwhelmed by the plans.
Although the county council has said the project will reduce bus delays and provide better links for people walking to the bus station and city centre, the 10 month-long works are already causing significant disruption in the city.
Bus services have been redirected away from the prominent thoroughfare, turning footfall away from the businesses that line St Stephens Street.
Gallyons' Anita Barry, although in favour of any city centre improvements, fears that the longevity of the works and the amount of disruption it is already causing is not sustainable.
The owner of the Red Lion Street country clothing boutique said: "I don't know how much improvement it's going to make though, I guess we'll have to wait and see.
" I don't understand why it has to take so long and I think they need to hurry it up.
"A lot of the works that went on around the city over Christmas were ridiculous and impacted people who were coming into and visiting Norwich - it's something we have to be very aware of."
Martin Wilby, chairman of the Transport for Norwich Joint Committee, said: “I would like to apologise for any inconvenience whilst these works take place.
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"There is never an ideal time for work to be carried out but enhancements to this area have been long overdue and will improve the environment for shoppers in the longer term, while improving services for bus passengers and building on the journey savings already being delivered across the wider network through our Transforming Cities programme.
“We are seeking to minimise any disruption and complete works as quickly as possible but all shops will remain fully accessible throughout.”
But Nigel Dignum of Mr Shoes' St Stephens Street branch said that there was already a noticeable footfall downturn.
He explained: "This traditionally is a quiet time for us anyway but the fact that this is going to be going on for so many months is certainly not going to help.
"It's only early doors and we do have a good customer following so our regulars are going to find their way to us.
"It's the ones that just walk past - the browsers - that's what we might lose out."
He added that many of the businesses at the top end of the road have shut: "They're spending all this money when there isn't the infrastructure around it.
"You haven't really got a diversity of shops that warrant this much money being spent on it."
And members of the public were likewise bemused by the work.
Les Miller gets the bus into the city centre every day, saying: "There are still quite a lot of people about and it hasn't stopped me."
However, fellow bus passenger Rowena Barke said: "My bus route is quite simple, so to begin with I was a bit iffy about the disruption because I wasn't really too informed on it. But once I'd done it, it was absolutely fine."
She added that some may be put off due to redevelopment diversions and questioned if the works were necessary.
She said: "I don't know what they're trying to do. I felt like it was alright anyway."
Another passenger, Paul Jarvis, said: "At the end of the day, I'm not particularly a big fan.
"To be perfectly honest the amount of traffic that uses St Stephen's is too small anyway.
"I don't see any gain from these road works, it seems a bit pointless."
Paul Martin, commercial manager at First Eastern Counties, said: "We are a couple of days into the works starting and passengers have adapted well to the new stopping arrangements and so far we are not experiencing any reliability issues with our services.”
What work is happening in St Stephens Street?
Improved bus stops and walking routes are at the core of the redevelopment, which has seen the busy street ripped up, fenced off and chock-a-block with workmen and building equipment.
Pedestrian links between Norwich Bus Station and the city centre will also be improved as part of the works following the widening of pavements in Surrey Street which was completed in autumn.
The £6.1 million city centre upgrade to St Stephens Street could take as long as 10 months as part of the Transforming Cities Fund improvements.
The work is part of the £32 million Transforming Cities Fund which was awarded to Norwich in September 2020 and has been issued for a number of projects across Norwich.