OPINION: The 14 Norwich streets that should be pedestriansed right now

Scaffolding on Westlegate in Norwich has been removed more than a month after it was put up followin

Westlegate in Norwich is one of 14 city streets reader Ian Williams suggests should be closed to all vehicles - Credit: Archant

Reader Ian Williams suggests keeping some Norwich city centre streets closed would do wonders for our social lives

After the first lockdown last year, the Government allowed councils to close off streets to allow social distancing for shoppers, drinkers and diners. But have the councils gone far enough? I say no!

Let us look at Norwich, though I could argue this for any town in Norfolk.

Norwich has just had part of St Benedict’s Street closed off to traffic and part of Exchange Street.

New life has started to grow and thrive in these streets, much like how nature colonises new volcanic islands created by the force of earth powerful inner workings.

New life, new business could thrive even more if the councils helped nurture a new way of town/city centre street life. A social life.

The high street is in decline because of online shopping, because of Covid and because of static policies.

Ian Williams byline pic

Ian Williams - Credit: Archant

Most Read

We do not have to look far, across the channel to our neighbours to see how they use their streets, especially in historic cities and towns. They thrive during day and night offering socialising and entertainment. Yes entertainment – for chefs offer entertainment for the taste buds - via the plate.

I go back to the point about councils not going far enough in closing streets off. I can list more than a dozen streets in Norwich, where closure to vehicles could be the forerunner to a traffic free centre.

1. Lobster Lane

2. Bedford Street

3. St Andrews Hill just after the entrance with underground garage

4. Queen Street

5. Bank Street

6. Dove Street

7. London Street just before junction with Little London Street

8. Orford Street at the junction with Farmers Avenue

9. Timber Hill

10. Upper Goat Lane

11. St Georges Street

12. Exchange Street

13. Westlegate

14. St Benedicts Street (from St Margaret St – Westwick Street

Some of the roads are already pedestrianised to traffic, I hear you cry! Well technically they are, but does that stop unauthorised vehicles using them? No, it doesn’t at great risk to the pedestrian.

Many, many years ago the council’s policy was that road closures and speed reduction schemes had to be self-enforcing, as there was no police spare to police these, and quite right too.

(2of7) Pic for Centro feature - Norwich Society feature - London Street in 1967 before the street wa

London Street in 1967 before the street was pedestrianised - Credit: Archant

The same applies today. The police do not have the resources to police these closed roads. So, a bollard or two will ensure vehicles cannot sneak through.

There will be an outcry no doubt to this radical plan for Norwich and outcry which is always the first reaction. Trade will suffer and people will stay away.

But let us remind ourselves of the pioneering work, of Horace Rowley, who was the city engineer who proposed road closures in the city centre back in the 1960s

London Street was closed in November 1964 due to a sewer collapse. There was fear that this would lead to a reduce trade and cause problems due to deliveries. In March 1965 the EDP reported that businesses fears were not realised as trade remained at normal levels and in some cases raised.

Evidence from surveys in March 1965 and March 1968 demonstrated that pedestrian levels rose by 45% in the country’s first pedestrianised street. A UK leader.

So, I say for safety, for a boost to local businesses whether they are retail or hospitality let the authorities close the listed streets, let the dust settle before moving on to close other streets, until we have a car-free city centre.

The forthcoming introduction of electric service vehicles together with forward thinking road closures will see us arrive together as environmentally friendly, people friendly and business friendly fine city.