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'The city can't carry on' - air pollution strategy to focus on clean transport

PUBLISHED: 00:17 20 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:36 20 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. Ames Wilson, from Extinction Rebellion Norwich (left) and Lesley Grahame, Green Party city councillor. Picture: Bethany Whymark

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Road users in Norwich face further changes to the city's transport network after a council officer said the city carrying on as it is "simply isn't an option".

At a meeting of Norwich City Council's scrutiny committee held at City Hall on Thursday, September 19, councillors heard efforts to improve air quality in the city had seen successes.

And scrutiny vice-chairman Roger Ryan, Labour member for University ward, said: "There's work to do but we're moving in the right direction. Since our strategy was launched we have made significant progress."

But a report into air quality and transport in the city was discussed at the meeting and councillors heard how efforts to further reduce air pollution would have to focus on encouraging road users to engage with alternative, cleaner modes of transport.

Jeremy Wiggin, transport manager for the city council, told the committee: "We need to focus on moving people, not vehicles.

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"If you've got a corridor with people on buses, as well as walking, cycling and using cars - at the moment we've got lots of people sitting in their cars probably in traffic jams.

"Carrying on as we are simply isn't an option."

Mr Wiggin added: "The city can't carry on as we are, in its current guise, without the network changing. The message is things are going to have to move in a different way."

Councillors heard measures to improve air quality in Norwich had included ongoing changes to the city's traffic system, including works to reduce traffic levels on St Augustine's Street and cutting down on queuing on Grapes Hill, as well as an increase around enforcing the switching off of bus engines when idling in the city.

Councillors also heard how efforts to encourage people to use the cleaner transport methods of walking, cycling and car sharing would be an important part of improving the city's air quality.

During the meeting, councillors also approved the committee's programme for 2019-20 and agreed to debate climate mitigation and environmental strategy in 2020.

The committee also heard from the Norfolk Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee (NHOSC), which had discussed the closure of West Norfolk's Fairstead GP surgery, an update on the region's mental health trust, and the shortage of 3,000 NHS workers across Norfolk at a meeting held in July.

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