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‘Limited’ investigation into congestion and pollution from Norwich traffic changes

PUBLISHED: 05:59 06 October 2020 | UPDATED: 07:57 06 October 2020

The barriers in place to restrict traffic in St Benedicts Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The barriers in place to restrict traffic in St Benedicts Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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The need to make rapid changes to roads in Norwich due to the coronavirus pandemic means there have been “limited” investigations of their impact on congestion and pollution, councillors have admitted.

Green councillor Jamie Osborn measures pollution in Westwick Street, where buses have been diverted due to the closure of Tombland. Pic: Jamie Osborn.Green councillor Jamie Osborn measures pollution in Westwick Street, where buses have been diverted due to the closure of Tombland. Pic: Jamie Osborn.

The bulk of traffic was banned from St Benedicts Street and Exchange Street in Norwich on a temporary basis in the summer, so that it was easier for people to socially distance.

Although council leaders hoped the move would boost business, some traders were not happy at the move, saying it had the opposite effect.

And, at a meeting of Norfolk County Council’s cabinet on Monday, questions were asked about what studies had been done to investigate the impact of those changes - and other ones recently been made in the city.

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Jamie Osborn, Green city councillor, said some diversions, including those due to the closure of Tombland - part of the Transforming Cities programme, rather than coronavirus-spurred changes - meant people were being exposed to greater air pollution.

He said: “It seems that no assessment of the predicted impact of traffic changes on air pollution was carried out, and there has been no monitoring since. How will the county council assess the positive or negative impact of traffic changes if there is no set objective and no monitoring for air pollution?”

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “The recently implemented traffic schemes are part of the wider transport strategy for Norwich which aims to improve safety, reduce congestion and encourage sustainable modes of transport, which will in turn lead to improvements in local air quality.

“However, in the very short term we acknowledge that during their construction there may be some traffic management and diversions that cause localised temporary increases in traffic and congestion.

“Air quality improvements are a key element within the wider context of strategic transport planning, however our ability to fully investigate the impacts of recent schemes implemented through the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund was limited due to the short timescales for consideration and implementation under the government bid criteria.”

He said the city council was responsible for general monitoring of air quality.


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