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From roads to pubs - six challenges facing Norwich in 2019

James Burles, managing director of Greater Anglia. Photo: Antony Kelly

James Burles, managing director of Greater Anglia. Photo: Antony Kelly

Archant Norfolk 2015

It’s been another busy year in Norwich, with plenty of achievements to celebrate during the last 12 months. But what challenges is the city likely to face in 2019? Our city chief reporter Lauren Cope takes a look.

Castle Meadow. Picture: ANTONY KELLYCastle Meadow. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

1. Transport

Between bus route changes, rail improvements, network changes and a focus on walking and biking, there will be plenty for road planners - and users - to think about 2019.

Norwich City Council is likely to know in summer whether it has been successful in its Transforming Cities fund bid, having submitted an ambitious vision to the government for three new rapid bus routes.

And after figures painted a disappointing picture of punctuality and reliability for our trains late in 2018, Greater Anglia boss Jamie Burles has vowed to turn things around, with hopes of finally delivering the long-awaited Norwich in 90.

Norwich is likely to see more shake-ups to its roads over the next 12 months, with one scheme around the Prince of Wales Road area set to start next week.

The latest work on the £2.75m project will begin on Rose Lane and Cattle Market Street, and while planners say they don’t expect there to be significant delays, the work is likely to disrupt commuters.

MORE: Super-fast bus routes for Norwich could be on the way as bid for £840m fund is lodged

The future of pubs and music venues has been debated in 2018. Photo: william87/iStock Photo/Getty ImagesThe future of pubs and music venues has been debated in 2018. Photo: william87/iStock Photo/Getty Images

2. Air pollution

Transport and air pollution go hand in hand.

The city has had high levels of pollution for some years, with figures surpassing targets set by the World Health Organisation, and, in some areas, even ranking among the highest in the country.

Work has been ongoing, and while there have been improvements in some areas, including St Stephens Street, since traffic was removed - others, such as Castle Meadow, remain problem areas.

The city council has vowed to crack down on the area, and last year gave enforcement officers the power to knock on drivers’ doors and ask them to turn off idling engines. If they refuse, they can be fined £20.

While no-one had been fined by mid-December, at the start of the month council officers said eight verbal warnings had been issued.

Meanwhile, a campaign has been set up to see the city follow in the footsteps of others including London and Paris to have a ‘car free’ day, where roads are restricted to pedestrians and cyclists.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's Housing Trust. Picture: St Martin'sDr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's Housing Trust. Picture: St Martin's

In Norwich, 9.5pc now travel to work by bike, much higher than the national 3.1pc.

MORE: Norwich drivers could face £20 fine if they refuse to turn off idling engines

3. Homelessness

Addressing rough sleeping and homelessness in Norwich has long been a priority.

A new Pathways scheme, launched in July, has already helped dozens of people on the streets, but as Universal Credit is rolled out in Norwich - and new figures claim 106 people are homeless in the city - there is still work to be done.

Pathways sees charities, the council and health bodies work closely together, and in October said it had 122 positive outcomes - which can include finding rough sleepers accommodation or supporting people to remain in their homes.

Police during an Operation Gravity drugs raid at a property on the Aylsham Road. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPolice during an Operation Gravity drugs raid at a property on the Aylsham Road. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

At a meeting for Norwich’s 2040 vision last year, plans for a new 20-bed centre for rough sleepers were discussed.

Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins Housing Trust, said at the time that trustees had committed to creating the new centre, with more details set to be revealed in January.

Norwich City Council’s annual street count was held in November, with details from that also set to be released in the new year.

MORE: At least nine homeless people died in Norfolk and Waveney last year - but nobody counts their deaths

4. Knife and drug crime

A lot of focus last year was on violent crime in Norwich, with a string of high-profile robberies and stabbings, many of which were in daylight.

Much of it has been linked to drugs trade, and ongoing work to tackle county lines drug dealing in particular, where operations are created in rural areas, often using young people.

Police say most of the violent crime is confined to gangs and people who know each other, and that the threat to the public remains low.

Operations Granary and Gravity, both set up to tackle county lines dealing, with continue in 2019, and Norfolk Constabulary has seen its highest conviction rate for knife crime offences since 2010.

The force has also now signed up to Operation Sceptre, an initiative to keep a watchful eye on retailers and who they sell to, and is drawing on its Safer Schools Partnership links to reach out to children.

MORE: Knife crime ‘contained within the criminal fraternity’ - and conviction rates highest since 2010

5. Pubs

A pub for every day of the year. We’ve all heard the saying, and whatever its truth - some say there were more than 365 - Norwich’s reputation for good pubs and beer is strong.

But last year the future of pubs was thrust under the spotlight after a spate a closures of well-known watering holes, many owned by a pub company.

It sparked debate over how pubs could secure a future, and, separately, how live music venues could thrive going forward.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed in November that Norfolk and Waveney have lost 23pc of their pubs since 2001, with smaller pubs struggling in particular.

A forum has been set up to bring people interested in the city’s live music scene together, as many pubs and bars battle to bring in trade.

MORE: Do you still have a local? Almost a quarter of our pubs have closed since turn of the millennium

6. Deprivation

For many of us Norwich is certainly a fine city - but for others, it’s anything but.

The city has in the past been identified as a coldspot for social mobility - a measure of how someone improves their life chances.

In November 2017, a national index found Norwich was 294th out of 324 local authorities around the country - an improvement on its rating in 2016, when it was the second worst authority in England for social mobility.

While improvements have been made, there is still work to be done, with some of our wards ranked among the most deprived in the country.

It sparked the launch of the government’s Opportunity Area scheme, which focused on 12 areas with low educational attainment - including Norwich and Ipswich - and allotted funding to improve social mobility.

Some of the initiative’s targets have been announced, but there will be hopes this year that more concrete projects - and results - will be revealed.

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