�1.1m Norwich city centre bus shake-up revealed

An ambitious �1.1m scheme which will see a major shake-up to a string of key Norwich city centre bus routes has been unveiled.

Planners at Norwich City Council want to change traffic flows in a number of streets, cutting the number of buses which go down St Stephen's Street, in an attempt to cut congestion and speed up bus services.

Councillors will next week be asked to agree to put a new blueprint, called Making Room: St Stephens Street Area, out for consultation.

One of the main proposals involves making Chapelfield North two-way, with new bus stops in Theatre Street and Red Lion Street, with the thinking that it will reduce the number of buses using St Stephens Street.

That would mean a number of bus routes which currently use St Stephens Street would need to be re-routed along Chapelfield North.

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Bus companies have already advised the council that the routes they would re-route, with First services 16, 19/20, 25/35 and 28 switching to Chapelfield North from St Stephens. Konectbus has indicated its number 5 services would move.

It has been calculated that, in peak times around 1,500 people per hour would save between two and two-and-a-half minutes per journey.

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Under the plans, cars would also be able to travel along Chapelfield North, joining it at the Grapes Hill roundabout, but would only be able to get as far as the Chantry car park.

The plan would mean Chapelfield North would need to be widened, with the footpath on the Chapelfield Gardens side of the street removed.

However, council bosses want to create two new entrances to Chapelfield Gardens and extend an existing footpath within the park, so pedestrians could instead walk all the way through the park parallel to Chapelfield North, with a new zebra crossing linking to the entrance near Little Bethel Street.

That would also mean there would have to be changes to the Grapes Hill roundabout - with the road configuration changed so the two lanes leading up to the roundabout from Convent Road becomes three lanes and the two lanes leading off the roundabout down Convent Road cut to just one lane.

Cleveland Road would also become two way, which would mean cars could turn right into the Forum car park, while Little Bethel Street would be closed to traffic, except bicycles, completely.

Other changes would see cars travelling down Westlegate stopped from carrying on into Rampant Horse Street and instead forced right into Rampant Horse Street.

Ben Webster, design. conservation and landscape manager at Norwich City Council, said: 'Almost all the buses that travel along Earlham Road, Dereham Road and Unthank Road end up coming down Chapelfield Road and going down St Stephens Street.

'Our proposals are to re-route them down Chapelfield North into Theatre Street, which is where they would pick up the majority of their passengers in the city centre.

'That would create more space in St Stephens Street, while making Chapelfield North two-way will also provide a better route for delivery vehicles, so they would not be going around All Saints Green and Westlegate and through the heart of the city centre.'

He said the planned changes to the Grapes Hill roundabout were designed to ensure the changes did not increase congestion there, while closing Little Bethel Street would prevent hold-ups along Chapelfield North and Theatre Street.

He added: 'The existing bus stops and bus station in the city centre have reached their capacity and more stops are needed to deal with the anticipated growth in bus route resulting from development around Greater Norwich and the efforts to promote bus use.'

Permit parking and general parking in Chapelfield North will be lost as a result of the changes, but council officers plan to create replacement spaces in Cleveland Road and Bethel Street.

The scheme is part of the Norwich Area Transportation Strategy implementation plan and will cost a total of �1.14m.

just under �190,000 for the project has come from developer contributions, known as section 106 money, �332,000 has come from the central government's growth point fund and �120,000 from the county council's local transport plan.

It is hoped the final �500,000 will come from a bid to the government's Local Sustainable Transport Fund. An announcement on whether that has been successful is expected next month.

The council has already met a number of businesses and has had unanimous support for the scheme from the likes of Chapelfield Shopping Centre, First Eastern Counties, Hatch Brenner, John Lewis, Konect Buses, Marks and Spencer and the Theatre Royal.

Members of Norwich Highways Agency Committee, made up of city and county councillors, will be asked on Thursday to agree to put the proposals out for public consultation.

Council officers hope to be able to start work on the scheme in November this year, with the whole project completed by summer next year.

• Do you think the changes are a good idea? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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