Shake-up could transform traffic in Norwich city centre

Radical plans which would transform Norwich city centre and make more streets off-limits to cars have been given fresh impetus, with City Hall preparing to spend up to a quarter of a million pounds to make the changes happen.

Norwich City Council's cabinet is this week set to agree to spend just over �700,000 on a number of schemes to improve parks and transport around Norwich.

But one of the key proposals is to change traffic circulation in the city, which would see Chapelfield North, the road which runs from the roundabout at the top of Grapes Hill to the Theatre Royal, made two-way.

Transport planners believe that would make it quicker for buses to get into the city centre, while it would also revitalise the long-held desire by city council leaders and city centre businesses for Westlegate to be pedestrianised.

A new bus interchange could also be created at Edward Street, to serve the homes and businesses which will be built at Anglia Square, if plans to develop it get through the planning process.

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The council cabinet wants to set aside just over �242,000 which can be spent on making the circulation changes and improvements in those areas.

Council leader Steve Morphew said: 'The money is to look into making Chapelfield North two way because we are trying to improve bus access to the city centre and reduce pressure on Little Bethel Street.

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'There is work to be done around that and, potentially, I would say that would make the closure of Westlegate more feasible.'

The city council and businesses such as John Lewis and Marks and Spencer have long wanted Westlegate to be pedestrianised as part of a masterplan to revamp the St Stephen's area.

But proposals to do so have failed in the past because county and city councillors have not been able to agree on the change.

The money for the possible changes to Chapelfield North and in the Edward Street area has come from what are known as section 106 agreements, which is money the council agrees developers have to contribute when planning permission is granted.

That cash has to be spent on community facilities or transport improvements and the pot which the cabinet plans to agree on Wednesday includes contributions from Aldi, for its store in Plumstead Road, the Chapelfield shopping centre, from the redevelopment of the Dowson School site in Mile Cross and from the B&Q development at the livestock market in Hall Road.

The cabinet will also discuss a series of other projects in parks which it wants to earmark section 106 money for, including:

�115,000 on new equipment, a new play surface and improvements to pathways at Pilling Park in Thorpe Hamlet.

An extra �30,000 towards plans for a new �209,000 paddling pool in Waterloo Park, off Aylsham Road.

�20,000 towards a new �67,000 natural play park in Pointers Field in Catton.

About �10,000 to be added to �191,000 which is already in the bank for a new play area in Chapelfield Gardens.

Cash is also earmarked for a number of other transport schemes around the city, one of which would see �143,000, contributed by B&Q when it got permission for its store in Hall Road, spent on improving cycle and walking routes in the south of Norwich, including Lakenham Way.

An extra �4,400 would go towards a �24,000 project to improve the Marriott's Way cycle route, �76,505 would be added to money already in the coffers so just under �173,000 could be spent on new cycle routes and pedestrian crossings in the north of the city.

Just under �3,000 would also be set aside for a 'review' of street furniture in Magdalen Street. The council says removing unnecessary street signs and furniture would improve pedestrian routes.

Mr Morphew said: 'We have always said we would use whatever money we can to improve jobs, prosperity and quality of life.

'Quality of life is really important. Spending money on community schemes such as park and transport does create work but it also means people's quality of life can improve. 'This is money which cannot be spent on other services and is from developers to improve community assets.

'It's not as much as we would like and it isn't going to pay for everything we would like to do, but money for capital projects is extremely tight at the moment.'

Claire Stephenson, leader of Norwich's Green Party, said she would be keen to see cyclists considered when changes are made to any roads.

She said: 'That's more important than creating specific cycle routes. We want cyclists to be able to use the existing roads safely.'

She added: 'Pedestrianising routes such as Westlegate has to be a priority and it would be great if it were easier for people to get in and out of the city centre by bus, although buses need to be made cheaper as well so they can do that.

'We need a long-term plan for the city's transport to become more sustainable.'

Do you think the changes would benefit the city? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email

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