Time to stop and take stock of what's best for Norfolk post-pandemic

Late summer sunshine brings the crowds to Cromer beach with weather forecasters predicting in Norfo

Cromer beach. - Credit: Mark Bullimore

Do you think things will change when the pandemic stops having such an impact on our lives - or will everything just go back to how it was?

On a personal level I'm sure many of us will have spent at least some time over the last 12 months assessing our lives and trying to work out what we want to do different in future. 

I'm sure my own resolutions will chime with many. I'd like to be more appreciative of what I've got and just how lucky I am to have it.

Broads landscapes

Broads landscapes - Credit: © Tom Mackie

I'd also like to take more time to just slow down, not rush around tiring myself out but spend that time with those people who matter most to me. 

And I'd like to be a better, more patient husband and father, something that has been a real challenge during a stressful period in which our two young children have become increasingly bored of either being largely stuck at home - or forced to do yet another walk to the 'big swing tree' at the bottom of the village. There are only so many times you can dress that up as a fun thing to do to a four and an eight-year-old.

As a society I also wonder what will change. Will facemasks become a common sight in public all year round, now that we are all so aware of just how easy other people's germs can spread?

Will we see fewer physical interactions between people, such as handshakes and hugs, and will people become more protective of their personal space? I suspect initially that will be so - but in time for many those concerns will fade away.


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And what of the community in which we live? What will change in Norfolk that in years to come that we will say was either directly caused or sped up by the pandemic?

Home versus office working is an obvious one and the potential ramifications that will have for our city and town centres. We should probably expect the transformation of Norwich city centre into a greater mix of shops, residential leisure facilities to pick up pace. 

And the ongoing debate over the need for new housing is unlikely to go away as the population continues to increase - and if predictions of Norfolk becoming an increasingly popular destination of choice post-pandemic come true.

However, the honest truth is that all of this is just speculation and none of us know for sure what will change in our lives, our society and our communities until it starts to happen or has happened.

Norwich city centre during Coronavirus lockdown 31st March 2020. Norwich market closed and empty. Pi

Norwich city centre - Credit: Archant

And that's what brings me to the main point of this column , which is the need for our powerful and influential public bodies in Norfolk to do the same sort of taking stock on the future that many of us have done as individuals.

As it stands there are a whole raft of massive projects either underway or close to being approved, that have millions and millions of pounds of public money attached to them.

Many of them based on decisions made before many of us had even heard of coronavirus, knew what furlough meant or had taken part in a zoom.

And who knows if, in a post-pandemic Norfolk, those schemes will still be needed or if the money could be better directed elsewhere?

That was this newspapers' argument with the closure of Holt Hall. That there was no need to rush it through without properly assessing whether it could have more relevance once we come out of the other side. Sadly that closure was approved.

Woodland close to the proposed NDR Western Link road. 

Woodland close to the proposed NDR Western Link road. - Credit: Iain Robinson

I now feel the same about many other big decisions, such as the Western Link, the future make-up of local government, how to meet housing demands and what is best for Norfolk's overall economic recovery, knowing that we have to balance the need for new ideas, growth and innovation and the desire not to 'ruin' what it is we love about Norfolk.

It could still be many of the current plans should still go ahead, but surely it would be folly not to take stock, rethink and reassess? Is that happening or are we simply carrying on regardless?

The route of the proposed Western Link. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

The route of the proposed Western Link. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Of course, such assessments would delay progress for a month or two, but where's the need to rush? Norfolk isn't broken, it doesn't need fixing, but it does need careful consideration of what is best for it and its people moving forward.