Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Drivers in Norwich should brace themselves for some of the biggest changes in the way they get around the city in decades, with work on the controversial shake-up due to start within months.
The £1.45m changes will see three major projects: cars banned from St Stephens Street and part of Surrey Street, buses travelling both ways in and out of the city via Chapel Field North and a new bus lane in Grapes Hill.
Council officers have trumpeted the ‘Transport for Norwich’ scheme as a way to ease congestion in the centre of Norwich.
The work will start within months, after campaigners failed in a High Court challenge to convince a judge the decision to press ahead with part of the scheme was illegal.
David Harrison, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment, transport, development and waste, said: “This is excellent news and means that we will be able to crack on with these important projects that will change Norwich city centre for the better.
“Not only will these changes cut bus journey times and improve reliability, but the removal of general traffic from city streets will help secure Norwich’s place as one of the country’s top retail destinations.”
As well as banning cars from St Stephens Street, all traffic, except buses, will be removed from Rampant Horse Street between Marks and Spencer and Debenhams by creating a bus gate on Rampant Horse Street. Traffic will also be stopped from crossing into Ramant Horse Street from Westlegate.
Chapel Field North will be widened for two-way traffic by removing the pavement on the Chapelfield Gardens side, with a new path created in the park.
Council officers say traffic would not be able to get into the city centre through Chapel Field North, because of the bus gate in Rampant Horse Street.
Little Bethel Street would also be shut to vehicles, with Cleveland Road and Bethel Street becoming two-way because of changes at Grapes Hill roundabout.
The Chapel Field Action Group had hoped to secure a judicial review of the decision to make Chapel Field North two-way, saying the noise and vibration of an endless flow of heavy traffic would threaten the foundations and fabric of some of the most attractive and historically important homes in the city.
But judge Elizabeth Cooke rejected all their arguments, including that the councils had failed in their European law obligation to carry out full ‘screening’ investigations as to the potential environmental impact of the proposals; that the councils should have considered the ‘cumulative impact’ of the schemes and that the council had only carried out a ‘generic analysis’ of the threat to the fabric of the buildings.
Jane Ross, on behalf of the Chapel Field Action Group, said they were disappointed and would continue to seek legal advice.
She said: “We feel that the proposed traffic scheme will have a huge impact on the houses, where many are listed, from noise, air pollution and vibration because of the greatly increased number of buses and HGVs.
“The number of buses passing the gardens will increase from approximately 250 to 630 buses in a two way flow between 7am and 7pm. All HGVs supplying the city centre and the Chapelfield mall will also use this narrow road.”
A county council spokesman said the judge’s decision meant work can now get underway, with work on Grapes Hill earmarked for an April start date, followed by Chapel Field North and St Stephens.
He said they hoped to get as much work as possible done this year, and are particularly to get work done before the run-up to Christmas.
• What’s your view on the traffic shake-up? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.