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High Court challenge to major shake-up of traffic flow in Norwich city centre is rejected

PUBLISHED: 12:03 24 February 2014 | UPDATED: 19:42 24 February 2014




Campaigners protesting against a shake-up of the way traffic flows through Norwich city centre have had their High Court bid to overturn the proposals thrown out by a judge.

Members of the Chapelfield Action Group had hoped a judge would allow a judicial review of the council’s decision to make Chapel Field North two-way in an attempt to improve bus journey times.

That proposal is part of a £1.45m city-centre traffic plan and would see the removal of a pavement on the south side of Chapel Field North closest to Chapelfield Gardens.

The plans would also see St Stephens Street and part of Surrey Street closed to traffic, with transport bosses saying it will speed up bus times and ease congestion. The proposals would also see a bus lane introduced in Grapes Hill.

The Norwich Highways Agency Committee, made up of Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council, approved the plans in March last year.

But Peter Jackson, who fears the plan will turn the historic Regency Street where he lives into a rat run for buses and heavy lorries, spearheaded a judicial review challenge at London’s High Court - accusing the councils of acting illegally.

They claim the noise and vibration of an endless flow of heavy vehicles would threaten the foundations and fabric of some of the most attractive and historically important homes in the city.

But they had each and every one of their arguments rejected by Judge Elizabeth Cooke.

Mr Jackson argued 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.

But, declaring that complaint ‘unarguable’, the judge said there was ‘nothing in these two schemes of relatively minor traffic management’ to bring them within the scope of the European Environmental Impact Assessments Directive.

The councils had, in fact, carried out a screening exercise in relation to Chapelfield North and the judge rejected Mr Jackson’s plea that they should also have considered the ‘cumulative impact’ of the two schemes.

Mr Jackson also pointed to the potential impact of rumbling buses and lorries on the area’s ‘fragile’ regency buildings. He claimed the councils had carried out only a ‘generic analysis’ of the threat to their fabric.

Council figures indicated that traffic moving along Chapelfield North would be reduced by 25pc, but Mr Jackson argued that took account of only the overall quantity of traffic, not the greater vibration and noise caused by increased numers of buses and HGVs.

But the judge said: “It is unarguable that these issues were not carefully considered”.

Although Mr Jackson clearly ‘disagreed’ with the council’s conclusions, his objections had been ‘thoroughly aired and considered’ during a consultation process and taken into account by the councils.

She added: “Mr Jackson’s views on noise and vibration do not provide grounds for judicial review.”

Mr Jackson also argued that the councils’ ‘modelling’ of the potential impact of the schemes was fatally flawed because it assumed that traffic pressure on the area would be relieved by a northern distributor road which might, in fact, never make it off the drawing board.

However, describing that complaint as simply ‘unrealistic’, the judge concluded: “In theory there could be traffic modelling for an infinite number of potential outcomes”.

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.”

Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member for environment, development and transport, said: “I am pleased that the judge’s decision confirms the confidence we’ve had in the plans and our processes all along.

“It underlines the integrity and care with which our officers have put together the scheme and dealt with the original consultation and following legal challenge.

“We can now concentrate on delivering these improvements for the benefit of the city and its transport network.”

The Chapel Field Action Group said they were “disappointed by the judgement and would continue to seek legal advice.

Jane Ross, on behalf of the group, 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 Chapel Field Mall will also use this narrow road.

“The listed heritage Gardens will suffer from the increase in traffic and the removal of the adjacent pavement. We are further concerned over safety in Chapel Field North should an emergency vehicle be required to attend.

“We do think that an environmental impact assessment should have been done and alternative schemes produced.”


  • Another nail in the coffin for Norwich retailers. When will the penny drop that if you want people to come into the city you have to make it easy for them to get there. That includes car drivers. For many of us that live in the country it is simply not viable to do so by bus, so we use the car. Then when we approach the city everything is geared to bus and cycle users. For me the solution is simple, I will visit Norwich less and less, and therefore spend less and less in the city. I was born in Norfolk and was once proud of "my beautiful City", when I visit now I am in despair at how it has been ruined.

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    Lord 'Elp-Us

    Tuesday, February 25, 2014

  • That cycle lane on the outbound Newmarket Road is totally useless for cyclists. It's fine for a family with small children, but for a serious cyclist to have to stop at every junction before proceeding on to the next, extends a 3 minute whizz down to Eaton from the ring road, to about 10 mins.

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    Tom Jeffries

    Tuesday, February 25, 2014

  • Lets ban the cars. We don't need them in the city. The moaning minority are welcome to avoid the city and go shopping on the outskirts. Pedestrianise Westlegate, buses and taxis only down St Stephens. will be much better

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    User Removed

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • The easiest way to improve traffic flow in Norwich is to get rid of the buses!

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    Voice of Reason

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • The long delays at every bus stop due to the driver having to deal with each passenger transaction before setting off, the bus stops are also causing congestion because the entry point for the bus is at the front and not the rear so junctions are further clogged by the length of the bus. Why are all bus timetables the same for whatever time of day as this is clearly unobtainable to keep to time schedules at 8am and at 11am due to rush hours. In Norwich this is a joke also the bus lanes ie Newmarket road are 24 hour yet no services after 11pm! Cycle lane on Newmarket Road outbound but cyclists continue to ride on the main road but then this is Norfolk

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    Claire Voyant

    Tuesday, February 25, 2014

  • Any council that get things this wrong should be thrown out. Roll on the next elections. If they want people to use the bus rather than the car, make the bus companies charge sensible fares.

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    Max Headroom

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • Non existent road maintenance,but they always find money for crackpot traffic schemes that always make things worse! No good bleating on about "cuts" when money can be wasted on this nonsense! Watch as the number of city centre empty shop premises grows! Fighting your way to the city to shop is already obsolete,thanks to the councils restrictive parking practices, why bother when there is the internet and out of town shopping centres? RIP Norwich as a vibrant shopping centre!

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    Harry Rabinowitz

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • Make Norwich City centre traffic free and have done with it, as it going to have to happen one day.

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    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • Hilarious first post from Max Headroom. What motivates people to say to themselves, " i haven't read the article; I don't even understand what it's about. Yet, I am going to display my total and utter ignorance by talking a complete load of old nonsense". Actually, that's an approach followed by many commentators on these pages, but I can't see how anyone can attach any blame to the Councils because a person failed in their attempt to seek a judicial review.

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    Tom Jeffries

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • Majority of congestion appears to be caused by endless huge buses with about 3 people on board. Other vehicles driving 3 miles just to do 500 yds because of one ways and no turn rights etc. Or going round and round trying to park within reasonable walking distance of their destination. I hardly ever go into City now. Too much hassle. Too expensive to park. No sensible practical alternative to car. If I was running a city shop or business I would be thinking of joining the many who relocate to one of the other lovely market towns around the City. Lower rents, free parking nearby, less hassle and better quality of life generally. Let the Council turn the City Centre into an empty pedestrianized area if they want. One big Anglia Square? We dont need it, we can all live , work, shop and do business happily elsewhere!

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    John Dace

    Monday, February 24, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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