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Ron Binks - engineer who transformed Norwich city centre - dies aged 97

PUBLISHED: 14:27 24 January 2014 | UPDATED: 14:28 24 January 2014

London Street in 1966 before pedestrianisation.

London Street in 1966 before pedestrianisation.

Former city engineer, Ron Binks, who implemented the closure of London Street to traffic, has died peacefully aged 97.

Ron Binks. Ron Binks.

The pedestrianisation plan, or the creation of the country’s first “foot street”, had been proposed by the city’s chief planning officer, Alfred Wood, in 1965.

It took effect, initially for a three month trial, on July 17, 1967, between Opie Street and Castle Street and cost £3,500. Later, it was made permanent at a cost of about £25,000 and extended along the length of the street.

Mr Binks was responsible for other major projects in the city following his appointment in May 1966 including construction of the inner ring road from the Barrack Street roundabout to Chapelfield, notably the dual carriageway on Grapes Hill, and building the Riverside sewer and northern outfall.

With the backing of the ministry of transport, he planned an £800,000 area traffic control programme, which came into effect in 1976 – two years after he had taken early retirement just ahead of local government reorganisation in April 1974.

Traffic moving in both directions on London Street in 1966. Traffic moving in both directions on London Street in 1966.

Ronald Kipling Binks was born at Masham in North Yorkshire, starting his career with West Riding County Council in the surveyor’s department.

During the Second World War as an engineer in the Admiralty, his tasks included building a submarine training depot.

He was an engineering assistant at Ipswich between 1946 and 1948 before moving to Newcastle. He then spent 11 years in Southampton as assistant engineer and two years as deputy city engineer.

His efforts were recognised in 
1967 when his former city of Southampton won a Civic Trust Award and five commendations for turning derelict land into a pleasant town facility.

Ron Binks implemented the closure of London Street to traffic, making it the first pedestrianised street in the country. Ron Binks implemented the closure of London Street to traffic, making it the first pedestrianised street in the country.

He had always worked in cities which had an association with ships. On his appointment to Norwich, he said that was pleased to be working in a city with a port.

In the mid-1960s, Norwich had a thriving port as vessels brought timber, animal feed and coal into the heart of the city.

A good sportsman, although he was given a trial as a batsman for his native county in the nets – playing in a borrowed pair of plimsolls – he never played for Yorkshire. He did, however, play four seasons in the Bradford League.

When he took up golf, he was soon playing with a handicap of nine, and was a long-standing member of Eaton Golf Club. He enjoyed bowls for many years and also followed Norwich City, going to matches at Carrow Road until last spring.

In retirement, he travelled extensively and had even booked a holiday in Iran, which had to be cancelled when the Shah was overthrown in 1979.

His other love was bridge, which he played to a high standard.

Married for more than 70 years, his wife, Babs, died in 2010.

He leaves four children, Martin, Timothy, Hilary and Lindsay, 10 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

• A funeral service will be held at Christ Church, Eaton, on February 13 at 2pm, followed by committal at Earlham Crematorium.

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