Business fears for Christmas trade if council doesn't fix traffic 'chaos'

Shop owner Mark Hedge said the parking was a free-for-all on St Benedicts Street

Shop owner Mark Hedge said the parking was a free-for-all on St Benedicts Street, and had the potential to ruin Christmas trade - Credit: Mark Hedge/ Archant

An independent businessman is at his "wit's end" with the council — claiming the parking free-for-all in a city street could deprive him of vital trade in the run up to Christmas.

Mark Hedge, owner of Cookes Band Instruments, in St Benedicts Street, Norwich, claims to witness daily stand-offs between drivers of parked cars taking up too much space and the huge lorries forced to squeeze past them at perilously tight angles.

A lorry struggled to get past parked cars on St Benedict's Street on Wednesday, September 8

A lorry struggled to get past parked cars on St Benedict's Street on Wednesday, September 8 - Credit: Mark Hedge

He said the al fresco dining arrangements and the removal of ticketed parking spaces were creating an obstacle course for everyone involved.

"It's a complete bodge job", he said.

Recently the he 51-year-old said he saw a UPS truck driver struggle to make their delivery because a BMW was blocking the road.

Before the pandemic, retail businesses on St Benedicts had dedicated parking spaces. But as part of the pedestrianisation project these became loading bays.

Parking in St Benedict's Street has become a big issue since metered bays were removed

Cars illegally parked on St Benedicts Street in September - Credit: Mark Hedge

Mr Hedge said: "That's all well and good, but now there's no parking meters, and hardly ever any traffic wardens around to enforce the new system.

"People are parking wherever they want, and for how long they want, without repercussion.

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"Luckily for us, the original founder of Cookes still owns the building, and he is letting the business operate rent-free. Thank God for that, because if he wasn't we might not be here anymore.

"We've had to cut every other possible overhead to try and stay afloat.

"The run up to Christmas is actually the time the shop should be able to recuperate some trade but it's never going to happen at this rate. The council has abandoned the street. It's chaos."

Cars parked up on St Benedict's Street last week

Cars illegally parked on St Benedicts Street in September - Credit: Mark Hedge

Between January and August, 2021, the council issued 118 PCNs. But in 2018 the number was nearly four times as many.

A report on the shake-up of traffic in Norwich Lanes will be published in January, ahead of its presentation to the Transport for Norwich Joint Committee.

The Connecting the Norwich Lanes project, which was publicly available for consultation during the summer, proposes to make the temporary exclusion of general traffic on St Benedicts Street and Exchange Street permanent.

St Benedicts will continue to have outside dining areas down the street.
Mark Hedge, manager of Cook

St Benedicts will continue to have outside dining areas down the street. Mark Hedge, manager of Cookes Band Instruments Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

But Mr Hedge said: "We need action now, not in January."

The council was approached for comment.

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