Should Norwich look to reduce city centre parking?
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Echoing car parks lay deserted during the pandemic as the public stayed at home instead of hopping in their cars and heading to the city.
And a city centre leader said that the first bubbles of economic regeneration were in areas where people could walk, cycle, or wheel to the shops, prompting questions about the long-term future of cars in the city.
Jamie Osborn, Green councillor for the Mancroft ward, said: "We do need to have fewer cars in the city - not only for the environmental reasons but also because it frees up space for people who really need to drive into the city for accessibility reasons.
"We saw the areas where foot, bike or chair access come back quickest because people felt more comfortable just to pop out and grab something and then maybe stop for a drink on the way back instead of relying on transport to get them somewhere."
The news comes as it was revealed Norwich is among the cities with the worst parking space availability to blue badge holders.
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He was echoed by Anthony Breach, a researcher for Centre for Cities who said: "If we are serious about the climate crisis councils will have to start looking at reducing the number of cars in our cities. Although it's not a particularly popular policy, the best way to do that would be to reduce the availability of free parking spaces.
"There needs to be a joined-up approach between councils, commercial landlords, and policymakers so they can establish how people can access towns and cities via public transport and indeed what will happen to car parks which are no longer in use."
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But Professor Joshua Bamfield of the Centre for Retail Research offered a "reality check" of closing car parks before the region was ready.
He said: "It would not be a good story for retailers if car parking decreased in availability. What people want is to have a day at the shops, chuck their stuff in the boot and go home.
"We also have to look at Norfolk as a whole and access both within the county and from outside is really only convenient via car. If you're coming in via the train often you have to change, and the buses are stuck on single-carriage roads which get users home in the dark.
"What would be a better way of reducing parking usage would be to use our on-street parking better. If we had half an hour slots like some other cities do then people could pop into the city and back out again instead of paying for an hour and then hanging around when they don't need to just to spend the time.
"That means the people who are parked are there intentionally and sees fewer people driving around looking for spots."