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Calls to improve Norwich's attractiveness

PUBLISHED: 15:00 15 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:51 02 July 2010

Work to improve Norwich's historic Lanes has been a success.

Work to improve Norwich's historic Lanes has been a success.

Kim Briscoe

With Norwich bidding to become the UK's first City of Culture in 2013, a timely report has highlighted the city's attractiveness and how it can be improved further.

With Norwich bidding to become the UK's first City of Culture in 2013, a timely report has highlighted the city's attractiveness and how it can be improved further. Kim Briscoe and Sarah Brealey report.

Work to improve Norwich's historic Lanes has been a success - but it is vital that we do more to keep our fine city looking at its best, according to a new report.

The Norwich Society has been round the city streets to look with fresh eyes at what is good and what still needs more work.

And they have urged improvements to give Norwich the best chance of winning the new City of Culture title for 2013.

Alec Hartley, chairman of the Norwich Society, said: “Norwich is fighting for investment and this is going to come into the City of Culture bid. Norwich is fighting other cities for investment of all sorts - financial, cultural and so on. We are on a permanent job interview and, if you go for a job interview, you make sure you look your best.

“Our prosperity depends so much on the quality and character of the streetscape. As a city we should invest in our streetscape, both publicly and privately, and make sure that people want to walk along it.”

The report focuses on the Norwich Lanes, whose quirky alleys and charming streets are packed with independent shops and boutiques. For many it is a real gem in the heart of the city centre.

The Lanes' distinctive red bollards with their brass tops have been praised, but there are several different types of litter bins, which all vary greatly in design. The society wants the council to adhere more closely to its own streetscape manual and look at using by-laws to help keep streets clutter-free.

Roger Pemberton, chairman of the Norwich Lanes, said: “There are a lot of positives in the report and definitely some good ideas.

“We'd be interested in how we can work with the council or other bodies to take some of them forward - in particular, the idea of making it much clearer when you enter the Lanes.”

He said it was important to improve the look of the Lanes as the area is planned to be the focus of a new heritage walk in the city.

The report calls for more to be done to tackle flyposting, with this a particular issue in the Lanes and Magdalen Street.

Mr Pemberton said the Lanes had recently got £32,500 from the Home Office to install three new CCTV cameras, which it is hoped will reduce flyposting and other problems.

Vicky Manthorpe, administrator of the Norwich Society, said: “The audit is not intended as a full critique over a long period. It is what you might see on a given day and what strikes you.

“The Lanes are problematic because the city is trying to make an impact with them, but in order to survive they need to be cleaned up. London Street has always been a slightly more upmarket street and it seems to be in danger of losing that cache.

“With us bidding for the City of Culture, we also need to show that we have an aesthetic awareness. Everybody has to be on board - you can't be looking shabby.”

The report also warns of street clutter such as A-boards, posts and outdoor café seating, which can cause problems for people with pushchairs, wheelchairs or motorised scooters. The society wants some of the A-boards in narrow streets replaced with more traditional signs that hang outside shops.

The report has also been welcomed by Norwich City Council, which has pledged to look at its suggestions.

Amy Lyall, spokeswoman for the council, said: “We welcome this report from the Norwich Society. It gives us a refreshing view into how the city looks to the people of Norwich and raises a number of interesting suggestions about what works and what could be improved. We are pleased to see the society has singled out the work on Norwich Lanes for praise.

“Norwich City Council officers are always interested to hear views on how the city could be improved. We will be reviewing this report carefully to see how these suggestions can be incorporated into our budget and work programme.”

How do you think the street scene in Norwich can be improved? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE, or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk.

Here Averil Brennan, who heads up the Norwich Society's environment committee, gives her verdict on each of the areas they inspected.

NORWICH LANES

“Our report shows that good new design can be successfully introduced into, and enhance, a historic area of the city. It also highlights the needs for authorities to continually monitor, maintain and update whenever possible, street furniture, and to implement existing legislation and earlier recommendations to help achieve this.”

RIVERSIDE

“The Riverside leisure complex, which was built relatively recently, is already showing signs of wear and tear. Now that investment has been made in this area by the construction of the bridges, consideration needs to be given to the enhancement and regular maintenance of this stretch of riverbank.”

MAGDALEN STREET

The report says that Magdalen Street has a “rundown feel” with flyposting and graffiti.

“The current restrictive width of some of the pedestrian areas we felt was a retrograde step and needed to be addressed for the comfort and well being of the public. Tombland was an obvious delight and one would hope that future lessons for inner city design could be learnt here.”

EARLHAM ROAD

“In an otherwise average city road, the rows of 69 London plane trees are an exceptionally elegant feature. Long may they be protected and a replacement policy enforced.”

BRACONDALE

Bracondale is an attractive area with large trees and attractive wide green verges, but the verges have become residents' car parks “which together with the motorway-style lighting, raise rather than lower the impact of traffic in the area.”

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