‘Now is NOT the time’: Bosses’ backlash over congestion charge idea

Traffic queuing in Norwich city centre. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Traffic queuing in Norwich city centre. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant

Congestion charges in the city centre would be another "nail in the coffin" for the high street, a retail expert has warned. 

This week the county council discussed the future of transport in and around the city, known as the Transport for Norwich Strategy, and a congestion charge is among the options being considered to improve air quality.

But Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research in Norwich, believes a London-style charge would not only dissuade people from visiting the city, but would also be costly to administer. 

But Mr Bamfield said the example of Nottingham showed other measures which could be used to help control pollution without resorting to a congestion charge or workplace levies. 

Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre of Retail Research. Picture: Joshua Bamfield

Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre of Retail Research. Picture: Joshua Bamfield - Credit: Joshua Bamfield

"We need to ensure the city centre retains its historical importance," Mr Bamfield said. 

"I would think it is very much the worst time to start thinking about congestion charges. I am against the idea.

"It is not taking into account the urgency of the situation when people are wanting to go back to offices and shops after the lockdowns."

The proposed Transport for Norwich Strategy was discussed by members of the county council's infrastructure and development select committee on Wednesday. 

Landlady of the Adam and Eve, Rita McCluskey, is also against the idea and believes anything which drives people away from city centre shops is a no go. 

Happy landlady Rita McCluskey serving drinks from the doorway of the re-opened Adam & Eve, with some

Landlady of the Adam and Eve Rita McCluskey - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

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She added: "Norwich is quite a big city to walk around. It is not like it is concentrated in one area so I do think a charge would have an impact on an already struggling retail sector.

"I do not think now is the time for another charge. It should be postponed and maybe come back in another two years to see what is happening with electric cars.

"More people are switching to hybrids." 

A big increase in traffic in Norwich. Pictured is Hall Road from the Tuckswood roundabout. Picture:

Traffic on Hall Road in Norwich - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich BID, said he would like to see extensive research which could back up the need for a congestion charge.

Initial conversations between BID and businesses has suggested there is little appetite for it.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District Picture: Sonya Duncan

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID). - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Mr Gurney said: "A congestion charge has the potential to damage business in an already challenging environment recovering from the pandemic." 

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