Bosses' joy at plan to ban ALL traffic in three city streets
- Credit: Sarah Burgess
The council is pushing ahead with controversial plans to block all traffic on three city centre streets during the busiest part of the day.
But after pressure from shop owners, proposals to completely pedestrianise Exchange Street, Bedford Street and Little London Street in Norwich, first mooted in July as part of the Connecting the Norwich Lanes project, have been watered down to give a lifeline to businesses reliant on deliveries.
Norfolk County Council and Transport for Norwich, responsible for the controversial project, have opened the floor to feedback via a new public consultation which anyone can comment on between now and November 22.
The council's vision for the three roads involves totally blocking general traffic but allowing access for loading only outside the hours of 10am-4pm.
There are also plans to shorten restriction times in place on streets already pedestrianised for "consistency".
So, instead of deliveries on streets such as Davey Place, Gentleman's Walk and Castle Street being limited to the hours outside of 10am-5pm, this will be reduced to 10am-4pm.
According to the county council, this is because that "final hour" is negligible: analysis of footfall shows that there are the same number of people in the city at 4pm as there are at 10am.
Martin Wilby, Chairman of the Transport for Norwich joint committee, said the plans were an attempt to accommodate the needs of businesses while creating a vibrant city centre environment.
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He explained: "We feel the proposal, which lessens loading restriction in some areas and introduces them in others, strikes this balance well.
"But we do want to hear from anyone affected by the plans to inform what happens next.
"All proposals are designed to make it safer and easier to get around on foot or by bike, supporting outdoor hospitality, boosting the local economy and improving air quality.
"I'm excited to see how plans evolve over the coming months."
The new schemes were unveiled as a response to feedback gathered from the initial July consultation.
Currently, traffic can flow down Exchange Street — but that's only because the temporary closure put in place during Covid had to be lifted to accommodate traffic diverted by the Grapes Hill roadworks, earmarked for completion at the end of November.
For many businesses in Exchange and Bedford Street, the reinstatement of traffic restrictions can't come quick enough.
Chris Cooper, owner of Tolar Jewellery, said pedestrianisation was an "absolutely marvellous" idea.
He explained: "Exchange Street is the most dangerous road in Norwich.
"Lorries come down here at all hours of the day. If another car or van is parked up outside a shop, they'll just mount the pavement — nearly ploughing in to pedestrians. It's bedlam.
"If it was up to me, I'd have this street pedestrianised 24/7, but I understand the bigger stores need access for deliveries at some point during the day. This seems like a good compromise."
Marcia Jeffries, manager of The Tannery, agreed the road was "lethal", while Elaine Riley, who runs the Sustainability Station, said she'd seen countless "near misses" between pedestrians and impatient drivers.
Brian Coombes, owner of Savino & Coombes hair salon, said the letter from the council reaffirming plans to block traffic completely and limit deliveries to between 4pm and 10am was "fantastic news".
But not everyone was optimistic.
Miriam Devlin, director of Thorns hardware store, felt the plans didn't feel like a "compromise" for her business.
She said: "We don't mind blocking off the street to general traffic, but having restricted loading hours would be very difficult. We sometimes get 10 deliveries daily, precisely during the hours the council is proposing the ban."
Over in Bedford Street, Marlon Fernandez at Dogfish said the proposed changes weren't "doable".
Currently, Bedford Street has no timed traffic restrictions. Neither does Little London Street.
Mr Fernandez said: "The changes would have a huge impact on us. Vans are always coming up to our door for deliveries or collections.
"Having that restricted wouldn't be doable for us whatsoever."