Fears Norwich city centre shake-up will trigger jams at police station
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
Police fear a multi-million pound shake-up of traffic in Norwich could lead to jams around one of their stations - and make it harder for emergency vehicles to get across the city.
The 'Connecting the Norwich Lanes' project would see millions spent in the city centre, including road closures, moving a taxi rank and making temporary changes in St Benedicts Street and Exchange Street permanent.
Councillors will meet on Thursday (December 13) to decide whether to press ahead with the Transport for Norwich scheme, following consultation last year.
But some of the proposals have sparked criticism, including from Norfolk Constabulary.
The force is worried shutting Exchange Street to through-traffic will trigger congestion in the area around Bethel Street police station.
They also raised concerns about plans to stop traffic heading eastwards on St Andrews Street, limiting access to parts of the city such as Prince of Wales Road.
In response, Norfolk County Council has said emergency vehicles will still be able to use Exchange Street and has changed the design on St Andrews Street, so police would be able to turn right from Exchange Street to get to Prince of Wales Road.
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The council has also dropped plans to make St Peters Street, in front of City Hall, a one-way continuation from St Giles Street, due to concerns from the police.
Norfolk Constabulary is not the only organisation to raise concerns. Norwich Business Improvement District Norwich did not fully support and endorse the proposed changes, while the Hackney Carriage Association raised concerns over plans to move the taxi rank from Guildhall Hill to St Peters Street.
The council is reconsidering where it might move to as a result. It has also made revisions to create a ‘loop’ route from the west via Pottergate, Lobster Lane, Little London Street, London Street and Gaol Hill for deliveries to shops.
Norwich Older People's Forum and Norwich Lanes Association also raised concerns, as did Norwich Market representatives.
And some businesses are also unhappy. Mark Hedge, manager of Cookes Band Instruments in St Benedicts had been against the temporary traffic ban in the street, which is now set to become permanent.
He said the restrictions have made it difficult for his customers to park near the shop to collect bulky instruments.
He said: "It is disappointing that they still want to go ahead with this. I fear they are just going to do what they want to do."
Mr Hedge said councils should be supporting city centre businesses which offer face to face services and expertise.
Council leaders say the changes will mean improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, improve air quality and boost businesses by providing more opportunities for outdoor dining at cafes and restaurants.
Officers are confident the changes made through the £330,000 revamp at Grapes Hill roundabout will mean the changes to city centre roads will not lead to jams.
Martin Wilby, chair of the Transport for Norwich Joint Committee said: "There are obviously lots of differing viewpoints and needs across such a vast area.
"But having listened to all parties and undertaken further investigations and discussions, I am confident what’s being put forward strikes the best balance for all users, whilst still delivering on the original aims of the project but this is ultimately for committee members to decide.
"We carried out an additional consultation on extending loading hours based on feedback from local businesses and market traders and the Norwich BID, which has been incorporated into the final proposal, along with the provision of an all-day loading and unloading route.
"We have also revised proposals to allow emergency vehicles to still use Exchange Street and access Prince of Wales Road via St Andrews Street when responding to emergency situations to address concerns raised by Norfolk Constabulary.”
Officers are recommending members of the joint committee for Transport for Norwich agree to changes in Exchange Street, St Andrews Street, Duke Street and St Benedicts Street.
Other elements in the Connecting the Norwich Lanes scheme, such as the taxi rank relocation, a new £1.8m Riverside Walk 'missing link' bridge between Duke Street and St Georges Street and a £1.75m widening scheme for St Giles, will be decided at future meetings.