Millions to boost Norwich Lanes, but anger over further road changes
- Credit: Norfolk County Council
Further city centre roads could be closed to traffic and millions spent on schemes for pedestrians and cyclists in an ambitious bid to improve the Norwich Lanes.
Council bosses have unveiled a wish-list of schemes they say could make getting around the heart of Norwich better for pedestrians and cyclists.
But plans to make permanent what were temporary restrictions on traffic in two Norwich streets have angered traders.
The projects, collectively called 'Connecting the Norwich Lanes' include:
- Making the temporary exclusion of general traffic on St Benedicts Street and Exchange Street permanent.
- Spending £1.2m to redesign Exchange Street so it becomes a "high-quality pedestrian priority" link between St Andrews Car Park and Norwich Market.
- A £470,000 project so traffic has to turn left from Charing Cross into Duke Street - stopping eastbound traffic trips across the city centre.
- A £1.8m bridge between Duke Street and St Georges Street to fill the final missing link in the city centre section of the River Wensum path.
- A £1.75m scheme to widen footways, plant trees and provide parking and loading bays on both sides of St Giles Street.
- £1m to redesign Upper St Giles to give pedestrians priority, including wider footpaths.
- £1.1m to widen footpaths in St Andrews Street, plant trees and install a two-way cycle track.
- Further new cycle tracks and zebra crossings.
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Council officers, in a report which will come before members of the transforming cities joint committee on Thursday, June 10, state: "The focus of the programme is the Norwich Lanes area, which is a cluster of independent businesses located along medieval streets.
"By making the area more pleasant for walking and cycling, the project aims to support the local economy and enhance the unique heritage of the area.
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"This will be achieved by diverting traffic onto more suitable routes and reducing through traffic in this area, providing more space for walking and cycling."
Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, and chair of the transforming cities joint committee, said: “The Norwich Lanes is a fantastic asset to our city and these Transport for Norwich proposals aim to make it easier and safer to explore them on foot and by bike.
"The programme brings together projects funded by the Transforming Cities Fund with those from other sources so we can take a joined-up approach to consultation and hopefully go on to deliver the wider vision for the area, improving it for both visitors and local businesses.
“We’re asking the joint committee to approve the series of plans for consultation, with a view to seeking feedback from the public and local stakeholders in July.”
The coronavirus pandemic triggered a decision to exclude general traffic in St Benedicts Street and Exchange Street, with bars and restaurants able to place tables outside if they obtained licences.
Making that traffic ban permanent is one of the proposals, although officers say Exchange Street could be used by traffic if needed - such as in emergencies or if other nearby roads were closed for repairs.
But that has angered shopkeepers in St Benedicts, who say the changes there have already hit their businesses.
Mark Hedge, manager of Cooke's music shop, said: "It's already had a massive impact on us and I have had to make a member of staff redundant.
"People want to be able to park. We sell instruments which are of high value and can be heavy, so people want to be able to take them away in their cars."
Mr Hedge said he had "no faith" the views of shopkeepers would be listened to during consultation.
Gail Watling, owner of Reds Convenience Store, said: "The majority of traders down here are retailers and we don't want this to be permanent.
"I'd be really disappointed if they did it. If they listen to the retailers then they wouldn't do it.
"We're getting lorries trying to turn around because they can't get through and we've had fire engines struggling to make it through."
Council officers say they are keen to stop traffic heading eastwards through the city centre and that making traffic go left into Duke Street from Charing Cross will help cut that out.
Council bosses say the bridge would connect St Georges Street to Duke Street, to the benefit of pedestrians and cyclists - and particularly Norwich University of the Arts students.
At the moment, the Riverside Walk comes to a halt at that location.
But the bridge would create a link from St Georges Bridge. It would pass alongside the Norwich University of the Arts and connect to the existing walk next to the Dukes Palace Wharf flats.
Just over £700,000 of the £1.8m cost is secured, including from charity Sustrans, but more than £1.1m remains unfunded.
An artist's impression has been produced of what St Giles Street could look like, with wider footpaths, crossing points and more seating.
Norfolk County Council officers have £32m through the government's Transforming Cities scheme, while some of the projects would be funded through the Active Travel Fund.
But officers say others are not funded, so money would need to be sought through other means.
That includes the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) imposed on developers and the £25m Towns Fund awarded to the city council.
Members of the committee, made up of city, county and district councillors, will be asked at next week's meeting to agree to public consultation on the proposals.