'No help to us' - Mixed views on £6.1m street revamp
- Credit: Ben Hardy
Bosses have expressed their concerns over months of disruption on a prominent city centre street.
Works costing £6.1m will begin in St Stephens Street in January and will see improved pedestrianisation, as well as new crossings, bus bays and revamped bus shelters.
The county council has said the project will reduce bus delays by improving the road layout, as well as better links for people walking to the bus station and city centre.
But businesses are concerned over the six months of disruption, which includes bus stops being suspended and the road being closed entirely on some occasions during the works.
Kalpesh Patel, owner of Norfolk News in Surrey Street, located just off St Stephens Street, questioned the timing of the works.
"They should have done this last year," Mr Patel said. "They had all of 2020 to do this but they have decided to do it when everything is back up and running.
"Coming out of the pandemic, businesses are not even back on track or are trying to get back. So to then get this slammed in front of us is no help whatsoever."
The manager at Just Cards in St Stephens Street, who did not wish to be named, added: "It has been hard enough for business without any further distractions. Footfall is not as strong as it was."
Shoppers will still be able to use St Stephens Street, but safety barriers will be in place and some sections of the footpath will be off-limits during the work.
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Anita Barry, owner of Gallyons Country Clothing in Red Lion Street, said she was in favour of the road improvements but questioned why it had to take as long as six months to complete.
She said: "I am up for improvements to Norwich and we need to make it look as aesthetically pleasing as possible for visitors.
"St Stephens has become a bit of a dinosaur of Norwich and really does need revamping.
"We need to stick it out but I would like to see them condense the works and get on with it rather than taking months to complete."
Simon Knights, manager of Mr Shoes near Chantry Place, has worked at the store, which dates back to 1978, for 10 years.
He supports the county council project, but believes the numerous empty units in St Stephens Street need filling if any revamp project is to be deemed an overall success.
Mr Knights said: "I am all for it in the long run if its helps the economy and business.
"We just have to live with the initial disruption. It's going to be a bit of a pain so we will have to take it as it comes."
Located opposite Mr Shoes is Nisbetts Catering Equipment which has seen a spike in online business.
Assistant manager Sam Taylor therefore does not believe the six months of disruption will have an adverse impact on trade.
He thinks the revamp will help bring more people to the street, which he believes needs more attention.
"It's quite depressing really if this is what they want to present as Norwich and a key route into the city," Mr Taylor added.
With bus stops on St Stephens Street being suspended for the work, passengers will be picked up and dropped off in Castle Meadow and the city's bus station.
St Stephens Street bus user Sheilagh Viles, who supports the works, said: "They need to think of the future. It is no effort for me to walk to another stop. It's got to be done."
Another 70-year-old passenger, who did not wish to be named, said: "It will be better for traffic and those using the road. I think it is fine."
The county council will be using some of the £32m awarded through the government's Transforming Cities scheme for the project.
Bus companies had been consulted on how to keep public transport moving during the work.