Rethink over Norwich rapid bus plan

Council bosses are to rethink controversial plans for a rapid bus transit route on one of Norwich's busiest roads after the public reacted with anger to proposals to stop right turns into streets.

There is �1.5m available for the first phase of a project to create a speedy bus corridor along Dereham Road - money which is ring-fenced for transport through the Greater Norwich Development Partnership.

Council leaders say that scheme, the first of six which they want to create across Norwich, would encourage bus companies to provide higher quality, faster and more reliable bus services.

It would see changes to junctions, a new 24-hour bus lane, extra traffic signals and new cycle lanes.

In January the scheme was put out for consultation, with some 2,600 leaflets sent to homes in the area.

But families and traders have made clear to council officers that they are not happy about some aspects of the project.

Two changes sparked the most protest. The first proposals for no right turn for vehicles at the junction of Dereham Road with Old Palace Road heading out of the city or into Heigham Road for cars heading into the city.

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Two petitions were handed in - 124 signed mainly by people living in Gladstone Street who fear the 'no right turns' at the Old Palace Road junction will lead to rat-running down their street and a 38-signature petition from Nelson Infant School for similar reasons.

Of the 258 letters the city council received, there were 177 letters of objection about the right-turn bans.

The second change which is causing consternation came from businesses opposite the Co-op in Dereham Road, who fear extending the bus lane will lead to the loss of short-stay car parking spaces.

An 18-signature petition was handed in to the council from traders there who claim it will hit their trade if there are no spaces to park.

Those two issues dominated the discussion when more than 200 people attended a meeting organised by Green Party councillors over the issue in January.

Norwich City Green Party leader Claire Stephenson said: 'Obviously the bus rapid transit route is important as the city grows outwards. We need buses because if people try to drive in individually then there will be gridlock. But I do think it is not appropriate to make the changes at the Heigham Road junction without guaranteeing the quality of life of the people who live around there. The right hand turn is not the only solution. There are lots of other improvements that can be made to Dereham Road without affecting the people who live there.'

She said there were parts of the plan which would improve the route for buses and cyclists including improved lines on the road and parking behind shops rather than on the main road.

Because of the controversy, at a meeting of the Norwich Highways Agency committee next Thursday (March 24), members will be asked to agree the scheme, but to carry out further consultation over the right turn bans.

Officers will also ask the committee, which consists of city and county councillors, to put out for consultation proposals which would provide extra car parking spaces in Exeter Street, to make up for the ones which would be lost outside the shops because of the new bus lane.