New train stations, tram line and concert hall - society's vision for a future Norwich
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A tram line, ban on diesel buses, new concert hall, extra train stations and redesign of Magdalen Street shape part of a society's vision for the future of Norwich.
The Norwich Society has released its The Future of Norwich Centre report, ideas and proposals it says are designed to “promote discussion and fresh thinking”.
It builds on previous reports looking at the future of the city, and takes into account Norwich City Council’s blueprint for Norwich in 2040, covering transport, the economy, public spaces and culture.
It notes that while Norwich still has a strong retail sector, there are “signs of distress”, particularly in relation to the potential of having large units vacant, such as House of Fraser in intu Chapelfield.
But praises the leisure opportunities being focused on by Chapelfield and Castle Mall.
There is also focus on the wider perception of Norwich, and promoting its vibrancy, both in terms of its culture and retail, but also its role at the front of cutting-edge industries.
It looks at the need for new student accommodation in the city, finding use for empty buildings and the possibility of developing a new concert hall or conference centre in Norwich.
Attention then turns to our public spaces, A boards in the city and more provision for sitting outside, perhaps in, where acceptable, churchyards.
It says the sharing of some routes by pedestrians and cyclists needs to be monitored, after some reports of elderly people and families with small children feeling “threatened by a small minority of discourteous speeding cyclists”.
The report backs the city council’s bid for government funding for three new bus routes, the potential of having new rail stations on the edge of the city - possibly at Thickthorn, Dunston, Dussindale or Postwick - and whether a tram line could be installed from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital through the city and onto the train stations.
Here are some of the report’s suggestions:
• Retailers should have active online presences, and consider organising events to attract customers. It cites Louis’ Deli and Café, which hosts get-togethers for people wanting to improve foreign language
• Build on initiatives such as the Norwich Business Improvement District’s (BID) Christmas lights scheme and the Norwich Lanes Association’s summer event
• Businesses should work closely together - and maybe replace “haphazard and intrusive ad hoc A Boards” with coordinated signage at junctions, such as finger posts
• If short-term leases can’t be organised for empty shops, at least fill shop windows with something interesting - perhaps the work of local artist
• Widen the pavements of Magdalen Street to attract more pedestrians and shoppers
• Emphasise Norwich’s science, digital and creative strengths, as well as retail and cultural vibrancy
• As retail difficulties continue, increase and broaden the range of events in the city
• Create a strategy for the creative and digital sectors
Buildings and a concert hall
• Converting empty offices and “some suitable vacant sites” into student accommodation would improve the vitality of the centre, but it would need to be carried out “sensitively”, and planning policy should be developed
• Refurbish suitable office and shop spaces, but where there is no demand they should be converted into “quality” residential use
• A concert hall/conference centre is needed, and could be provided in either a converted Castle Mall (if the retail offer struggles, something the Norwich society said it neither “desires nor expects”) or a major development area such as the Unilever site
• Consideration should be given to finding better uses for The Halls
• A boards and external eating areas should be properly controlled, and more outdoor seating should be installed
• Issues caused by a “small minority of speeding cyclists in pedestrian areas” needs tackling. Access by vehicles delivery should be limited to specific times
• In the long term, ways should be found to turn Castle Meadow into a quiet space for eating and sitting
• Elm Hill should be pedestrianised
• Where acceptable, seating should be provided in churchyards
• The market place needs improvement with open eating areas and a general tidy up
• Space should be found for informal entertainment
• More should be done to highlight lesser-known attractions of city
• Fast and frequent bus routes to the city centre within growth areas of Wymondham, Sprowston and Rackheath
• Investigation of the potential benefits of one or more park and ride rail stations on outskirts of city
• Full appraisal of the possibility of running a tram route from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital through the city and to the train station
• Set a date for banning diesel buses in the city
• Introduce flexible bus services for less-populated areas
• Set up a Passenger Transport Authority for Norwich travel
• Early consideration of how the introduction of driverless buses can be used to improve services
The report recognises that some suggestions require a lot of investment that are “almost certainly unachievable at this moment”.
“Of course, we also recognise that technologies are changing fast and that any planning for the future needs to be relatively flexible and responsible to technological and behavioural changes,” the report says.
It continues: “Norwich needs to be ambitious for the future. And that means planning investment far enough ahead to be ready to take full advantage of increases in available funding.”