Bid for nearly £2m coronavirus cash could bring permanent changes to Norfolk roads
PUBLISHED: 09:15 28 June 2020 | UPDATED: 15:59 28 June 2020
Almost £2m could be spent on further changes to how traffic and people move around Norwich and Norfolk’s biggest towns due to coronavirus - and some alterations could be permanent.
Norfolk has been earmarked to get £1.97m through the government’s £225m emergency active travel fund - and has bid for almost £400,000 for temporary measures from the phase one pot.
Norfolk County Council says there will be an emphasis on Norwich, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth, but also in coastal towns where large numbers of visitors are likely to head, such as Gorleston, Hunstanton, Cromer, Sheringham, Wells and Holt.
Market towns will also be a priority, the council said.
The government wants councils to make changes so people can choose alternatives to public transport, for instance, through closing roads and creating pop-up cycle lanes.
A string of road closures has already been permitted, but the council says its bid could pay for further changes, such as widened footpaths, one-way streets and further closures.
But they need to wait until summer to bid for the second £1.58m slice of cash, which could bring more permanent changes.
Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: “Our priority has been to make population centres safe for businesses to reopen, which we have worked closely with all district authorities to achieve.
“Further temporary measures to aid physical distancing will be implemented in coming weeks to support this priority, while we await further guidance and assess how to make best use of the additional funds available, before consulting more widely on more substantial and longer term plans.”
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While Exchange Street and St Benedicts Street in Norwich will be closed to the bulk of traffic from later this week, city councillors say there has been a “lack of ambition” to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists in the longer term.
The Greens want to see corridors for cyclists, while Liberal Democrat councillor Judith Lubbock said: “COVID has given us an opportunity to increase the behaviour change that has taken place for walking and cycling in a way that we really haven’t managed to do beforehand.”
Decision due over bid for millions
A decision is expected “any day” on a fresh bid for millions to improve transport in and around Norwich.
Transport for Norwich hoped to get between £75m to £162m through the government’s Transforming Cities scheme, but was told its business case was not developed enough.
The government said it might be able to share £117m with Portsmouth and Stoke-on-Trent and asked it to put forward a bid for a medium scenario of £32m.
The scaled back bid seeks money for improvements including to St Stephens Street, Thickthorn Park and Ride expansion and a bus and cycle contraflow in Thorpe Road.
Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: “We expect a decision on our Transforming Cities bid any day now which will provide a major boost to walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure across Norwich.”
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