Urgently remove general traffic from St Peters Street, Gaol Hill, and Exchange Street

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In 2019, in the midst of an unfolding climate catastrophe, we should not have highly polluting cars driving through the very heart of our city.

We recognize that Norwich City Council has made some good progress on the removal of cars in recent years, in areas such as Westlegate and St Stephens Street, but such efforts need to be rapidly increased to help fight the climate crisis, the air pollution crisis, and the public health crisis.

We would like to see all general traffic banned from this area, with exceptions for delivery vehicles (within a restricted time period – for example, outside the hours of 10am until 6pm), and emergency vehicles.

Near-misses are frequent on Gaol Hill, as the area already feels pedestrianised (especially to those who are unfamiliar with the space). During rush hour, there is often a queue of traffic along the entirety of Exchange Street, with engines idling and the narrow street trapping dangerous pollutants, and creating an unpleasant environment for the general public, shoppers, and tourists.

Ideally, we would like to see the taxi rank moved away from this area, to make it completely car-free (and allowing for outside café seating and street trees on Exchange Street). But even if all general traffic were removed except for taxis, with a rapid transition to electric and away from diesel, this would be vastly better than the current situation. In the meantime, we would also like to see the direction of the taxi rank reversed – it is currently facing uphill, meaning more toxic fumes are released whenever they progress along the queue.

Not only is removing cars good for people and the planet, it’s also good for business. Research shows that both sales and footfall can increase by more than 30% after public realm improvements such as pedestrianisation (1). This makes sense – people will happily spend more time in more pleasant areas (those that are quieter, with cleaner air, and with more space for the public to mill about in) – and can be seen in the success of The Lanes, which bucked the national trend of declining high streets (2).

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1. Living Streets Pedestrian Pound Report, 2018 https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/3890/pedestrian-pound-2018.pdf

2. EDP, Feb 2019 https://www.edp24.co.uk/business/norwich-lanes-bucks-trend-for-high-street-downtrun-1-5874655