Deal Ground development – will it open up a cycle route to Whitlingham?

The development of the Deal Ground site is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide a transformative cycle route from the city centre to Whitlingham Country Park. Peter Silburn investigates

When the Colman’s factory closed down it left a large riverside site to the east of the city ripe for redevelopment. The redevelopment site consists not only of the Carrow Works (where Colman’s had their factory) but also the Deal Ground and May Gurney sites to the east. The redevelopment of the whole area is being overseen by the East Norwich Masterplan.

The map below shows the location of the redevelopment area.

Location of the redevelopment area

The Masterplan, produced by Norwich City Council, identified the need to provide active travel links from the site to the city centre, in particular an east-west cycle route from Geoffrey Watling Way/King Street to the Whitlingham Country Park and a north-south route connecting Lakenham with Thorpe St Andrew.

The east-west and north-south cycle routes are shown in green on the map below. The east-west route follows a broadly straight path just south of the River Wensum through the development area.

The east-west and north-south cycle routes in the Masterplan

To make this all happen three key pieces of infrastructure are needed: a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the River Wensum between the Carrow Works and Geoffrey Watling Way, an upgraded pedestrian and cycle underpass beneath the railway between the Carrow Works and Deal Ground and a pedestrian and cycle bridge over the River Yare to provide access to Whitlingham Country Park.

An east-west route through the site is an opportunity to re-route the Red Pedalway away from its current dangerous and unpleasant route along King Street and Bracondale and instead provide a safe, direct and attractive route. The Purple Pedalway can also be re-routed through the site.

The current routes taken by the Red and Purple Pedalways through the area are shown below.

The current routing of the Red and Purple Pedalways

Norfolk County Council’s Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) identifies the re-routing of the Red and Purple Pedalways as key objectives, as shown in the map below.

Proposed re-routing of the Red and Purple Pedalways in the Norwich LCWIP

Re-routing the Red Pedalway will also re-route Sustrans National Cycle Route 1 (NCN1), providing a more welcoming entrance to the city for visitors travelling from the south.

Deal ground planning application

A planning application for part of the area known as the Deal Ground and May Gurney site has been submitted by developers Serruys.

The outline proposal in the Masterplan for a direct east-west route has been somewhat lost in translation. The cycle route no longer takes a direct path across the site but instead goes literally around the houses.

The plan below shows the cycle route (in light blue) turning sharp left on entering the site and going along the riverbank before turning right and working its way through the houses. All this rather than taking a direct route.

Cycle routes through the Deal Ground site (detail)

Essentially the waterfront promenade has been doubled up to serve as the cycle route. Whether this is sufficient for the anticipated amount of cycle traffic is an open question. There is perhaps some merit in having a route along the waterfront but there should also be a direct cycle route on the road.

The plan below shows the cycle route (in purple) in more detail.

Detail of the east-west cycle route (in purple) through the Deal Ground site

The planning application for the development talks of prioritising active travel by providing cycle routes “located on desire lines” so as to make journeys to the city centre “quicker and more convenient by foot or cycle than by other modes of travel”.

The developers will not be building either the underpass or the bridge across the River Yare. This is because the planning application is based on outline planning permission granted ten years ago which pre-dates the Masterplan and the requirement to provide the cycle route. Outline planning permission remains valid for ten years, hence the reason why the developers have submitted their application now.

The improvements to the underpass and the Yare bridge will therefore need to be funded from other sources. This is hugely disappointing. We know that travel habits are forged early on, and once people have got used to driving they will be reluctant to change these habits even if alternatives become available.

North-south cycle route

Access to the site by car is along a “spine road” running north-south and a cycle route along the spine road is proposed. From the southern entrance to the site the cycle path follows a segregated path on the right hand side of the road but then appears to head off through the housing area (path shown in light blue on the map below).

Overall plan of the cycle routes through the Deal Ground site

The Design and Access Statement which forms part of the planning application describes this cycle route as being fully segregated with a 2m wide cycleway and a 2m wide footway. The accompanying plans seem to suggest otherwise: soon after crossing the river the cycle path appears to turn right and becomes a shared-use footway that meanders through car parks (see map below). This feels like the design of the cycle route has not been fully worked through.

Detail of the north-south cycle route along the spine road

The planning application allows for a future vehicular bridge (with pedestrian and cycle access) across the River Wensum just east of the current railway bridge (the Trowse bridge), which will provide access to the potential development site north of the river and also a re-routing of the Purple Pedalway via a repurposed bridge over the railway to Thorpe Road.

Cycle route through the Carrow Works site

A planning application for the main Carrow Works site is expected to be submitted in the next few weeks. I understand the cycle route will follow a route on the south side of the River Wensum from Paper Mill Yard to the underpass (in line with the Masterplan). A new cycle and pedestrian bridge across the River Wensum is proposed on the location of the original Carrow bridge (100m downstream from the current Carrow bridge).

There is a feasibility study looking into the improvements that are needed for the railway underpass. There are known to be issues with both the available height and with drainage.

Neither this new bridge over the Wensum nor the improvements to the underpass will apparently be included in the Carrow Works planning application and will therefore need to be funded from elsewhere.

Our concerns with the Deal Ground development

The re-development of the old industrial site, of which the Deal Ground is a part, represents a huge opportunity to provide a high quality active travel route not only for the new residents but for the whole city, opening up a connection to Whitlingham Country Park and beyond.

This is recognised by the East Norwich Masterplan. We are therefore disappointed that this opportunity is not being fully grasped and the clear requirements of the Masterplan are being diluted in practice.

Our concerns can be summarised as follows:

  • The east-west cycle route is not direct. What is being proposed takes a contorted route around three sides of a rectangle. There may be some merit in providing a route along the riverside but an alternative direct route along the road (the desire line) should be provided as well.
  • Cycle infrastructure should be built to comply with the current government design standards (LTN 1/20) which emphasise the need for cycle infrastructure to be accessible to everyone from 8 to 80, to be designed for significant numbers of cyclists (and for non-standard cycles), that it must join together to make a connected network and that it must feel logical and direct.
  • We are concerned that the Yare bridge to Whitlingham Country Park and the improvements to the underpass (described in the Masterplan as “essential infrastructure”) are not included in the planning application and we seek assurances that these will be built without delay. As recognised in the Masterplan, the east-west cycle route “will be formed of a number of connections and linkages, all of which will need to be delivered for the route to become established”.
  • The north-south cycle route along the spine road is supposed to be fully segregated. The plans suggest otherwise, instead being a shared-use footway that meanders through car parks. This needs to be clarified.
  • The cycleway/footway along the spine road should have priority at side entrances, in accordance with LTN 1/20.

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