The opening of Lynn’s multi-storey car park in 2005 had a dramatic and immediate effect on shopping patterns in the town centre, with traders in the mid-section of Norfolk Street being especially hard hit.
Since then, the trading situation in that part of Norfolk Street, between Railway Road and the Broad Street junction, has worsened, and there have been calls for West Norfolk Council to take some action to try and encourage shoppers to venture down the street, rather than concentrating in the Broad Street/New Conduit Street area.
Overall, the building of the multi-storey car park, which had been called for years previously, was a very good thing for the town centre. But as always in these situations, there are winners and losers, and while the Vancouver Quarter and parts of High Street reaped the benefits, it was a different story on the other streets adjoining the town centre – particularly Norfolk Street.
There is handy car parking to the rear of this section of Norfolk Street, and in the years before the multi-storey opened, it proved quite popular with shoppers, providing a steady footfall into the town centre via Norfolk Street and enabling a diversity of businesses to thrive in the street – many of them having been there for generations.
But the multi-storey car park changed all that, and it is not difficult to see why – and I am as guilty as anyone for the lost trade in Norfolk Street.
I live in the Woottons, and when travelling into town via the northern bypass, used to try and park in the Albert Street car park, just behind Norfolk Street, as it was the first car park I came to and was the most convenient – if I could find a place.
But that all changed when the multi-storey was built. The 700-plus places meant I was almost always certain to get a place (remember those bad old days of driving round Lynn looking for somewhere to park?).
And not only could I be pretty certain to find a parking place in the multi-storey park, but the real clincher was the flexibility of parking time. At the multi-storey you collect a ticket on arriving, then pay when you leave. At a stroke, it cut out all the worry about running over the time on your parking ticket, or having to return to the car park midway through your shopping to get a further ticket.
After all, how can you really gauge how long your shopping trip around the town centre is going to take? So I became a convert to the multi-storey – to the detriment of Norfolk Street.
While it is unlikely that a multi-storey car park could be build behind Norfolk Street any time soon, perhaps the council could look at ways of making the existing enclosed car parking more attractive. Could not a new entrance and exit system, similar to the one at the multi-storey park, be installed, allowing motorists to pay on leaving these car parks?
If such a system were installed, I would certainly park there, rather than doing a laborious circuit of the one-way system to get round to the multi-storey. And if parking charges behind Norfolk Street were also reduced, that would be even better.