Poor public transport restricts prospects of north Norfolk youngsters

Sheringham in the sunshine Easter bank holiday 15.4.22. Pictures: Brittany Woodman

Young people in north Norfolk towns such as Sheringham are being held back by poor public transport - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Old and young people in the north of the county are being let down by poor public transport, a report has said.

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) has set out its quality of life strategy for the next two years, setting out the key priority areas for improvement.

While the council says that the majority of NNDC residents are enjoying a good standard of living, it acknowledges the rural and coastal location presents some challenges, highlighting public transport as a particular issue. 

A report to NNDC’s cabinet underlined the impact this can have, stating: “Public transport in large parts of the district is limited and expensive and those without personal transport will find it difficult to access a wide variety of public services.

Cromer is Carol's favourite beach

Cromer in north Norfolk - Credit: Antony Kelly

“The younger and older members of our community along with those experiencing poor health or disability will feel the greatest impact.  

“This will limit the opportunity of younger people in accessing post-16 education and jobs. It will also limit opportunities for their social interaction.”

The report gives minimum journey times to key services by car, public transport and bicycle, with north Norfolk coming out worse than the wider Norfolk figures in every category. 

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Minimum journey times to key services by car was 17.9 minutes in north Norfolk, versus 12.9 overall in Norfolk; 34.1 minutes by public transport or walking compared to 25.4 county-wide; and 35.3 by bike while Norfolk was 23.8.

One way the authority hopes to improve quality of life is by encouraging residents to reduce their reliance on cars, to reduce pollution and congestion while making roads safer for cyclists.

While the report stressed it will be difficult to improve performance because the authority does not control public transport, a council officer said they would be looking at how they can lobby or draw on funding going forward.

Steve Blatch, NNDC chief executive, said the council was “not masters of our own destiny” concerning everything in the report. 

Steve Blatch, corporate director at North Norfolk District Council

Steve Blatch, corporate director at North Norfolk District Council - Credit: Archant

Alongside transport, Mr Blatch pointed to mental health provision in the region - which was rated low - that is run by the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust. The trust was rated inadequate in a scathing report by the Care Quality Commission last week. 

NNDC’s cabinet approved the strategy for 2022 to 2024, setting out an action plan which includes measures for officers to explore. 

What else is in the report? 

While NNDC fared poorly in transport, the district held well in other metrics, with life expectancy at 85 for women and 81 for men, both are a year longer than Norfolk as a whole. 

North Norfolk has the highest average age of any local authority in England at 48 years and 11 months. 

While 19pc of NNDC area children are obese – around 2,600 – this is slightly lower than Norfolk and England, with 20 and 21pc respectively. 

However, teen pregnancy was found to be higher across NNDC than the rest of the county and England with 19.1 pregnancies per 1,000 girls aged 15-17, compared to 17.1 for Norfolk and 16.7 for England. 

Alcohol-related hospital admissions in north Norfolk are also considerably below the rest of the country with 401 per 100,000 people, Norfolk had 494 and England had 644. North Norfolk had 485 hospital admissions for alcohol-related conditions in the last year. 

The region also fairs well against the rest of the county on cardiovascular heart disease and cancer rates. 

The district has a higher proportion of suicide deaths than the rest of the country at 12 per 100,000, while England has 10 per 100,000 and Norfolk at 11. In the last year, 34 residents have died by suicide.