Buses will be allowed back onto Thornbury High Street
BUSES will be allowed to use Thornbury High Street again after a U-turn by South Gloucestershire Council.
Services were banned from the street along with other through traffic in controversial changes first introduced as part of social distancing measures last year and confirmed by the council's cabinet in the summer.
But many residents have continued to vociferously oppose the changes, with the return of bus services one of the key demands made at two town meetings attended by hundreds of residents in September and October.
People raised concerns over congestion and road safety in Rock Street, where the stops were moved, and the distance people with mobility issues now have to walk to reach the High Street shops.
The council announced its change of heart today, saying it followed "ongoing, extensive consultations with the community".
The authority issued a statement which said: "We have taken time to listen, consider and revisit all of the feedback received to date and local people, businesses and other stakeholders fed back clearly that they wanted to see buses return to help more people access the shops, cafes and leisure facilities at the heart of their community.
"Facilitating buses to stop on the High Street will also help alleviate some of the concerns expressed about traffic congestion along Rock Street as a result of changes in the High Street.
"Discussions will continue with bus operators in the coming weeks to determine the routes and stopping points to be included, and are continuing in order to brief stakeholders about how the plans are moving forward, including the Council’s commitment to reintroduce the ability for buses to directly run through the High Street again."
The move has been welcomed by Thornbury & Yate MP Luke Hall, who publicly called for buses to be returned to the High Street in October's Voice and wrote to South Gloucestershire Council calling for it to reinstate stops and routes.
He said: “As our local MP, my two key priorities have been ensuring the High Street remains as accessible as possible, and that we continue to support our local businesses through what has been a very turbulent time.
“Many residents have been in touch with me to voice their valid concerns about their ability to easily access the High Street, particularly for those who are less mobile and have difficulty walking from the nearby car parks and from Rock Street.”
Metro Mayor Dan Norris, who had told October's public meeting he would withhold WECA funding for projects which had not been subject to "full, thorough and respectful public consultation", said: "As most people will know I have been distinctly underwhelmed by South Gloucestershire Council throughout the Thornbury High Street debacle.
"Finally though we have what looks like a positive step. Luke Hall MP has done an excellent job in helping to get buses back where they belong.
"I'll now of course be taking soundings from the public direct as to what they think.
"Thornbury High Street has been empty in recent weeks, and what we all want is for it to thrive again both in the run up to Christmas and long after too."
The council recently approved traffic regulation orders governing the High Street changes, including a speed limit reduction to 20mph, spaces for dedicated blue badge parking, limited waiting spaces and facilities for loading and unloading.
The authority said: "This underlines that the plans do not impose a pedestrianisation of the High Street, but seek to establish a shared use to promote new ways for people to enjoy the area, whilst protecting access for those who need to park close by due to mobility issues or travel by public transport."
The council said it was committed to "full community engagement" in the scheme's design and would "continue our conversations with local people about the plans".
It has set up a body called the Thornbury High Street Accessibility and Equality Group, with residents, representatives of the area's Disability Equality Network, South Gloucestershire Over 50s Forum and the Accessibility Thornbury group.
The council will hold more face-to-face drop-in sessions in Thornbury library from November 29, with details to be announced soon.
Cabinet member for communities and local place Rachael Hunt said: "We aspire to map out a future for the centre of Thornbury, which is shared by the community and which will be enjoyed for generations to come.
"We want local people to help shape these plans and for them to be fully engaged throughout the process.
"We have listened to local people who have been calling for bus services through the High Street so I’m delighted that we have been able to facilitate this."