Council unveils Thornbury High Street plans
SOUTH Gloucestershire Council has unveiled its plans for the future of Thornbury High Street.
The council says through traffic will remain banned from the road, although it is stopping short of full pedestrianisation.
It will modify the current one-way system for delivery vehicles and homes to also allow access for "customer pick-ups and drop-offs".
The council's cabinet is due to make a decision on the plans at a meeting on June 7.
It says the proposals will "assure the long-term health and viability" of the High Street.
But the plans have already been criticised by Thornbury & Yate MP Luke Hall, who says a lack of disable parking facilities "will leave many disabled residents and those with reduced mobility being completely unable to access the High Street at all".
And an online petition calling on Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to intervene and completely reverse the changes brought in under emergency covid rules last year gathered more than 1,000 signatures in less than a week.
Announcing its proposals today, the council said in a statement: "The measures proposed have been put forward in response to community feedback received over the past year and seek to lock in the environmental benefits for the town centre, which have been realised with fewer journeys being made by car.
"The plans will equip the High Street to meet current and future challenges and the needs of residents, delivering a local community hub, providing space for all to enjoy day and night.
"Importantly, the High Street will not be fully pedestrianised, but will have a one-way system to allow vehicles access for deliveries, as well as customer pick-ups and drop-offs, which were key asks from the community in feeding back to the interim measures put in place during the pandemic."
If the plans are approved an updated arrangement would be brought in next month.
The council says the main points are:
Through traffic still banned
New textured paint lines to "create a clear roadway" for vehicles entering the street for loading and unloading, accessing residential properties on the High Street
One-way traffic only, in the same direction as under the present system
Extend temporary ramps on kerbs to improve accessibility on and off pavements.
New parallel loading and unloading bays and drop-off and pick-up points for vehicles.
Extra benches, bike racks and other street furniture
Reduce size of planters and fix them "to avoid anti-social behaviour issues". Coordinate displays with Thornbury In Bloom.
Change entrance and exit gateways to slow traffic.
The council says reallocating space from traffic to pedestrians and traders, including outdoor seating, "undoubtedly helped many businesses trade safely under the very difficult circumstances over the past 15 months and allowed residents to feel safe about returning to and supporting local employers".
It says a "longer-term, wider vision for Thornbury" will be developed with "a High Street that is open for access" at its core.
Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Environment and Strategic Infrastructure Steve Reade, said:
“We have and continue to work closely with local residents, businesses and others to support the safe reopening of the High Street and supported hospitality providing more outdoor space for customers.
"I am delighted that six premises have been granted street trading licences and a further two are making use of the additional space to present items for sale.
“Recent pedestrian counts tell us that increasing numbers are returning to local shops and businesses as restrictions are eased, with around 500 people visiting the High Street and around 100 cyclists.
“The future High Street vision supports the regeneration of the town centre and puts the High Street at the heart of a thriving community supporting the town’s recovery from the pandemic. We all want to see a space that meets the needs of all residents and visitors both in safety, access and experience."
“Vehicles will still be able to access to the High Street in one direction, but only in support of the businesses there.
"This future vision will embrace and encourage active travel, through safe cycling and walking routes to the High Street, enabling all to enjoy the reduction in traffic and noise when using the High Street."
Shortly after the plans were unveiled MP Luke Hall issued a statement calling on the Council to "change course and address the lack the of Blue Badge parking, which will leave many disabled residents and those with reduced mobility being completely unable to access the High Street at all".
He said: "We cannot accept these plans as they are. Many disabled residents and those with reduced mobility will be faced with being completely unable to access the High Street at all. It’s welcome that South Gloucestershire Council have listened to the clear voice of Thornbury and prevented a full pedestrianisation of the High Street, but they must change course and ensure our beautiful High Street is accessible for every resident in our community.”
The council's announcement comes days after a petition calling on Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to intervene and reopen Thornbury High Street gained more than 1,000 signatures in its first five days.
The petition on the change.org website was set up by lifelong town resident Lin Guppy, who says the closure of the street to through traffic has seriously affected the town and access to shops for elderly and disabled people.
Lin says shops are struggling and traffic on other roads, such as Streamleaze and Midland Way, has become dangerous as a result of the move.
Lin said: "I love our town, but it feels to me and many others the heart and soul has been ripped from it.
"The council have never shown any feedback from a survey they launched to get our views.
"I really believe the majority of our town want it open, and in all fairness, a vote should be allowed for all the local residents – and the majority vote should win."
Lin said that after injuring her back last summer her mobility was limited and she has first-hand experience of the problems elderly and disabled people have getting from car parks and the relocated bus stop by Aldi to the High Street, where buses no longer call.
The petition can be found online at chng.it/WWyLGXq7tS
Picture: South Gloucestershire Council 'concept' image of Thornbury High Street after the proposed changes.