How to have your say on the closure of Thornbury High Street
A SIX-month public consultation has been launched to give people a say on the future of Thornbury's controversial High Street closure.
South Gloucestershire Council says the consultation will give residents, businesses and community groups a chance to have their say, as complaints continue about the effect of the ban on through traffic.
Traders claim the closure has turned the town centre into a "lifeless, soulless empty space" and there have also been complaints over road safety and the effect on bus services.
But some people have benefited from the scheme, with pubs able to use the extra space to seat customers outside as they reopen following lockdown.
The council introduced the closure using an emergency traffic order in early June and has now used an experimental traffic order to extend the scheme while it carries out the consultation on its long-term future.
The council is inviting people to take part in an online survey on the changes and is also making the survey available on paper to people who are not online.
A petition against the closure has passed 650 signatures, and Thornbury & Yate MP Luke Hall has also launched a survey to gauge opinions.
Zoe Gilbraith, of Thornbury Chamber of Commerce, said traders "continue to struggle to get the council to listen" to any suggestions relating to the closure.
While the area closed has been amended to reopen the section between Chapel Street and the Close to traffic, Zoe said traffic signage was "at best confusing", and a lack of space to turn meant larger lorries making deliveries were having to go past 'no entry' signs to leave the area.
The council has employed a specialist traffic management company to manage the closure, including its one-way delivery system, from 6am to 6pm each day.
But Zoe said signs on roads approaching the High Street do not warn vehicles of the one-way route for deliveries – and that some cyclists were riding through the closed street at speed, leaving any pedestrians in the road at risk of being knocked down.
She said: "Most people are still walking along the pavements as there is no problem with social distancing, in fact the High Street is somewhat deserted most of the time.
"People have also commented to say that now the bus doesn’t stop in the High Street it makes visiting the town more difficult."
The chamber has issued a thank-you to residents who have "made the effort to come into the High Street to support local businesses" and said that those who still feel unable to visit can call shops to arrange deliveries.
The chamber said: "We just want to let everyone in the town and surrounding area know we all have your well-being at heart and are trying to keep staff and the public safe.
"Most businesses are now up and running again and are happy to welcome you, we hope you feel safe to visit us as we miss you all. Shopping in Thornbury is a social event for many of you and we look forward to welcoming you back into our businesses."
Many traders have made their opposition to the closure clear.
A South Gloucestershire council spokesperson said the authority had not been able to carry out " a full consultation as we normally would expect" before the scheme was implemented.
The spokesperson said: "The Government has issued statutory guidance which expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.
"The guidance also states that ‘measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect’.
"We all need to abide by the Covid-19 guidelines to protect each other, help to control the virus and save lives.
"Given these timescales, we have not been able to carry out a full consultation as we normally would expect to for a scheme of this scale before its implementation but we are providing as much information as possible and answering queries as quickly as we can.
"During the initial closure period we have listened to the views of residents and organisations on how the emergency changes were working.
"Where necessary we have made changes, for example allowing delivery vehicles to enter through a three-metre gap in the soft closure using a one-way system to aid the shops in receiving their deliveries and enable access to properties.
"We want to hear from different groups to tell us how these changes affect them and how they want the high street to work in the future.
"The changes to the high street could unlock opportunities for regular markets, historic and cultural events, food stalls, outdoor seating areas, more attractive green spaces, children’s play areas and improved facilities for cyclists.
"The high street could be used all year round to create a safe, vibrant environment for shopping, social activities and events, attracting visitors and increasing trade for local businesses. We want to take this chance to hear what you would like Thornbury High Street to be like in the future."
People who are not online can ask for a paper copy of the survey by calling 01454 868000 or pick one up at Thornbury Library when it is open.
Written comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to Head of Legal, Governance and Democratic Services South Gloucestershire Council, PO Box 1953, Bristol, BS37 0DB, using the reference number L3/DFA/STOP/PT.6609.