Protesters march in Thornbury High Street
PROTESTERS marched in Thornbury High Street today to show their opposition to changes introduced by South Gloucestershire Council, which they branded a "disaster".
Around 100 people held placards and chanted as they called for a rethink of the policy that has seen through traffic banned, bus services diverted and the street part-pedestrianised.
The council says it is implementing a "vision for a welcoming and attractive destination for all" and says the changes "support the economic prosperity of the town".
But Thornbury Town and District Residents Association (TTaDRA), which organised today's demonstration, says the council is ignoring the will of the people, who wanted the High Street left as it was before 2020, when the changes were first brought in under emergency coronavirus rules.
The council's cabinet decided to make the changes permanent after making amendments to the scheme, which includes one-way access for delivery drivers and residents, drop-off and pick-up points for shoppers and on-street parking for blue badge holders, with half of the current road space allocated for pedestrians.
TTaDRA spokesperson John Reynolds said: "The voices of the majority of Thornbury residents haven't been listened to."
"We objected when the original survey from South Glos was sent out online and this was ignored. "The majority of people responding to that wanted the High Street restored to two-way traffic and South Glos have just ignored everybody.
"People are now actually prepared to come out and protest openly on the street."
He said that when the council's full business case for £4.6 million in funding from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership's Economic Development Fund was submitted, TTADRA would make representations about the "miscalculations, misrepresentations and outright lies" in the council's case for making the changes to the High Street.
TTaDRA is hopnig even more residents attend a second prostest, planned for this coming Saturday at 11am.
Among today's protesters was resident Sue Blick, who has mobility issues due to arthritis but no blue badge.
She said: "I've lived in Thornbury for over 50 years and the High Street has been a very important part of my life.
"In 2020 South Gloucestershire took my independence away.
"I could park and do bit of shopping, come back and do some more – I can't do that now."
Sue said she had to rely on being dropped off and picked up in the High Street but there were a lot of people who did not have a partner to do this for them and had been denied access to the town's main shopping area.
She added: "There are a lot of people in Thornbury who are less able-bodied and they just need support and understanding."
Protesters march in the High Street
Watching the protest from outside her business was Carolyn Park, of C The World travel agency, which has been based in Thornbury for four years after moving there from Easter Compton.
Carolyn said: "We moved in to what was a vibrant High Street. It was a thriving market town and looked like a really good place for our business.
"I have a lovely shop front, I have foot-high letters saying 'independent travel agent' that hopefully people would see driving past and then think 'brilliant, I'll give them a ring when I get home'.
"We've entirely lost that, from an advertising and marketing perspective."
Carolyn said that not having through traffic also denied new residents the chance to get to know the High Street better by driving through during events like the annual Christmas lights display.
She said: "The consultation process has been an absolute shambles.
"What I wanted to say I couldn't put using the questioning on the form."
Carolyn said the changes had also personally been a "disaster" for her father, who has mobility issues and whose access to the High Street had been "absolutely destroyed".
She said a decrease in footfall had affected the town centre, with two of the town's banks – HSBC and TSB – recently announcing they would leave.