Thornbury residents asked to vote on High Street changes in parish poll

May 16 2022
Thornbury residents asked to vote on High Street changes in parish poll

VOTERS in Thornbury will have a chance to say whether they think controversial changes to the town’s High Street should be scrapped.

A parish poll on May 26 will give residents a chance to make an official record of the town's opinion of the banning of through traffic and part-pedestrianisation of the street, which was initially brought as a lockdown measure but is set to be made permanent by South Gloucestershire Council.

Votes can be cast at three venues - St Marys Church Hall at Eastbury Road, the Scout Hut on Park Road and Turnberries between 4pm and 9pm.

The parish poll was called for at Thornbury’s annual town meeting last month.

The question voters wil be asked is: “Do you want Thornbury High Street returned to its pre-pandemic status of through traffic for all vehicles and timed parking bays on both sides of the carriageway?”

While the result is not binding on the council, Thornbury Town and District Residents’ Association, which is supporting the poll, says it is "vital" that people register their opinions.

The council is due to start work to make the changes permanent this summer, with a projected finishing date of October next year.

But TTaDRA is campaigning to scrap the changes, and held two protests on the High Street last month, attended by a total of around 400 people.

Asked if a majority vote against its plans would see them scrapped, a South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said: “We welcome public feedback on our plans for Thornbury High Street and will continue to work closely with people who live and work in the town to develop a sustainable High Street that is fit for the future and welcoming for all.”

A TTaDRA spokesperson said: “This is the main chance, and perhaps the only one, for the electors of Thornbury to show in a straight yes-no vote whether or not they are in agreement with the restoration of our historic High Street to its pre-Covid layout.  

“This should bring the bonuses of providing passing trade access to the High Street shops, boosting the trading economy in the street, reducing traffic congestion on Rock Street, and improving air quality near the retirement apartments and sheltered housing on Rock Street and Midland Way.

"It is vital that everyone takes this chance to voice their opinion.

"The result of the vote is not binding on South Gloucestershire Council. But it can be very powerful in changing the thinking in the council about whether their proposals for our high street are in accordance with the democratic wishes of the electorate."

Changes to the High Street involve banning through traffic and only allowing a one-way system for delivery drivers and residents. But complaints about the changes include reducing footfall to local shops and increasing congestion elsewhere in the town as traffic is diverted.

Initially brought in to help social distancing, the changes to the High Street are also intended to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to access local shops, cut carbon emissions and air pollution.

Residents who support the changes have formed a Facebrook group ahead of the poll.

One member of the group, who asked not to be named, said: "The changes to the High Street have made it a safer, nicer place to visit for families and shoppers.

"Going back to the car dominated two way throughput route would be a backwards step which would encourage car use, increase air pollution and make the area a less attractive environment for all.

"I would encourage everyone to vote no if they want to see positive change in Thornbury" 

Polling cards aren’t issued for parish polls, and proxy or postal votes aren’t allowed, so people have to turn up and vote in person.

A separate poll will also be held on the same day on the future of the Armstrong Hall.

Following failed negotiations between Thornbury Community and Arts Community Interest Group (CIC) and the Armstrong Hall Trust, residents will be asked to vote yes or no to the question:

“Would you like the Town Council to carry out a consultation with residents and Armstrong Hall users  as was previously done when coming to a decision on the future of the Armstrong Hall?”

The Armstrong Hall Trust, whose sole trustee is Thornbury Town Council, has stated its intention to work with South Gloucestershire Council and the Turnberries Community Centre trust to develop a new facility on the Turnberries site.

But campaigners say this would "require the sale of the existing site of the Armstrong Hall Complex".

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service