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Bristol Post article 2nd February 2022

Feb 2, 2022

Here is an article from the Bristol Post written by Adam Postans who attended the WECA meeting, reproduced here with his permission

Link to Bristol Post News article published on Wednesday 2nd February 2022

By Adam Postans Local democracy reporter


Thornbury’s ‘beating heart ripped apart’ as controversial changes funded

Region’s leaders agree cash for scheme against metro mayor’s wishes

A one-way system for deliveries and drop offs is in place on Thornbury High Street

Campaigners have all but lost the battle to stop controversial changes to Thornbury High Street after the region’s leaders approved a £4.6million boost – despite the metro mayor’s opposition.

Labour’s Dan Norris, head of the West of England Combined Authority (Weca), previously said he would block South Gloucestershire Council leader Cllr Toby Savage’s request for cash to make the scheme permanent because of concerns about how the public were consulted.

So instead of seeking the money from the Weca committee, comprising the metro mayor and leaders of Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils, Cllr Savage has now secured the money from the regional joint committee – Weca committee plus North Somerset.

Mr Norris, who accused the Conservative councillor beforehand of “moving the goalposts”, told the meeting on Friday, January 28, he did not have a vote on funding decisions from a Local Enterprise Partnership pot of money called the economic development fund, where the cash will come from.

The other four leaders voted in favour unanimously despite hearing there was overwhelming opposition from residents whose views had been ignored during a flawed public consultation.

Mr Norris joined campaigners in asking for the decision to be postponed, to no avail.

Gil Gilroy, who has lived in the town for 40 years, told the meeting Thornbury’s “beating heart and soul”, the High Street, had been “brutally ripped apart”.

All but five of the 69 public statements submitted to members ahead of the meeting, and 27 of the 29 written questions, were about the scheme.

The decision to grant the funding and approve the outline business case means detailed design work can now take place for the full business case ahead of another round of consultation.

It will build on the interim scheme introduced in July 2020, initially to ensure social distancing, including reducing through-traffic while allowing access for motorists using high street businesses, as well as widening paths, increasing cycle parking and improving seating, planting and wayfinding.

Cllr Savage, who grew up in Thornbury and whose parents had a business in the High Street, told the West of England joint committee at Bath Guildhall it was very clear the scheme was controversial and lessons would be learned.

He said: “There are strong views on both sides. I received a great many comments that are in favour of the scheme but they don’t wish to put themselves forward in a public forum.

“Ultimately we are trying to help Thornbury High Street to overcome the challenges that face all of our high streets.

“We have consulted at various stages over the course of this scheme and as a result it has changed to what was originally put in, but I recognise there are significant concerns from residents who have spoken to us today.

“I absolutely recognise that, as with any difficult or controversial project, there will always be lessons to learn for the future around that and I am certainly committed to making sure we do learn from this process.”

Cllr Savage said the project was still only at the outline-business-case stage and more work was needed to refine it.

“But it’s important for us today to establish that budget to invest significantly in the future of Thornbury High Street in the same way we are investing significantly in other high streets and towns across South Gloucestershire,” he added.

Following the next stages, work is expected to start in July and be completed by October 2023.

After the meeting, Mr Norris said: “I have had message after message from angry people furious that Cllr Savage is riding roughshod over their desires.

“I heard the voices of the many Thornbury residents who came to today’s meeting loud and clear.

“I also heard them at the large public meetings held in Thornbury last year.

“As I have said on many occasions, I will never support giving them extra cash from funds I can control without a full, thorough and respectful consultation. Today’s vote was highly disappointing