A Thornbury resident wrote to Toby Savage on 19 June 2022, asking for answers on several issues connected with the Council’s Thornbury High Street plans. The answer came back on 12 October 2022, nearly four months later. How did Toby Savage respond? Actually, he didn’t, but predictably shoved the matter sideways to Rachel Hunt, the Cabinet Member for Communities and Place. “What Place is that?” you may ask. Clearly, not one that is keeping up-to-date.
Here are some of the questions and the Councillor’s answers. Some have been abbreviated for clarity.
Q: The current plans to reinstate the bus to the High Street do not include a bus pull-in. How will emergency vehicles get past the bus, when passengers are getting on/off the bus, as the bus will be in the middle of the single carriageway?
A: The current design is not unique to Thornbury; a local example is East Street Bedminster. In the event of an emergency the bus would find a suitable passing place, whilst ensuring that all passengers are safe.
Comment: This vague answer has been used before. How long will an emergency vehicle be delayed? Where is this safe place to pass? The bus stop layby at the Leisure Centre? SGC has no specific answer. How well does Councillor Hunt know the layout of Thornbury?
Q: Where is the pre-pandemic, pre-closure, economic impact assessment of what the High Street closure has done and will continue to do to the traders?
A: South Glos Council has undertaken all necessary assessments to inform the scheme development. The economic assessment is included in the business case and has been through full assurance to confirm the benefits associated with the delivery of the scheme.
Comment: This is not true. SGC did not carry out any pre-closure economic impact assessments of trading in the High Street. The Business Case has been proven to be riddled with errors and misrepresentations. The process by which SGC obtained their funding from the Economic Development Fund is also suspect, since their scheme was described as “open infrastructure and non-economic in nature”.
Q: Reduced visibility to overtake parked buses at the Rock Street bus stop has already resulted in several accidents. The SGC plan to slightly alter the road markings will make little or no difference to the safety of the congested area.
A: The lining has been adjusted on Rock Street to allow 2 vehicles to pass while the bus is waiting at the stop. South Gloucestershire Council will continue to monitor this site.
Comment: TTADRA maintains that the changes have made the situation more dangerous, since vehicles now no longer need to slow down when overtaking the parked bus, but still have no clear forward view of vehicles exiting Rock Street car park. This issue, not picked up by the Council’s road safety audit, has been put back to SGC for internal review.
Q: Why is there no designated cycle lane in the current plans for the High Street? Buses, lorries, delivery van drivers will not be expecting cyclists to be coming towards them (often at speed, as it is downhill) especially at night or in bad weather conditions. Where does a cyclist go/move when they are faced head-on with a vehicle in a single one-way carriageway?
A: The scheme design is taking into account and fully addresses any potential impacts upon road or pedestrian safety whilst creating a new and safe people focused High Street. The purpose of the experimental order is to allow these impacts to be observed and addressed as part of the scheme design. The completed scheme will also be subject to full Safety Audits.
Comment: This is the kind of mistake you get from using cut-and-paste answers from other documents. The experimental traffic orders have long since been superseded. If the Council still has not got the scheme design ready, at this late stage, what have they been doing all this time? And “impacts” may well be a good word for what is foreseeable to everyone except SGC.
The letter from Rachel Hunt goes on to say, “The Council are working with many local stakeholder groups to develop the final plans”. This letter was written in October 2022. Does this mean that the Council, nearly three years on, still has no final plans?
SGC obtained funding for their project based upon estimates of the final costs. With inflation now becoming a serious issue, has the project been sufficiently funded to achieve completion? Increased costs will be affecting both materials and labour. The Council has already admitted that its budget for 2022/23 could mean cuts and job losses, and central government spending looks like it will also be cut, with no reason for misplaced optimism in the next couple of years at least. Would it not be sensible to put the High Street back the way it was, using some of the funding, and return the remainder to the Local Enterprise Partnership, where it could be re-purposed to schemes with better credentials for improving the region’s economy?