Toby Savage has changed South Gloucestershire Council quest from funding by West of England Investment Fund to funding by WECA Economic Development Fund through the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)
This more than a subtle change since it means the Metro Mayor Dan Norris will not have a vote in that forum
Will the other councils who are members of Economic Development Fund through the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) be less interested in Full, Fair and respectful Consultations?
Copy of Email from Dan Norris to Residents received today 25th January 2022
Thank you for your emails about Thornbury High Street.
As you know, I have consistently stated that I would not agree to further funding from the West of England Investment Fund unless there has been a full, respectful consultation which has buy-in from the local community. I have not yet been persuaded that this has taken place to the necessary degree and that the community’s views and positions on this matter have been appropriately taken into account.
However, perhaps mindful of my opposition, South Gloucestershire Council has now requested the funding from a different stream from that originally envisaged.
They are now seeking money from the Economic Development Fund through the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and unfortunately that is not money that I directly control as the Metro Mayor.
The matter will come to the Joint Committee in late January and the approval or not of the funds will be by a vote of the four Unitary Authority Council leaders in the LEP (Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset) – I will not have a vote.
A simple majority will be needed to approve this LEP funding so it would require three council leaders to oppose these monies going to Thornbury High Street.
I hope this reply, while disappointing, is helpful in setting out the current situation.
Copy of email from TTaDRA to members of Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) sent today 25th January 2022
Funding for Thornbury High Street
I am writing on behalf of Thornbury Town and District Residents Association regarding the West of England Joint Committee meeting on Friday 28th January 2022 at which funding of Thornbury High Street is on the Agenda
We understand that South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) are now seeking funding from the Economic Development Fund through the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)
Until very recently SGC were seeking funding from West of England Investment Fund
The change of direction is interesting since there was a high chance that their request for funding would not have been agreed
SGC proposed project for Thornbury High Street is divisive and the Residents Association do not believe that there has a been a Full, Fair or Respectful Consultation
I attach a copy of our Statement that we have prepared for the WECA Joint Meeting on 28th January2022
I would be grateful if you were to give the matter your most serious consideration and delay funding until such time as SGC carry out a Full, Fair and Respectful Consultation
Copy of TTaDRA Statement to be read out at the meeting
Statement to be read out at the WECA meeting on 28th January 2022 on behalf of TTaDRA
We request that South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) put their current proposals for Thornbury High Street to one side – at least until June 2022. This is when SGC claim they will eventually respond to many of the questions in our Freedom of Information (FOI) requests – some 8 months after they were first raised
This will allow time to conduct a Full, Fair and Respectful Consultation with the Public. It will also enable time for plans to be prepared that are relevant to Thornbury, its users and businesses
Would it not be best to assess the problem, come up with some potential solutions, test these with the community and then agree together on a suitable way to progress?
These are definitions for Consult taken from Collins English Dictionary:
“You ask for their opinion and advice about what you should do”
“Talk and exchange ideas and opinions”
“In order to find some information”
Shamefully, SGC preferred definition appears to be
“To impose ones will upon”
We should bear in mind that “project fear” at the start of the Pandemic was the trigger for SGC to hastily introduce an Experimental Traffic Order in June 2020. This was for Temporary Pedestrianisation and Closure of the High Street to through traffic in order to make public spaces safer and enable social distancing
SGC overreached themselves and thought the Pandemic presented the opportunity to make permanent changes to Thornbury that they knew could not possibly be agreed to in normal times
With the introduction of vaccines in Spring 2021 and the current phasing out of government restrictions in early 2022 there is absolutely no excuse to continue with the Pedestrianisation and Closure of the High Street
SGC produced a Survey, held between July 2020 and February 2021, that was heavily biased to the then status quo of Pedestrianisation and Road Closure
The public, focus groups and businesses clearly, and by substantial margins, rejected SGC proposals for Pedestrianisation, Road Closure and called for the return of Buses in the High Street despite this bias
This did not prevent SGC imperiously carrying on with their original scheme. They claimed that they had listened and that the “revised” scheme was not Pedestrianised nor was the High Street Closed to traffic
The current drawings in Atkins Business Case prove that this is claim is incorrect – If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck
Eventually, in November 2021, SGC relented on one point and agreed to reintroduce buses to the High Street. When and if that will be is anyone’s guess, but maybe they will get their act together for full services to run 7 days a week on completion of construction work in Autumn 2023 – after 3 years without bus services. Even that is open to doubt since SGC continue to procrastinate
In the meantime, the High Street traders are losing business, blue badge holders and bus passengers can no longer access the High Street and the Community sees the High Street as a place to avoid despite the best attempts of businesses to retain trade
Restricted sessions were held in September 2021, ostensibly to consult with the public on SGC proposal to introduce Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs). Those people that managed to attend found that SGC showed no empathy and had no real intention of heeding any comments from the public
The subsequent report showed 90% of comments from the public were against introduction of the TROs but, true to form, SGC signed them off just the same
After concluding these “Consultations” In September 2021 SGC did hold some drop-in sessions during December 2021
Whilst these were once again poorly advertised the SGC officers present at the sessions were at least able to enter into intelligent conversation and gave the appearance of wanting to learn about the ongoing problems caused by SGC actions. Unfortunately, the only changes they can make at this stage are cosmetic relating to materials, placing of street furniture and landscaping.
Far too little and far too late
The Residents Association raised a Freedom of Information request in October 2021 which, eventually, after 8 weeks, was responded to on Christmas Eve. Many of the responses to individual questions will not be provided until AFTER May 2022
This shows that SGC has never held sufficient reliable information to make informed decisions on the future of Thornbury High Street
Responses to our second FOI were once again delayed, from the normal 20 days to 40 days, and were only received on 24th January 2022, conveniently too late for use in current assessments of the project. Again, they are incomplete and show SGC even this week have not done their homework
Finally, the Atkins Business Case which was only published on Friday 21st January 2022 contains numerous incorrect assumptions, comparisons to unrelated Town Centres and statistics, errors, omissions, misleading figures and statements leaving little time for the public to digest let alone prepare questions or statements for the WECA meeting on 28th January 2022
The Business Case is not Fit for Purpose
We can understand that WECA members may be reluctant to withhold support to a fellow Council in their quest for funding
However, SGC do not deserve support from any quarter, until such time that they carry out a Full, Fair and Respectful Consultation with the residents of Thornbury, the outlying Villages that rely upon the High Street and of course the Businesses in the High Street