The following are amongst questions posed by a Thornbury resident as a Freedom of Information request, and the answers are those given and signed off by Donna Whinham for South Glos Council.
Q: Under the Open Government Policy (OGP) – openness, transparency and public accountability – is SGC legally or ethically allowed to ask Thornbury Town Council to keep these plans “confidential”?
A: The Council shared a draft of the plans with Thornbury Town Council as community representatives to ensure that they had early sight of the design before the information is made more widely available. As these are still in draft and the documents are not yet complete, a request was made to keep these confidential at this stage to ensure incomplete information, that is still subject to change was not shared more widely.
Q: Under OGP is SGC permitted to withhold the latest plans from scrutiny by the public?
A: Please be reassured that there is no intention of withholding the final scheme plans from the public. The final plans and design will be published before the work begins. The Council will also be sharing visuals and explanation about the benefits to the Thornbury community, environment and how this will support a sustainable High Street into the future. It is estimated that the information will be in a completed format ready for disclosure/publication in January/February 2023 (subject to change).
Q: Where will the latest plans be displayed for scrutiny and comment by the public?
A: The communications around the final scheme design will be available in hard copy (e.g. in the library and distributed to traders), on social media and will be distributed through our stakeholder groups. In addition, all the information will be made available on: www.southglos.gov.uk/thornbury
Q: How long will the plans be displayed for scrutiny and comment by the public, prior to works commencing?
A: The final scheme design reflects the feedback received through consultation and engagement to date, balancing the views of the community and stakeholders. No further public consultation will take place in advance of works commencing.
Q: Under OGP, when will a SGC Senior Representative visit Thornbury for a public meeting to share the new plans?
A: As outlined above, communications regarding the final scheme design will be distributed through various channels. There is no plan to hold any further public engagement sessions as this part of the process has been completed. This has enabled the feedback received to be considered as part of the final scheme design.
Q: If the plans bear ‘no resemblance’ to the original designs, is it legal to proceed with the works, without a new full public consultation?
A: The view expressed is that of the Town Council. The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 provide public access to environmental information held by public authorities. This asks for an opinion and is not therefore subject to the provisions of the Environmental Impact Regulations.