SGC need to go back to the beginning and have proper full, thorough and fair Consultations and Engagement with the Community
Not just for the peripheral things that were up for discussion recently but really get to grip with the fundamentals of the project
The existing controls on access should discontinue and in the meantime, the High Street should return as it was before June 2020
Briefing, Consultation & Engagement
Drop In Briefing and Consultation 29th November to 10th December 2021
For the first time since June 2020 this was a constructive session where Officers were prepared to explain, listen and take away comments from the Public
Why has it taken 18 months?
The briefing at Thornbury Library, which was once again poorly advertised, was well supported by the Public as the word spread in Thornbury
The SGC Regeneration Manager and her fellow Officers have been friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, they have only undertaken to review the information and return in January. We have no idea to what extent, if any, our ideas will taken on board
It is a great shame that similar Consultation & Engagement had not taken place previously
The “We know best attitude, and this is what we are going to inflict on Thornbury” days have certainly proven divisive. The lack of proper and meaningful Consultation & Engagement has led to a very poor outcome, which is not suitable for anyone at all
There is a lot of ground to be made up before the Community and the Council can move forward and create a Joint Vision to make Thornbury a town that we can all be proud of in the future
Return of Buses to the High Street
This was welcome news, however the announcement for their return was made on the very same day that the five TROs were signed off which rather took away any sense of achievement
The original bus stop & stand outside Co-op is now designated for 3 parking spaces for the disabled. SGC say they need more time to establish the best position for a new central bus stop, talk to the bus companies regarding change of route & timetables and then to construct a raised kerb
Depending on whether this raised kerb work is programmed separately or with any wider landscaping work there will be a yet further delays of between 6 to 12 months before being operational.
This would mean the bus will have been diverted for a total of 24 to 30 months. Not exactly joined up thinking by SGC.
Despite 65% of people wanting buses to return SGC has ensured that the least able bodied amongst us will have been denied access to the High Street for 24 to 30 months
Still, they continue to pontificate about what type of bus can return
Pedestrian and Cycle Zone
We understand the High Street area is no longer designated as a Pedestrian & Cycle Zone. or that it is Closed to Traffic. SGC still intend for bicycles to travel down and through the High Street
Toby Savage has recently announced that the High Street is open to traffic which has confused people. Drivers must have a reason to go to one of 3 three hour spaces for blue badge holders, 3 ten minute parking bays or one of the 3 small unloading/loading bays for commercial vehicles. Driving through the High Street is not permitted other than recycling, maintenance and residents and now of course buses
The only exceptions appear to be normal traffic and taxis going through the High Street
In reality these 3 parking bays in the zone, along with 6 disabled bays outside the zone, are woefully insufficient for the less able-bodied members of the community
Blue badge holders now have significantly less opportunity to park
SGC contend that the zone is no longer classified as Pedestrianised or Closed to traffic
There is a loss of over 25 one hour parking spaces as well as others lost at the Northern & Southern ends of the Zone.
We know from the Survey, started in July 2020, that many residents from Thornbury and surrounding villages would normally have visited the High Street by car since it permitted access for the less able bodied but the current scheme does not take this sufficiently into account
Lessons from Kingswood
Based upon the experience SGC gained at Kingswood one would have expected a small consultation to have been carried out in order to provide the framework for writing questions for the Survey/Consultation
This was not carried out in Thornbury and in consequence the questions within Survey were not Fit for Purpose
The Survey/Consultation document was unfairly heavily skewed towards Pedestrianisation and Closure of the High Street
The High Street was “temporarily” closed at the time and this was used as a base for the questions which were then inevitably tilted towards continuing the closure
Frequent references to Covid were very misleading since SGC obviously wanted the closure to continue for evermore, not just be a temporary phase during the pandemic. SGC were playing on the Community fears instead of being objective
For Kingswood the public response at each stage was positive and no doubt SGC thought it would be easy to push on next with Closure of Thornbury High Street.
Survey / Questionnaire issued in July 2020
The questions were constructed in such a way that it was not possible to indicate preferences other than for closure
Many were ambiguous or appeared deliberately confusing
Survey Questions 8 & 9
The following options should have been included:
- Following lifting of the emergency restrictions should the High Street be returned as it was before June 2020?
- Should there be unrestricted two way traffic?
- Should there be unrestricted one way traffic?
- Do you agree with all through traffic being diverted along Midland Way, Rock Street and The Plain?
If a ten-year-old pupil in their Geography class had produced such an unbalanced piece of work it would have been returned with the teacher’s instruction to go away, have a good think and then rewrite it!
The script allowed little opportunity for the Community to express their true opinions other than in Question 13 – See below
Question 13 Any other comments
There was just one place for people to show their true feelings, being Q 13 – “If you have any comments about the temporary changes, either in support of or objection to the scheme……..please use the space below to provide them …….”
Of 2,890 completed Surveys there were 2,114 that contained comments to Q 13
Small minority supported the closure with positive comments 231 (11%)
Significant majority made negative comments 1,663 (79%)
People who did not make comments 220 (10%)
So, despite SGC attempts at creative accounting it is quite evident that the vast majority of people responding are sufficiently aggrieved to have written separate comments in Q 13
We have a copy of responses to Question 13 if you do not have one to hand and are interested
Signing off of the Five Temporary Traffic Orders
There are four TROs which are contentious
Consultation was held with the Community over a few days in September 2021
An overwhelming number Objections or Negative Comments were made to four of them:
Prohibition and Restriction of Waiting 85% against
Designated Disabled Persons’ Parking Place 95% against
Proposed Designated Loading Place 94% against
Proposed Prohibition of Driving 89% against
The fifth TRO for 20mph limit was non contentious
Despite this response by the Community the TROs were recently signed off by the Director of Environment and Community Services
No explanation was given as to why the Public’s Objections were ignored, what were the overriding items were or the weighting of each item
“On 19 November 2021 the Director of Environment, Planning and Community Services considered the objections and comments received in response to the advertisement of the above proposed traffic order. After carefully considering these objections together with the comments the following decision was taken”
Diversion Route for Traffic
The traffic along the diversion is a major problem.
As usual SGC had not done their homework and just hoped that the problem of doubling the traffic on the diversion route would go away of its own accord
The SGC Cabinet have just pushed the problems onto their Traffic Engineers to solve. However, there is very little that can do to alleviate the problems other than a few minor tweaks
There is now higher pollution along the route because of the increase in journey length and stationary traffic
No matter that it may be below prescribed levels it is contrary to the principles of Climate Emergency it is against the principles of the Climate Emergency to which SGC is signed up to
Economic Impact Assessment Business Case
And so, to yet another area that SGC have just not done their homework
SGC financial case is that High Streets across the UK are struggling, and they are beset by problems
Thornbury is an ancient Market Town that has always relied upon trade from the surrounding villages, together with passing trade. It cannot possibly be compared to the regular High Streets up and down the country
With just two exceptions all of the large chain & national premises are within the pedestrian St Mary Centre
The High Street has a significant proportion of unusual, speciality & family shops and businesses that serve the local population and that are not impacted to the same extent as those in larger more urban towns
SGC have not carried out even a cursory consultation regarding Economic Impact Assessment with local shops and business, either pre-June 2020 or subsequently
This a major plank of heir bid. How could SGC be so complacent
Freedom of Information
We await responses to our FOI requests made on 28th October and 28th November 2021
Again, if SGC had carried out the relevant research before conducting this whole exercise they would have been in a position to reply without too much delay
Indeed, then the questionnaire would have been more relevant
Policy 3. The Joint Local Transport Plan (2011 – 2026) – Report to Cabinet – Thornbury Future High Street Vision (Thornbury Ward)
- Carbon – Carbon emissions have risen sharply since traffic has been diverted along Midland Way, Rock Street & The Plain.
- Economic Growth – Several shops and businesses in the High Street report significantly reduced sales and footfall even in the four months since lifting of Covid restrictions in July
- Accessibility -Whilst attempts have been made to restore accessibility by potential reintroduction of buses and some blue badge spaces the fact remains that for many groups the High Street is less accessible than prior to the closure in June 2020
- Safety, Security & Health
- Safety – The roads on the diversion route were not designed for the amount of traffic that is using them. There have been at least four accidents recently on this diversion route. The four mini roundabouts are unsuitable for the volume of traffic and congestion is a major problem during the busy morning and afternoon periods, particularly during school term time. Safety at the junction of the High Street and Castle Court is a nightmare for vehicles and pedestrians alike
- Security – Anti social behaviour has increased in the High Street
- Health – Increase in traffic along the diversion route is causing congestion, slow moving and queues where none existed previously. The increase in pollution to the environment is very significant and contrary to the Council’s Climate Emergency goals
- Quality of life and Natural Environment
- Quality of life – Thornbury Centre is now a very sad place in which to live, navigate by vehicle or on foot, visit, shop or work
- Natural Environment – It is not possible to ascertain any measurable positive impact upon the Environment. The planting of a few rain gardens will barely make a dent in the increased carbon footprint
SGC has failed to demonstrate how closure of Thornbury High Street meets these goals and it quite apparent that the High Street closure is having and will continue to have a negative impact upon these five key transport goals