Residents of Thornbury and the surrounding villages are invited to attend a Public Meeting which is being held by Thornbury Town and District Residents Association, at the Conference Room in Thornbury Leisure Centre, BS35 3JB, on Wednesday 16th March between 7.30 and 9.00 pm (doors will open at 7.00pm)
Not a done deal
It is not a done deal and the Residents Association have sent a letter to the Chief Executive of West of England Combined Authority
Despite the fact that South Gloucestershire Council’s Outline Business Case (OBC) was discussed at a meeting of West of England Combined Authority (WECA) on 28th January 2022, the closure of Thornbury High Street to through traffic is NOT A DONE DEAL. The four member councils of WECA agreed funding SUBJECT to signing off of the Full Business Case (FBC) by the WECA Chief Executive. WECA will have to go through the process of assessing the Business Case. The Full Business Case is due to be sent to WECA during March and there will be a minimum period of two weeks period for assessment by the Chief Executive of WECA
The Residents Association was represented at the meeting in January and there were an unprecedented number of Public Statements. In all 64 were sent in by members of the public and 5 were read out by the Residents Association members present. There were a further 29 sets of questions sent in and response from SGC is still awaited. An early response is not anticipated since SGC took 40 working days to respond to Freedom of Information questions, the statutory time is 20 working days, and even then half of the responses will not be given until after May 2022 – an astounding period of 7 months. This is despite the fact that the basic information being requested should have been researched and collated prior to SGC preparing their “Consultations” and Outline Business Case
The Residents Association believe that a proper Consultation has never been carried out by the Council at any time during the 2 years that the High Street has been closed. Dan Norris the Metro Mayor declared that he would only allow funding of the project if he was satisfied that Full, Fair and Respectful Consultation had taken place. At the last moment South Gloucestershire Council changed the source of funding to the Joint Committee at WECA which deprived the Metro Mayor of a vote
Significant problems with the Business Case
The Residents Association have written to the Chief Executive of WECA asking her not to sign off the Final Business Case.
The Residents Association believe that the Business Case submitted to WECA is Not Fit for Purpose, since they believe there are serious significant errors, miscalculations and misrepresentation of facts and data within the OBC.
These items will be explained and discussed at the Public Meeting
These can be summarised under the following main issues: –
- Lack of any detailed objective or quantitative consideration of other Options for the High Street development.
- The totally inappropriate and inconsistent selection of Base Case reference data used for Impact Assessments within the OBC.
- The lack of engagement with High Street traders and businesses to collect and assess their economic position and needs – pre-closure, during closure or how economic impact might be assessed if the OBC measures were implemented.
- The severe ‘creative accountancy’ undertaken when quantifying the Benefit Value stated in the Economic Appraisal and the resultant Value for Money Statement.
- Health, Environmental and Safety Considerations.
- Consideration of Full or Partial, Temporary or Permanent change to the existing interim arrangement.
Each of these points shows the that the Business Case presented by the Council is seriously flawed
Luke Hall and Toby Savage announced back on 17th November 2021 that a bus stop and through route for buses will return to the High Street. The buses were diverted at the start of the pandemic, in the spring of 2020, when the High Street was first closed to all through traffic. South Gloucestershire Council have still not agreed where the bus stop, shelter, raised kerb, layby and stand will be located within the High Street. It is believed that the Council intend for buses only to run in the High Street during weekdays and that the dangerous bus stop on diversion route at the junction of Bath Road is intended to remain. Traffic from the main car park at Bath Road joins Rock Street immediately next to the bus stop and there have been numerous incidents since its relocation.
It is believed that the through route for buses will not be open until completion of the pedestrianisation in Autumn 2023 meaning that buses will have been absent for 3 years. This has reduced access to the High Street for those with mobility problems and impacted upon their quality of life and of course reduced footfall within the High Street with consequent reduced turnover to the businesses
What does the Community want?
A proper Consultation during which the views and needs of Users & Traders of the |High Street are fully researched and then taken into account
Return of all buses every day of the week
Good access & parking when visiting the High Street for parking for all of those with Access and Equality needs
Return of through traffic either two-way, or one way up or down the High Street – No fixed views but let the Community decide during a proper consultation rather than having a solution imposed upon us all
Adequate short-term parking
Adequate arrangements for collection and delivery trade and public vehicles
Drop In sessions
“Drop in sessions” were held in Turnberies at the end of last year to explain the Councils proposals. It is not known to what extent, if any, the views of the public have been considered.
Evidently there are no drawings available of the proposals other than artists impressions and A4 sketches. It is no surprise that the programme is falling behind schedule. Drop-in sessions for January and February did not take place and notification of these in March are still to be published
Despite £700,000 being spent so far, there is nothing to show for it and the prospects for the High Street still remain uncertain entering its third year of mayhem