Thornbury Town and District Residents Association (TTADRA) has now received confirmation from South Glos Council (SGC) and all three emergency services, that there was never specific consultation over the use of Thornbury High Street by emergency vehicles.
In April 2022, the Government updated its Network Management Duty guidance, which clearly sets out that local authorities should consult with the local chiefs of police and emergency services to ensure that access is maintained where needed, for example, to roads that are closed to motor traffic.
Freedom of Information requests to all emergency services and to South Glos Council have now been returned. One answer, from the Fire Service, is awaiting final confirmation, but the same response has been received from all so far; that no specific consultation was undertaken concerning the lack of a bus layby in Thornbury High Street. The nett result will be that a bus in the High Street will stop in the middle of the single carriageway to take on passengers and block all other vehicles from passing, including emergency vehicles on “blues and twos”. Delays in emergency response, as we all know, cost lives.
When first asked about this, Donna Whinham, Regeneration Manager for SGC, told TTADRA, “The bus will move out of the way”. This brought up the question of where the bus would go, since the intention of the High Street scheme is to expand the pedestrian pavement on both sides of the street. A bus will not be able to move sideways.
A recent response by Verity Britton, Regeneration Engagement Manager at SGC, to the same question, received the following reply. “In the event of an emergency the bus would find a suitable passing place, whilst ensuring that all passengers are safe.” Since the restricted carriageway continues as far as The Malthouse pub, and cars are permitted to park on both sides of the road further on, approaching the junction with Midland Way, the only safe place for an ambulance, say, to overtake a bus might not come until the bus layby at the Leisure Centre. Will this attract bus services back to the High Street, or was it always SGC’s intention to make the situation as difficult as possible, then blame them for not returning?
There is clearly a major failing by SGC to meet their responsibilities and consult properly. Whilst they state that the police have been “engaged” through the Town Centre Partnership meetings, the matter of the bus layby, as far as TTADRA has been able to discover, has never been a matter for discussion in that forum. Will this consultation ever take place? It is starting to become obvious that SGC are dragging their feet on a number of matters, so that the works in the centre of Thornbury cannot be challenged until construction is already under way.
To compound the problems which will be posed by SGC’s High Street project, it is not clear where the brewers’ drays will park when servicing the Butcher’s Hook and White Lion pubs, or where tradespeople’s vehicles will park when working on premises between Castle Court and The Close. Will the vehicles be parked unattended on the carriageway? Will the tradespeople be carrying their tools and materials to the High Street from a public car park? Given the time involved on such an exercise, that appears unlikely.
Has South Glos Council actually ever stopped to think about the consequences of their project, and how disruptive it will be to emergency response as well as everyday life? That also appears unlikely. They maintain that they have consulted, but clearly not over the real causes for concern.