THORNBURY HIGH STREET: Pedestrianisation to become permanent
A controversial pedestrianisation scheme on Thornbury High Street is set to become permanent – with one important change.
The local authority’s Conservative administration is due to rubber-stamp a report locking in the changes from last summer on Monday (June 7).
But it is adding drop-off and pick-up points for shoppers after they and traders complained they were cut off from the shops.
South Gloucestershire Council used an emergency order to close the High Street to traffic in June last year to help people comply with social distancing.
The following month it added a one-way system for delivery drivers and residential access, as well as a 20mph speed limit, under a new order allowing it to make experimental changes while holding a public consultation.
But it was clear well before the six-month consultation closed in February that the scheme was unpopular with many residents and businesses.
More than 1,800 people signed a petition against the closure, and traders in Thornbury said making the pedestrianisation permanent would decimate trade.
A year after the changes were first brought in, the High Street remains closed to through-traffic between The Close and Castle Court, with vehicles diverted via Midland Lane, Rock Street, Quaker Lane and on to The Plain.
As well as the one-way system and 20mph limit, the council has made other changes to address various concerns – including adding six disabled parking bays, kerb ramps, new cycle parking, and new seating – but these have not been enough to win over the majority in favour of the scheme.
Of the nearly 2,900 who responded to the consultation survey, 65 per cent disagreed with making the pedestrian and cycle zone permanent, and 49 per cent disagreed with the one-way system completely.
Just under a third of respondents agreed with the current one-way system, and nearly 60 per cent thought that buses should be allowed through it.
A full 80 per cent of respondents wanted the 20mph speed limit made permanent, and many people wanted to see improved access for parking.
The results are set out in a report due to be discussed by cabinet members, who will be asked to approve a permanent ban on through-traffic in the High Street, a one-way system for delivery vehicles, and pick-up and drop-off points for customers.
“The preferred option seeks to balance the split view of the community,” the report says.
“It would create space for motorised vehicle access to the High Street where that access is supporting the economic [sic] of a thriving High Street, through open access for deliveries, improved loading and unloading provisions, drop off and pick up points and access for residents.
“However, motorised through traffic would remain prohibited.
“A review of disabled parking will ensure that parking options are maximised.”
The report also recommends a set of interim changes while the vision for the future of the High Street is fully developed, including measures to slow traffic on the High Street.
If cabinet members agree to all the recommendations, the following interim changes will be introduced this month:
- create a clear vehicle lane using textured paint (through traffic is still banned)
- extend the temporary ramps on the kerbs
- create clear and well signed parallel loading and unloading bays and drop off and pick up points
- install extra street furniture, such as benches and adapted cycle parking
- remove some planters, secure those that are left, and make sure the planting fits in with Thornbury In Bloom displays
- review entrance and exits to slow traffic on the High Street
- review signage to ensure appropriate access from Bristol Road and Midland Way roundabout.
Councillor Steve Reade, cabinet member for regeneration, environment and strategic infrastructure, said: “The future High Street vision supports the regeneration of the town centre and puts the High Street at the heart of a thriving community supporting the town’s recovery from the pandemic. We all want to see a space that meets the needs of all residents and visitors both in safety, access and experience.
“Thank you to the many residents, businesses and groups that gave us their feedback. As a result, vehicles will still be able to access to the High Street in one direction, but only in support of the businesses there. This future vision will embrace and encourage active travel, through safe cycling and walking routes to the High Street, enabling all to enjoy the reduction in traffic and noise when using the High Street.
“Longer term, we want to make sure as a priority that the centre of Thornbury is accessible for those using public transport and we will review bus service provision to make sure those needs are met.
“We also want to play our part in delivering a digitally enabled High Street, with fast and strong connectivity for businesses and visitors alike, maximising the opportunity for online retail through click and collect, making use of shared space for skills and training, and recognising the demand for more remote working with residents staying local and working from home.”
The council has already spent most of £220,000 of government funding for active travel measures on Thornbury High Street allocated last year, according to the cabinet report.
It has been given another £60,000 to develop a permanent scheme and is expecting to get around £6million more from the West of England Combined Authority once the scheme is approved at the end of the year.
Separately, the council is considering a traffic speed reduction scheme for the south end of the High Street, which is experiencing issues of inappropriate access especially by heavy goods vehicles, speeding traffic and parking.
An earlier scheme proposed for Rock Street, which now sees an extra 3,000 vehicle trips a day, will be considered alongside the High Street vision.
Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter
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