Buses will be back on Thornbury High Street as South Gloucestershire Council continues to develop plans to realise a new vision for the centre of the market town, following ongoing, extensive consultations with the community.
We have taken time to listen, consider and revisit all of the feedback received to date and local people, businesses and other stakeholders fed back clearly that they wanted to see buses return to help more people access the shops, cafes and leisure facilities at the heart of their community. Facilitating buses to stop on the High Street will also help alleviate some of the concerns expressed about traffic congestion along Rock Street as a result of changes in the High Street.
Discussions will continue with bus operators in the coming weeks to determine the routes and stopping points to be included and are continuing in order to brief stakeholders about how the plans are moving forward, including the Council’s commitment to reintroduce the ability for buses to directly run through the High Street again.
The Council recently concluded face-to-face public engagement with residents on the Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) that will be needed to inform the improvements to the high street. The Director of Environment and Community services has now approved the Orders, which are necessary to enable the detailed design of the High Street scheme to develop.
Listening to feedback, the decisions taken on the TROs will allow the Council to relax restrictions imposed during the Emergency Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) period, maintaining access for all but ensuring unnecessary through traffic isn’t re-introduced. The decision supports a speed reduction to 20mph and secures space in the High Street for dedicated blue badge parking, limited waiting spaces and facilities for loading and unloading. This underlines that the plans do not impose a pedestrianisation of the High Street, but seek to establish a shared use to promote new ways for people to enjoy the area, whilst protecting access for those who need to park close by due to mobility issues or travel by public transport.
We are committed to ensuring that ongoing detailed design of the scheme is undertaken with full community engagement. To help achieve this, we will continue our conversations with local people about the plans. We are also committed to ensuring good accessibility for all. In regard to Thornbury High Street, we have set up a Thornbury High Street Accessibility and Equality Group, made up of residents of Thornbury and surrounding areas, representatives of the South Gloucestershire Disability Equality Network, South Gloucestershire Over 50s Forum and the Accessibility Thornbury group, and we have been working closely with this representative group since July when the first ‘overarching vision’ for the high street was put forward.
The group has met regularly to discuss matters of accessibility and raise issues and ideas. As a result of this engagement, a significant number of ideas have been put forward that are helping to guide the changes moving forward. These include, enabling buses to access the high street, securing the provision of blue badge parking spaces and a range of other developments, such as ensuring good seating areas, better pavements and enhanced signage.
From 29 November, Council officers will be holding face to face drop-in sessions in Thornbury library, details of which will be publicised in due course. This will allow us to share our plans and ideas and to hear more ideas from local people about how the detailed design of the scheme evolves.
Cabinet Member for Communities and Local Place Cllr Rachael Hunt said: “We are investing considerable resources to deliver on our shared vision for Thornbury as a welcoming and attractive destination for all and to support the economic prosperity of the town. We aspire to map out a future for the centre of Thornbury, which is shared by the community and which will be enjoyed for generations to come. We want local people to help shape these plans and for them to be fully engaged throughout the process. We have listened to local people who have been calling for bus services through the High Street so I’m delighted that we have been able to facilitate this.
“Our approach in working closely and positively with groups such as the Accessibility and Equality Group, is a good example of community engagement and positive community conversations, which can lead to better places for all, especially for people who may have additional accessibility needs. We intend to use this model of engagement and conversation into the future as we are clear this approach brings meaningful benefits and ensures new plans meet the needs of local people.”
Thornbury and Yate MP Luke Hall said: “As our local MP, my two key priorities have been ensuring the High Street remains as accessible as possible, particularly for those who are less mobile; and that we continue to support our local businesses through what has been a very turbulent time and I am glad the Council has listened to the community around making this important change.
“Reinstating a bus stop was a vital improvement needed for the High Street and I am very pleased that we have now secured a bus stop, back where it belongs. The next important job is to continue to speak with local bus operators, to ensure we get that direct bus route back along the High Street, and I will be working with South Gloucestershire Council to achieve this as soon as possible.”