A controversial proposal to pedestrianise Thornbury High Street has been scaled down following a backlash from concerned residents and traders.
South Gloucestershire Council has confirmed its plans for the future of the town centre near Bristol, which it says will “assure its long-term health and viability”.
In June last year, the authority used an emergency order to close the High Street to traffic to help people comply with social distancing.
The council’s Conservative administration voted to make the pedestrianisation permanent on June 7, but agreed that a one-way system should be allowed purely for deliveries and drop-off and pick-up points, as well as more on-street parking for Blue Badge holders.
In a new statement shared with the town, alongside a drawing showing how the road could look, the council confirmed: “We have listened to your feedback and the High Street will not be fully pedestrianised, but will have a one-way system to allow vehicle access for deliveries, as well as customer pick-ups and drop-offs.
“Other improvements include a speed reduction to 20mph, the installation of extra benches and bike racks, new ramps to improve accessibility and disabled parking bays.
“We believe these changes will create a thriving town centre for Thornbury, where people will want to visit and spend time.”
During periods of restrictions due to Covid-19, the Government instructed and made funding available to adapt town centres and high streets to enable traders to do business and help keep communities safe.
The 20mph speed limit in Thornbury was also introduced as part of those temporary experimental traffic orders, which are due to expire in January 2022.
Changes were met with widespread controversy in the town, with some traders arguing that a traffic-free High Street would be the “final nail in the coffin” after a difficult period.
A six-month consultation closed in February, and more than 1,800 people signed a petition against the closure.
The council argued that the measures helped to improve air quality and encourage active travel, and it has now advised that “to implement our vision, permanent traffic orders are required”.
Another public consultation will be carried out from Wednesday (September 1) seeking feedback on the scaled-back proposal, and people will be able to shared their comments via the council’s website.
South Gloucestershire Council’s cabinet member for communities and local place, councillor Rachael Hunt, said: “Thornbury High Street is at the heart of the town and our vision is to help that heart beat more easily, to maintain access for traders and those with mobility issues of course.
“But [we want] to encourage more people to walk and cycle there and to spend more time enjoying the unique surroundings of the town centre.
“Many business owners and visitors have told us that reducing traffic has made the area much more pleasant to spend time in, but we want to hear from local people now about the best way to make the changes permanent, so we can all see the high street come back from the disruption of the pandemic in a strong way that will ensure it thrives into the future.”
On Monday, September 6 it will host a public briefing session on the changes at the Turnberries Community Centre, between 9.45am and 4.30pm.
The sessions are being held in 15-minutes slots and anyone who would like attend can book a place via www.eventbrite.com/e/167591756455.
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