You have probably seen and heard now about the pedestrianisation of Thornbury High Street and that as a Chamber of Commerce this is something we are against. So I thought I would share with you why that is. I did record a video (it is 10 minutes long so you might want a cuppa) or here are the highlights!
Firstly, this has been done without any consultation with local businesses, residents or the Chamber. We only found on Monday, which is a week before the changes take place (on the 8th June). And we found out via a video call with a Chamber representative where is was presented as a done deal and no opportunity for feedback. A letter from South Glos Council notifying us arrived on the 4th June. Many local councillors only found out on the same day as us!
Although they are saying it is a two week trial, South Glos have also made it clear that this can carry on for 18 months without consultation and that they plan on this. They have not provided the criteria by which they will be judging this 'trial' or how they will be gathering the necessary evidence. As businesses there is no information on how we can feedback how the change is affecting us.
We have worked hard at Papilio to make ourselves a business that is accessible to wheelchair users, parents with prams, customers with limited mobility and more. We are proud of the fact that from the pavement you can get through the building and onto our decking with no steps. The plan from South Glos does not allow for disabled parking (except for at the opposite end of the High Street where they've replaced the bus stop) or for customers with limited mobility to be dropped off outside. Many of our customers will be unable to make the walk from a car park to the shop, so it really saddens us that we therefore may not see them again.
Initially deliveries will still be allowed throughout the day (we don't have any back entrances so they only way we can receive goods it from the High Street). But again South Glos have said they want that to change and for deliveries to be at limited times. For us this means a few things - if deliveries have to take place outside of working hours that means at minimum at additional £3000 a year in staffing (not a small amount of money!). Some of our suppliers deliver on their own massive trucks and they are unable to deliver at specific times due to having to operate on routes that operate across a huge area. One of these suppliers is our biggest Christmas supplier and so to not be able to receive their deliveries and work with them any more would have an impact on our sales.
So why are the council doing this? They have been given money and powers by the Government to make the town more social distancing friendly, this is why they can now do this without consultation whereas previously this was not possible. As traders we struggle to believe that we are all going to have big queues outside that will make social distancing difficult (although we would all love to be really busy!). The council are also wanting cafes and restaurants to be able to have tables outside (which is fine on sunny days, but let's be honest you're not going to sit on the High Street for most of the year! As Papilio coffee we would not be able to serve food and drink to those tables as we don't have the staff to service an extra area (and it wouldn't be financially viable to have extra staff at this point and taking food and drink through Papilio home is also not safe). The only thing we could do is take away coffees.
Many of us on the High Street can see the benefits of a one way system and so we are pushing the council to talk to us so that we can find a better solution. Leaving it as it is will leave many businesses on the High Street struggling (at a time when trading is hard enough) and with no indication from the council on how they will assess and react for some the only option will be closure. We cannot all keep trading for 18 months if it is clear that are fears are correct.
So what can you do to help? Please write to the council and Luke Hall with your views. If enough people get in touch they will have to respond.
Email addresses are:
There is also a petition you can sign (sadly South Glos have not made this easy to do, but it would be appreciated if you are able)
You can also help by continuing to shop local and supporting the businesses.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions please do get in touch.
The video where I include some more figures I've worked out about the impact is below.