The leader of South Gloucestershire Council has said those in support of the pedestrianisation of Thornbury High Street are keeping quiet for fear of being seen to disagree with the town's traders.

Closure of the road to traffic has proved controversial, with many shop owners voicing concerns and launching a petition, but Toby Savage has said those who support the move 'don't wish to put their head above the parapet'.

Cllr Savage made the comments when answering questions from listeners on BBC Radio Bristol this morning (Thursday, August 6).

Responding to a question from Zoe, who asked if the council would be willing to reopen the road to traffic following a negative reaction, Cllr Savage said: "This was one of the first decisions we took once we received statutory guidance from the government around what councils had to do in order to reopen public spaces in a safe way to ensure we could have appropriate social distancing and keep people safe and confident to be going out and about.

"We've been amending that scheme ever since in order to improve things and pick up on some of the key concerns people have had, one example being the disabled parking where we have now introduced dedicated disabled parking at both ends of where the pedestrianisation starts.

"In terms of the business feedback, and reflective of the wider community, it is mixed. I wouldn't say it's on one side or the other.

"I think there's a great deal of support actually among both businesses that have seen an improved performance and improved takings but also support from the community themselves.

"But what I'm finding is they don't feel like they wish to put their head above the parapet and to say so either on social media or indeed publicly to the traders.

"I've had friends of mine, and I was born and brought up in Thornbury, friends still live there - they've come into the shops they've been asked by traders to sign the petition and they have done so not because they agree with the petition but because they don't want to be seen to be disagreeing with traders which they have used for many years.

"The consultation has some months to run but we are always looking at ways to improve it.

Zoe responded by saying: "One way to improve it would be to allow access to the less mobile and more vulnerable people to be able to drive and pick up and drop off. We have quite an aged and vulnerable population in Thornbury and it has really hit them hard.

"You may have put some disabled parking spaces at either end but that still leaves in the middle of the high street quite a walk from anywhere and a lot of people are saying they do not have access to be able come to the high street.

"Our high street is very quiet, it's quieter than it was when Covid was in place in the first place . We now have cyclists that cycle down the high street, they're not shopping they are cycling through.

Host John Darvall said there was a 'suspicion that things are being done under the cover of Covid'.

In response Cllr Savage said; "There's still a communication improvement that we have to do as a society. The changes that have been brought in have followed the guidance. It's not guidance that we can just take or leave it's got a legal standing and actually this is all about trying to keep people safe, trying to give people confidence that they can go out and shop safely.

"We've made improvements already around the disabled parking. The moment you begin to allow people to drive in to the high street once again you are making it more unsafe for pedestrians.

Louise in Thornbury added that the high street was 'missing the buzz'.

Cllr Savage said: "There are still a huge proportion of people who don't feel confident about going out. People are very scared.

"That's why the changes we are putting in are all about trying to build confidence. Just because there were a load of cars driving up and down Thornbury High Street that didn't mean to say business was booming among high street traders, a lot of those car movements would simply have been through traffic and they wouldn't have been stopping or shopping.

"There is more and more evidence that the pedestrian pound is far more lucrative than those who are driving."