Thornbury residents have branded a council meeting that resulted in the town's High Street being permanently pedestrianised 'shambolic'.

A meeting of South Gloucestershire Council's cabinet on Monday was beset with technical difficulties, but ended with a unanimous decision to keep the road closed to all traffic - save for deliveries, pick ups/drop offs and access for residents.

This was despite passionate speeches from members of the public against the proposals.

South Gloucestershire Council’s cabinet members defended their decision to approve the “vision”, which they said takes public feedback into account and “supports the local economy, the community and our climate emergency goals”.

But of nearly 2,900 people who responded to a public consultation about the changes to the High Street, 65 per cent disagreed with making the pedestrian and cycle zone permanent, although agreement increased to 47 per cent for those who have visited once a week or more since the changes were implemented.

And ahead of the meeting dozens of members of the public wrote to the council expressing in the strongest terms their objections.

Of the 60-odd submissions, many begged the council to “listen to the community” and return the High Street to the way it was before June 2020. Many others called for the council to make the High Street one-way instead. Very few wrote in support of the plans.

One person wrote: “Before making decisions this afternoon, bear in mind that the majority of Thornbury are against these proposals.”

Monday's council meeting, the first face-to-face cabinet meeting in more than a year, was delayed for half-an-hour due to problems with the webcast.

Eventually the meeting proceeded without it, meaning those not in the council chamber were unable to watch.

The council, who have apologised for the issues, provided the media with an audio recording of the item but this did not include speeches made by three members of the public.

Jill Cyphus and her husband Rob spoke out against the plans, citing a lack of consultation and apparent opposition of the majority of residents and businesses.

Speaking after the meeting Jill said: "I was very disheartened by the whole process. The start of the meeting was shambolic.

"Even when the microphones were working, it was difficult to hear what was being said and we had to constantly ask people to speak up. After our speeches, we were allowed to move forwards in order to hear better.

"It became clear that there was no intention of listening to us or taking our comments seriously and believe that the decision had already been made.

"We do not feel we have been properly consulted at any point. Clearly there is very strong feeling against the closure and this is not being accurately portrayed.

"The lack of interest in engaging with the public earnestly is depressing and worrying. We have not given up."

Zoe Gilbraith, secretary of the town's chamber of commerce, also spoke out against the plans at the meeting.

She cited her own survey of 75 business owners, 70 of which she claims were in favour of trialling a one-way system on the high street.

"The meeting was shambolic, how come they have managed to do Zoom council meetings all through the pandemic but right when it mattered all of a sudden they had no sound and therefore couldn’t broadcast it," Zoe said.

"The council have agreed to include some disabled parking but what about people with low mobility but no disabled badges?

"What about people who want to use the bus to get to the High Street and would struggle to get back to Rock Street with any shopping?

"We want the ability for people to pop through and stop to pick up their shopping or to call in for a paper/coffee on their way to work."

But councillors maintained the High Street needed to change.

Thornbury councillor Maggie Tyrrell, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, called the proposals a “compromise” that provided an opportunity to address “long standing problems”.

She told the meeting it was no surprise that the “very divisive” experiment had triggered a “well organised campaign” of opposition, especially as the changes were introduced quickly and without consultation and that “some mistakes” were made in the design and implementation.

But she said there were problems with traffic on the High Street before the pandemic and two previous consultations had found residents wanted it to be “more pedestrian friendly”.

“So although this has been a very painful experience for Thornbury in many ways, it appears we are now going to get that investment into a long-term plan that up until now hasn’t been available,” Cllr Tyrrell said.

Steve Reade, cabinet member for regeneration, environment and strategic infrastructure, said the High Street needed to change, noting that half the people who disagreed with the proposals visited the street less than once a month.

“I don’t see how not changing anything will coax more people to visit local businesses if they don’t already,” he said.

It was “not the case” that the cabinet decision was predetermined, he added.

The Cabinet unanimously backed the plans, adopting an amendment to include more on-street parking for Blue Badge holders within the High Street following a campaign from Thornbury and Yate MP Luke Hall.

Luke Hall said: "Under the previous plans, too many disabled residents and those with limited mobility would have been left not being able to access Thornbury High Street at all. We could never have accepted this.

"It's good news that the council have agreed to increase the number of on street Blue Badge parking spaces along Thornbury High Street and a huge thanks to everyone who signed the petition.

"As the local MP, I will continue to push for the right level of access to the High Street, including opening of Soapers Lane, as well as ensuring we have sufficient enforcement along the High Street for families and businesses."

A spokesman for South Gloucestershire Council said: "We apologise for the webcasting issues experienced during the cabinet meeting.

"We understand how important the particular item on the agenda was to local people and appreciate how frustrating this was for them.

“We have been working with the software providers responsible for the webcasting to identify the issue to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

“There were initially problems with the webcast audio at the beginning of the meeting, and both the meeting and webcast were paused to enable this to be resolved.

"Unfortunately we were unable to rectify the problem and after around 30 minutes the meeting proceeded without the webcast.

"The meeting was held in-person and all members of the cabinet and officers were able to participate and listen to the debate without any issues.

"Additionally the members of the public who had attended and indicated they wished to make representations during the meeting were also able to participate.

“Once again, we are very sorry about the webcasting issues experienced. The large majority of our webcast meetings have been conducted without any issues and we are working to ensure that today’s problems are not repeated in the future.”