Safe School Route Condition Will Not Be Dropped

Site of proposed path accross the Watermeadow

The planning condition, requiring the new school builders to develop a path to access the school won’t de dropped, Councillors heard at last night’s Planning meeting.

A plan will need to be agreed with Council officers within 4 months, a deadline suggested by Merryn Smith and which is 2 months earlier than Chief Planning Officer Craig Dryden had recommended.

Chris Thomas said it was a shame that Kier construction had lacked forethought when they have done a wonderful job with the school. He questioned why it had been left to the last hour and said the matter should have been resolved before the Council accepted the school.

And Richard McCarthy said it was effectively a dereliction of duty. He wanted a temporary solution put in place before the clocks went back. A number of Councillors also made the point that you couldn’t expect kids and parents to walk, as the school has recommended to avoid congestion, if there isn’t a safe walkway.

There had been more letters and petition signatures over this issue, said Councillor Fred Ticehurst, than any other he could remember. He said it was difficult to get down Hugh Street without being stopped.

Meeting Chairman, Gaz O’Neil, said every Councillor seemed to agree the situation was unacceptable.

But some parents say they still need car parking and drop off areas.

Sam Mallon, who lives at Macfarland’s Down, says there’s no way she’ll allow her 4-year old to cycle or walk to school. She says it may be acceptable for older children, but parents will still want to take younger children by car.

Many ideas from residents were shared at the meeting.

Sign on Trench Lane

Roy Duncan asked whether the Old Town Road could be closed during school open and close times. Roy went on to suggest that roadwork barriers could be used to segregate walkers from traffic on the Old Town Road temporarily. He is worried about kids walking alongside cars and vans but also electric vehicles, which are less likely to be heard.

Some members felt it strange that the issues of creating an access route down the privately-owned Trench Lane has only just surfaced.

Merryn Smith said there had been no issue with the school cross-country runs using the roadway in the 1980s and Brian Lowen felt leases must have allowed for access to the Moors walk.

A sign stating the private nature of the road has recently been posted, and a resident has told us that just relates to parking, but Roy Duncan said there were wider issues.

Visitors respect private signs and may be dissuaded from walking down the nature trail because of it, he said. As it is private, members heard questions are now being asked about the appropriateness of sending the Council refuse vehicles down there.

A letter from Steve Simms, suggesting the creation of a path from the back of the Old Town Inn to the Water Meadow and on to the school, was also discussed. That would miss out Trench Lane and Steve felt this was a more sensible route from Old Town to the school anyway.

But Chief Planning Officer Craig Dryden said no decisions could be made in the meeting because nobody had looked into land ownership.

Councillor Lowen felt that a path across the Water Meadow would have to be raised above the flood level. But he added that the Chief Technical Officer had suitable material at his disposal at the dump.

Another key concern raised at the meeting was that, in 4 months time, there’ll be no one to do the work. Dudley Mumford says the timeline for resolving this matter, even shortened to 4 months, may mean there are no builders here left to complete the job.

Helen Glenn says she’s confused with the situation. She says the Councillors agreed previously that safety of the children was of paramount importance and can’t understand why Councillors are now saying it’s ok to wait for another four months.

She believes there was a clear planning condition put in place by Councillors for a path across the Water Meadow and says those same Councillors are now trying to alter that.

And she’s unhappy that this wasn’t resolved before the school opened.

Council officers will now work with the builders to find an acceptable route.


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