Below is my response to the Buckstone Primary School Spaces for People consultation, this is essentially a summary of all the comments I have received from local residents and the school community.
Response from Councillor Scott Arthur on behalf of local residents.
Firstly, it is important to note that many local residents/parents have commented positively about the efforts the school staff are making to keep children safe. I visited the school on Monday morning to observe the pupils and traffic, and I could see that the queuing system at the main entrance was orderly and efficient, and that staff were working hard to create a welcoming atmosphere by playing Christmas music and wearing festive clothing.
Although the stated focus of this scheme is the response to Covid-19, road safety issues around the school are well known. Although the Covid trigger for the scheme is not noted, I understand the issue is the risk of cars hitting one of the many children queuing to enter the school. This is a particular concern at the Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Circle junction. I counted 10-20 parents driving cars (often quite large SUV type) around this junction. Can the Spaces for People Team confirm what the trigger is for the use of Covid powers is in this instance, and explain why this scheme was not progressed sooner given that it is labelled “urgent” and “emergency”?
The comments I have received from residents/parents can really be separated into two types – uncertainty about what’s proposed inside the cordon, and concerns about what the impact may be outside it
I chatted face-to-face with 10-15 residents living inside the cordon on Sunday. I could see that the Council could have benefited from engaging with these people before drawing up the plans. There was uncertainty about the following:
- Are the plans for peak time only, or 24/7?
- Can Blue badge holders visit at any time?
- Can deliveries be made at any time?
- What arrangements are in place for visitors/taxis/carers/tradespeople? Will these people and residents be issued permits?
- Can school staff still use the car park? I understand teachers do normally have a plan in place to use their own cars to transport children in the case of an emergency.
- How will the “residents only” access on Buckstone Circle be enforced?
- Will any parking spaces be lost?
- Will the closure barrier be well designed – will it compromise planters or cones?
Additionally, any impact on gritting and waste collection will have to be carefully considered. These large vehicles will find it difficult to turn in the restricted area. This and points 1-8 above need to be clarified, and based on this the residents should be given a further chance to comment.
The concerns outside the cordon largely reflect the pre-existing road safety issues around the school. Normally, there are three areas of concern: (1) the area within the proposed cordon, (2) the hill access to the school on Buckstone Lea and, (3) the raised table crossing adjacent to the junction of Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Gate. Residents are justifiably concerned that this plan will exacerbate the latter two problem areas and also worsen problems on Buckstone Close. Has this been anticipated?
If the plans are to proceed, I feel the following should happen to reduce this impact on the surrounding area:
- Parking should be prevented at the Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Gate junction (in line with the Highway Code).
- The raised table crossing adjacent to the junction of Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Gate should have its markings refreshed.
- The following giveway markings should be refreshed: Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Gate, Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Lea, Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Close, Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Circle, High Buckstone / Buckstone Circle, Buckstone Loan / Buckstone Circle and Buckstone Gate / Buckstone Road. The Council should ensure dropped kerbs are in place at these junctions where appropriate.
- Homes on Buckstone Loan East, Buckstone Circle, Buckstone Close, Buckstone Lea and Buckstone Gate should be provided with access protection markings for their driveways, or have any existing markings refreshed.
- Steps should be taken to discourage parents from using cars to drop-off/pick-up children on Buckstone Lea.
- Steps should be taken to remind Buckstone residents of the hazard parked cars and overgrown hedges (etc) pose to pedestrians and those with buggies/wheelchairs/guide dogs. This is particularly important on the arterial routes through Buckstone and the streets surrounding the school. Likewise, a reminder should be issued regarding speeding on the estate.
In terms of accessibility, many disabled people depend on cars (both to drive and as a passenger) and taxis. Road changes shouldn’t prevent disabled people from being able to stop near the school. Changes to usual travel patterns can add to anxiety for all of us, but to some disabled people in particular. The scheme should therefore be seen in this context – continual changes should therefore be avoided where possible, and should be effectively communicated to the public (including disabled people).