CAR FREE: School Street trials a ‘resounding success’
Pupils at Lemington Riverside Primary School, where the road outside the school gates was shut for a day, Image: NCJ Media
Families at three more Newcastle primary schools got a taste this week of car-free streets outside the school gates, though council bosses are still silent on when the long-awaited changes could be imposed more permanently.
Roads outside schools in Gosforth, Arthur’s Hill, and Lemington were closed off from 8am to 4pm under a trial to test out new measures to cut air pollution and make it safer for children walking, cycling, or scooting.
Through traffic and parking was banned outside Grange First School and Westgate Hill Primary Academy on Thursday to stop them being clogged up by parents’ vehicles, while the ‘School Streets’ restrictions were introduced outside Lemington Riverside Primary on Friday.
The three sites were all named among an initial 11 schools in the city that Newcastle City Council revealed in March would be joining the trial programme.
But having initially been slated for the summer term and then put on hold until autumn, the measures have been introduced at just four spots so far – and only for a single day each.
Clare Clougher, headteacher at Grange First School, said Thursday’s trial was a “resounding success” and called for it to be brought back as soon as possible for an entire term.
She added: “I thought it was brilliant. I have been really concerned about the road outside the school. I have only been here since January but I know it was an issue for the previous head too.
“I have had to go out on quite a few occasions to ask parents not to park on the pavement. There are people doing three-point turns, reversing onto pavements, I have had to grab a child before as a car came up the kerb.
“The change on Thursday was incredible, it just felt so calm and safe. I didn’t have any complaints from parents and that is not to say everyone is 100% happy, but all I have heard is positive comments.”
Labour councillor Ged Bell announced earlier this month that the local authority was talking to “most” of the original 11 schools about the plans – but claimed there had been “unease” about the road closures at a time when the Covid pandemic has led more people to use private cars over public transport.
The council had previously argued that it did not want to put “extra stress” on teachers.
After a one-day trial at Chillingham Road Primary last month, leaders there and at both Ravenswood and Hotspur schools are said to be very keen on making the changes permanent.
Mrs Clougher added: “I thought it was a resounding success and I hope it can be a permanent solution. There have been a couple of accidents near schools in Newcastle and I don’t want another one here.
“Yes there should be some feedback from residents and from parents now, but I think let’s put this in place for a term and see what happens.”
However, the council has declined to say when it will introduce any School Streets for a longer-term spell.
A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council said: “We are committed to delivering successful School Streets in the city and are working together with schools and communities to understand how we can do this in a way that supports and reflects people’s needs and priorities.
“So far we have carried out trials at four schools and the feedback and evidence from these trials is being used as we continue to develop our longer term plans.”
The original proposals were to block vehicles from driving outside school gates between the hours of 8am and 9.30am and from 2.30pm to 4pm, though residents and disabled blue badge holders would be exempt.
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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