• My response to the proposed loss of Feniton’s and Ottery’s school crossing patrol

    9th January 2016 | News | Claire
  • Dear Devon County Council

    I am responding to your consultation on School Crossing Patrols, which propose to transfer the responsibility of the school crossing patrol service to local schools.

    The key problem is that local schools have significant budgetary pressures. With the cumulative effects of under-funding and the added extra pressures of changes to national insurance and pensions, and an increase in on-costs and inflation, the current situation is in effect a 12-15 per cent cut in income.  This is likely to cost Ottery Primary School alone, £12,000 this year.

    Local schools are not in a position to take on any more financial burdens, without help, at least initially from Devon County Council.

    Feniton Primary School
    I object to the proposal to remove the funding for Feniton’s school crossing patrol.

    The school is situated on a busy main road, which is also a bus route and becomes congested at rush hour, especially when the level crossing barrier is down.  There have been complaints about speeding.

    Feniton has been targeted by developers and dozens of extra houses has (and will) also put more pressure on Station Road, especially at rush hour.

    Although Ottery Primary School has a more dangerous crossroads to contend with (Tip Hill) Feniton Primary School would also be unsafe without a lollipop patrol.  As both schools (in common with others locally) have significant budgetary pressures which mean that the schools will find it very difficult to find the extra funding to accommodate the school crossing patrol.

    Local head teachers are very concerned that they will simply not be able to afford to take on the extra financial responsibility of the crossing patrol and I believe that it is unfair to expect them to do so without extra help – at least in the first year.

    Ottery St Mary Primary School crossing patrol
    I strongly object to the proposal to discontinue the School Crossing Patrol officer based at Tip Hill crossroads, Ottery St. Mary.
    I am very concerned about the safety of children making their way to Ottery Primary School in Longdogs Lane by having to cross the road at Tip Hill crossroads.

    The previous councillor, Roger Giles, had numerous meetings on site with various DCC highways officers and it was eventually agreed to provide a School Crossing officer.

    Anyone who had the slightest doubt about the need for this officer, is urged to visit the Tip Hill crossroads between 8.30 and 9am on school days; I have done so on very many occasions over the years.  I defy anyone to claim that this road is safe to cross for young children. In fact the School Crossing Patrol officer was struck by a motor vehicle when on duty here a few months ago.

    Look at the response (SEE BELOW) made by the DCC highways officer Jerry Upfield on 1 October 2015, to the EDDC planning section with regard to planning application15/1734/MOUT, and his concerns at the situation where the School Crossing officer is situated.

    County Highway Authority

    Comment Date: Thu 01 Oct 2015
    Observations:

    The proposed development site is located on the eastern side of Sidmouth Road on the outskirts of Ottery St Mary to the south of the town. Sidmouth Road is an unclassified (not A or B) county road that runs north to south between Ottery St Mary in the north and the A3052 at Bowd to the south. Sidmouth Road is restricted to single track width and a 20 mph limit at the village of Wiggaton.

    Generally the road width varies form 4.8 to 5.5 and there are informal passing places, even though some of these are in the form of private access ways. Sidmouth Road is signposted as the route to Sidmouth from Ottery St Mary town square.

    North from the application site Sidmouth Road rises to a crest with reduced forward visibility at the crossroads of Longdogs Lane and Oak Close. There are some footway provisions on Sidmouth Road in this direction but these are not fully continuous on one side of the road or at the contemporary standard width of 2.0 metres. This makes access for pushchair’s and people with disbilities difficult if not impossible at a few places.

    South of the application site the private track Gerway Lane, serves approximately ten properties and there is no existing footway provision along Sidmouth Road for these dwellings and it would appear that none is intended via the proposed development site.

    The proposed development site land is approximately 2.5 to 3.0 metres above the existing road level of Sidmouth Road. Therefore because of the level difference extensive embankment earthworks would be required not only on the site access road but also to the frontage of the site along Sidmouth Road to achieve acceptable visibility splays. Also the access road is proposed to rise steeply, up to 1 in 10, over the first 50 metres to gain access to the site.

    The proposed footway emanating from the site access road south along Sidmouth Road is supposed to connect to the consented footway for the Gerway Nursery on the site opposite, however the land required to make the full footway connection to the consented footway is not within the application site or under the control of the applicant. Also it would mean that pedestrians would be crossing near to derestricted national speed limit (60 mph).

    Furthermore there is a current planning application (15/1974/FUL) – Cardarroch (land
    adjacent) that proposes that this permitted access footway is altered to another location.

    Therefore the footway connection to the south put forward as part of this application may not be achievable on two counts and not safe on another. I also think that it is highly unlikely that pedestrians would walk on a footway going in the opposite direction (south) to gain access to the town centre in the north.

    Human nature to take the shortest route would surely prevail and any footway going south to eventually go south would be ignored.
    The proposed footway to the north along Sidmouth Road from the site access would not take walkers far enough north to be able to access the existing or planned footway provisions on the other side of Sidmouth Road. This is likely to lead to pedestrians walking in the narrow carriageway which would be hazardous to safety.

    At the request of the local County Councillor and Parish Councillor, the Planning Officer and I have attended a site inspection of Tip Hill and the junction of Longdogs Lane / Oak Close / Sidmouth Road and also part way along Longdogs Lane towards the Primary School during the morning school travel period. It was apparent from the site visit that this route can become congested during school travel times and that there are conflicting vehicular movements on the single track width at the eastern end of Longdogs Lane. Also because of the lack of any footways at this location parents with children mingle with motorised traffic.

    This can lead to congestion and increased safety concerns on the highway. Instances of “gridlock” were recounted by the School Crossing Patrol and a parent. I have investigated this problem and it would appear that although this situation is not ideal, anything that could be done to improve it would have severe repercussions at other junctions in Ottery St Mary.

    It is also thought that a one way system or priority system, for instance, could possibly have the effect of increasing traffic speeds in Londogs Lane and making the route less safe for pedestrians then it is at present. This situation is acknowledged by the Headteacher of Ottery St Mary Primary School in his letter to East Devon District Council dated 18/09/15. It should be noted that in my opinion this route is also not safe for cyclists during times of congestion and it was apparent that no cyclists were observed on the site visit.

    Conclusion
    The proposed development in terms of access is deficient in adequate provisions for suitable access for pedestrians and cyclists to travel safely to the town centre and amenities there and to the Primary School from the proposed site access. The proposed access road to the site from Sidmouth Road will because of its steepness not be safe and suitable for pedestrians.
    Recommendation:

    THE HEAD OF PLANNING, TRANSPORTATION AND ENVIRONMENT, ON BEHALF OF DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL, AS LOCAL HIGHWAY AUTHORITY, 1. The proposed development is likely to generate an increase in pedestrian traffic to access the town centre and its amenities and the local Primary School on a highway lacking adequate footways with consequent additional danger to all users of the road contrary to paragraph 32 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

    2. The gradient of the access would be likely to result in additional danger to all users of the road contrary to paragraph 32 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
    Officer authorised to sign on behalf of the County Council 30 September 2015

    To summarise. I believe that the removal of the School Crossing Patrol officer at Tip Hill crossroads, Ottery St. Mary would substantially increase the dangers to schoolchildren – and parents – at this location. I very strongly urge that the service is retained.