‘Walking bus’ hits skids

A PROPOSAL to set up a school ‘walking bus’ from a Morpeth community centre has been turned down by councillors.

Abbeyfields First School is desperate to reduce congestion around its gates in Abbot’s Way and has a road safety committee to consider possible solutions.

It has already adopted a number of measures, such as encouraging parents to park further away and walk.

And now it wants to set up a ‘walking bus’ from Storey Park Community Centre, whereby children would be dropped off and parent volunteers would walk them to school.

However, Morpeth Town Council, which manages the centre, has rejected the idea.

At its Planning and Transport Committee, Coun Alison Byard said: “The car park at Storey Park is not massive and could be quite congested. There is just one entry point.

“I can understand why the school wants to do this and I’m very impressed by the safety committee, but I don’t think this is going to be the answer to its problem.”

Coun Stuart Lishman added: “It is a fair hike from Storey Park to Abbeyfields for the little ones. I think it is a bit far. There is also a highway safety issue on that corner.”

And Coun Dave Pope said: “This will simply move the problem from Abbeyfields to another neighbourhood. As has already been noted, the car park at Storey Park is quite small. I envisage parents parking right up that stretch of road to Spelvit Lane.”

Councillors were told that only Tuesday and Friday mornings were available for the walking bus as the centre already has bookings for other days when the car park will be full.

Coun Nic Best said: “I would not want the town council to be putting hurdles in the way of this. It is up to the school to determine whether it is going to work. We could say these are the times that would be possible and limit the number of cars that would be dropping children off at the collection point.”

But Coun Bob Robertson said: “By letting the car park be used, you also take out the availability of the building for bookings. We have an obligation to make our resources pay.”

And Coun David Clark, who had spoken in favour of the scheme, said: “I have turned right around.

“Our first responsibility is to the requirements of this town council so the requirements of Abbeyfields school have to be secondary to that. On that basis, you are right, this would be taking out the availability for bookings.”

The committee voted by four votes to two against the school’s proposal, but said it backed the principle of a walking bus.