Histon & Impington Infant School Road Safety and Parking Meeting

Road Safety and Parking Mitigation Meeting for Histon Infant school

Attendees: 

Mr Newman, Infant School Head

School Project Officer

Highways Safety Officer

Highways Officer

Planning Officer

Ros Hathorn, County Councillor

There was a very strong will to improve the situation.

Money

The money being discussed at this meeting came from the Education (Education Projects) budget, consequently the scope of improvements discussed were those to mitigate the effects directly caused by the building of the new school.  There was not a blank cheque to implement measures which could lead to more active travel for families accessing the site or improve road safety across the village as a whole.  I made sure, however, that we touched on some suggestions to understand what the council officers might be supportive of in principle.  I mentioned requests for pedestrian crossings at Pages Close, north of the school and around Tescos/School Hill/ Red Lion. The officers were supportive of additional crossings but funding would have to be found elsewhere.

Signage

There are lots of great signs across Cambridgeshire in the vicinity of schools but some of those can no longer be installed legally and I believe the first installation had to be removed as legislation had changed.  A commitment was made to look into signage and install the best possible signage available asap.  I will report back on this. Mr Newman and I established that the school can put whatever it likes on it’s own fencing (there are a few legal restrictions).  Mr Newman’s eyes lit up at this point. Hatton Park school (within the same CPET trust) has installed banners and Mr Newman said he would talk directly to the head there. 

Dropped curbs

A dropped curb just after Narrow Close which would allow family cyclists to dismount and join pedestrians on the footpath rather than having to stop in moving traffic at the crossing was agreed.  

A dropped curb on the east (school) side of Glebe Way which would allow cyclists who had turned right on Cottenham Road onto Glebe way/ B1049 (so turning down towards the brook) was also agreed. There was some discussion about locations. See next para.

Layout of path and relationship to road on school side in front of school from Cottenham Road junction to Garden Walk.  The issues about this layout are complex, myself and Mr Newman made a number of comments and they fed into the safety audit.  It was agreed that the council’s cycling/ active travel team would be invited to feed into the process of improving the road and pavement layout (this did not happen for the first design). There is a chance that this team might be able to access additional active travel grants to improve this area further beyond the scope of the school projects’ budget. Please if you want to see the best improvements available please write to Road.Safety@cambridgeshire.gov.uk  you can cc me in ros.hathorn@cambridgeshire.gov.uk – loud voices to have a tendency to get heard so the more fuss that can be kicked up about this the better and the more likely we are to be able to access funding.

20Mph schemes

Current legislation will be considered and the officers will look at whether a 20mph zone during peak times was possible. The feeling from the council officers was that this was unlikely. In terms of a permanent wider 20mph speed limit that was beyond the scope of this meeting but discussed. 

Council policy is currently that if the average speed of cars is above 24mph then a 20mph zone will not be created.  Initially I thought that was crazy but upon consideration I can see that if people are travelling at a far higher speed along a road if you change it to a much lower speed without enforcement (there isn’t the manpower for traffic police or the money to buy a speed camera) then the 20mph limit is likely to be broken regularly.  I think that the rationale is that if it becomes commonplace to drive at 30mph in 20mph areas this has an overall negative impact on road safety across the county as people get into the habit of ignoring 20mph zones. This policy could change under the new council administration but it did impress upon me the importance of putting physical measures in place which will slow down the road as a first step.  This would require a strong community campaign.

Parking

The impact of this is felt most on Narrow Close and the end of Cottenham Road where it joins Glebe Road but there is parent parking in a wide radius beyond those locations.  The school’s turning circle/parking area is currently in use for parents and children with specific mobility needs.  Social distancing also affects the use of this area.  Any decisions about this parking area are the school’s responsibility.  That said even if the turning circle was in full use it is my opinion that it would make little difference to the numbers of people parking in Narrow Close and at the end of Cottenham Road.  There would still be insufficient space for all parents to park in the turning circle and parents unable to find a space on site would look for spaces as close as possible to the school.   It was agreed:

  1. Double yellow lines would be painted on the corner of the Cottenham Road junction, ie in the place where the Highway Code already advises you not to park (within 10m of a junction I believe)
  2. That I would speak to local residents about the parking issues and get an indication of what they wanted to happen.
  3. A relief car park will not be built on the Buxhall farm land.

Staggered start and potential new entrance and exit.

The current social distancing staggered start is likely to be reduced to a 10 minute drop off window in September, this may lead to new issues with more people trying to get on site at the same time.  We agreed to revisit this issue in the autumn. The old infant school had many entrance and exit points (most of which were kept locked shut permanently) but a second entrance point might become important if more children are entering and exiting the site in a shorter period of time.

Is the school in the right location?

This was not discussed but is an issue which is continuously raised. I didn’t initially have a strong view either way on this but grappling with the issues of parking and road safety I feel more strongly about it.

The community was faced with a situation of insufficient school places for a growing community, so the options were to do nothing and deny members of our community access to school places in their village which is divisive and feels deeply unfair or expand the school provision.  I believe expanding school provision was the right choice.  

When it was decided that the old infant school site could not be developed this meant a new location would have to be found for the school provision.  There weren’t a lot of choices and different options were carefully considered including speaking to Impington Village College but nothing was available.  The brutal reality is that land in South Cambridgeshire is wildly expensive so without the requisite tens of millions of pounds available to buy a new site ultimately the only option available was to build on County Council land.  The Buxhall Farm Site was the only viable location for the new school.  This is not in the centre of the village and is a long way from some homes but that is not particularly unusual for a school,  I speak as a parent who now cycles with her child 1.6 miles each way to school (it keeps us fit and she’s had a bit of exercise before arriving at school, I understand this can be a struggle for other families).

This leads us to what I believe to be the two main issues regarding the site; parking and road safety. 

In terms of parking wherever you locate a school there will be conflict between parents parking and the people who live on these streets. This was the situation at the old infant school site, homes on all the neighbouring streets dealt with parents’ cars lining their streets at drop off and pick up sometimes anti socially. The problem isn’t new, it’s an old problem which has been relocated. We need to work out if there are any interventions or soft local solutions to this.  It will probably require an ongoing balance of the school working with parents, local residents speaking out about issues, the parish council and county council keeping an eye on this and all parties working together to find solutions which are acceptable.

Road safety.  Yes the school sits on the B1049 which is a 30mph, busy road but we have more choice in this as a community than we think.   Currently it seems to be viewed that the location of the school is subservient to the speed of the road ‘why has the school been built on such a dangerous road’, but it doesn’t have to be like that.  We as a community have agency.   We can say that it is not right that the school is subservient to road speed and we can fight for change.  We can call for the road to be slowed down.  We can write to our MP, our County Councillor, Road Safety at the county council and the Parish Council and tell them how critical it is that the road be slowed down. There are measures which will slow the road down but none of this will happen without the community taking ownership of this issue and demanding change.    

There weren’t other choices for the location of the school so we can either complain that it shouldn’t have been built and argue children who live here should not have a school place here or we can take the view that educating our children is one of the most precious things we do as a society, that we are incredibly lucky to have such great schools here and perhaps if those passing through our community take 2 minutes longer getting from one end of the village to the other that that is a price worth paying to make sure our roads are safe for our children and the wider community.   We have more power than we think we can decide what where our priorities lie.   

Next steps

Parking – I will be standing on the grassed area in Narrow Close on Friday 2 July from 2.30 to talk to residents about parking and possible additional options. Or you can email me ros.hathorn@cambridgeshire.gov.uk I’m happy to call you back if that’s easiest just provide a number. I will pop a note through the doors of the nearest houses.

Road Safety Improvements – the next step should be a community meeting.  Please email (as above) me if you would like to get involved and with details of what you feel strongly about, I will publish details of a meeting but knowing who is really committed to campaigning for improvements would be really helpful. 

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