Scheme to make school run safer may cause traffic 'chaos'

A "School Street" with restrictions at drop-off and pick-up time

Concerns have been raised surrounding road closure proposals under the 'School Street' initiative made by a Bury St Edmunds school. - Credit: Will Durrant

Concerns have been raised over potential traffic 'chaos' after road closure proposals under the 'School Streets' initiative were made by a school in Bury St Edmunds.

The plans have been proposed by St Edmund's Catholic Primary School.

The School Streets Initiative sets out to place temporary restrictions on motorised traffic at school drop-off and pick-up times.

They aim to "offer a proactive solution for school communities to tackle air pollution, poor health and road danger reduction".

In Bury St Edmunds, this would mean the partial closure of Westgate Street from 8.15am to 9am and from 3pm to 3.45pm during term time.

The closure would affect both school traffic and through traffic but exemptions would be made for disabled access, residents and emergency access.

In a letter sent to parents of their students, executive headteacher Maria Kemble said adopting the School Streets Initiative would make the road safer, reduce inconsiderate parking and improve air quality.

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She also noted that temporary barriers would be manned by school staff or volunteers and any remaining vehicles would have to move at walking pace.

However, a number of Bury St Edmunds residents have voiced their opposition to the plans on Facebook as they worry that redirecting the flow of traffic could cause "chaos" in other parts of the town.

They acknowledged the need for road safety around schools but proposed different measures be put in place instead, such as lower speed limits.

Some are also concerned that adopting this plan may start a wider trend for other schools in the area, causing issues for road users further afield.

Bury St Edmunds Town Clerk Greg Luton said: "I am sure all residents see the safety of our children as paramount. The Town Council has not discussed the 'School Streets Initiative' but there are obvious benefits of the scheme for St Edmunds School.

"We are, of course, aware of the major parking and road traffic issues in the Town and have been in touch with West Suffolk Council and the Highways Authority in recent weeks to raise parking and traffic congestion issues.

"Overall, it is a complex set of circumstances to which there will be many views at this stage."

Existing School Streets have already been set up in multiple locations within the UK, with the first appearing in Scotland in 2015.

The scheme has seen notable success in London and there are 285 established School Streets in England.

In the East of England, there are three School Streets in Norwich and two in Wymondham.

If St Edmund's Catholic Primary School's bid is successful, Westgate Street will become the first School Street in Suffolk.