PARENTS of children attending St Lawrence School in Alton may be able to take advantage of an innovative parking scheme designed to improve safety in the vicinity of the school itself. East Hampshire District Council is proposing to amend its Off Street Parking Places Order 2006 to enable parking permits to be purchased by St Lawrence parents, at a cost of just £15 per annum, to cover a 45-minute period at the beginning and end of each school day. The time slot would enable parents to deliver and pick up children from school while avoiding the need to park on the highway. The scheme, which would make parking places available in nearby Bank (adjacent to Alton Community Centre), Vicarage Hill and Victoria Road car parks, would run for 40 weeks of the year, from Monday to Friday, during term time only. According to EHDC parking and gighways manager Ian Eyres, the decision to offer such a scheme has been brought about due to pressure from the local traffic warden, supported by Alton police. Their concern was for congestion in the region of the school at the beginning and end of the day due to parents wanting to park near to the school in Amery Hill and Church Street, which is compromising the safety of the children. EHDC has already piloted a school parking scheme in Petersfield, with parents of nearby schools using the Causeway car park to avoid traffic congestion near to the new Tesco store. And while it is not a scheme officers would seek to implement under normal circumstances because of sustainability issues, in this case the obvious concerns about child safety have proved the determining factor. "The prime concern is to move the cars away from the school," said Mr Eyres who confirmed that the police had already monitored the car parks concerned to ensure there are spaces available at the times required to accommodate such a scheme. The parking and highways manager confirmed that as a rule of thumb one third of the space in EHDC car parks can be allocated to season ticket holders leaving the rest free for shoppers and town centre workers. "It is a fine balancing act. We would not implement such a scheme if it was to the detriment of the shopping centre. If the police hadn't asked us to do this, we would not have contemplated it," he said. With this in mind, the scheme will be carefully monitored. Nor are there any plans to extend it to neighbouring Amery Hill School. "We would not have the capacity in the car parks to accommodate the number of senior school parents who might want to use such a facility," said Mr Eyres. Having been asked to comment on the proposed scheme, members of Alton Town Council's planning and transportation committee were supportive. They did, however, question the sustainability of such a plan, asking whether it would be open to all or restricted to those parents who lived a sufficient distance away from the school or who had special needs children. Their concern was that the proposal would encourage more people to bring their children to school in cars - a move which would be contrary to both local and national environmental policies. Councillors were keen to know if this proposal was part of the school's Green Travel Plan and felt that the scheme should be re-evaluated after a year. While confirming that the scheme would be available to all parents, Mr Eyres re- emphasised the district council's position. "In this case we are more interested in the safety of the children than sustainability issues," he said. He also confirmed that St Lawrence School did, in fact, have a Green Travel Plan and that the scheme would fit in with the imminent implementation by Hampshire County Council of part of that Plan. This would involve making changes to the mini-roundabout at the junction of Vicarage Hill with Church Street to make it easier for pedestrians to cross. While the car parking scheme will not be in place for the start of the new school year, if there is no objection to the current consultation, Mr Eyres believes that it will be possible to implement it in around four weeks time. Application forms will be sent to the school for distribution to parents who will then be required to return the completed forms to EHDC. The annual fee of £15 is described by Mr Eyres as "an administration charge".
Safety prompts school parking permits plan
Thursday 31st August 2006 10:00 pm