Council in talks to revive delayed bid for street closures outside Newcastle schools after 'unease'
City transport chiefs say they are in talks to revive delayed plans to close streets outside Newcastle schools at peak hours, after “unease” over the scheme.
It was revealed in March this year that roads outside 11 primary schools in the city would be closed at pick-up and drop-off times to slash pollution and make streets safer for children.
More than six months later, none of those plans have come to fruition – much to the frustration of many families fed up with scenes of gridlock outside their school gates.
Having announced in the summer that the ‘School Streets’ project was being delayed until the autumn term, Newcastle City Council is still yet to confirm exactly when the measures will start or how many schools will be involved.
Labour councillor Ged Bell announced on Wednesday that the local authority was talking to “most” of the 11 originally interested and that he hoped to reveal more “in the very near future”.
Ravenswood, Chillingham Road, Hotspur, Grange Park, Kingston Park, Dame Allan’s, Sacred Heart, Broadwood, Lemington Riverside, Farne, and Westgate Hill primary schools were those originally announced for the trial programme.
Coun Bell told colleagues at a full council meeting on Wednesday that there had been “a certain unease” among some schools about the road closures, as they grappled with the added pressures of Covid-19 and the pandemic led more people to use private cars over public transport.
The local authority had argued in the summer that it did not want to put “extra stress” on teachers while they were grappling with the other challenges of the pandemic.
A one-day trial of a School Street was held at Chillingham Road Primary School, in Heaton, last month.
Erika Allen, the school’s deputy head, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the changes were “incredibly well received by families and children” and that the school was “really pushing” for them to be made a permanent fixture – as are both Ravenswood and Hotspur, both also part of the Ouseburn Learning Trust.
She added: “Our families are really on board, so we want this as soon as possible. It is the council now that needs to put it in place for us, but we would happily have it as soon as possible.”
It is proposed to block vehicles from driving outside the school gates between the hours of 8am and 9.30am and from 2.30pm to 4pm, though residents and disabled blue badge holders would be exempt.
Coun Bell, the council's cabinet member for transport, said on Wednesday night: “I’m glad to say that we have had a trial of a School Street and the response has been absolutely fantastic from the school that took part.
“We were under the impression before Covid that there would have been a number of School Streets and we would have been able to launch them all together.
“Unfortunately with the impact of Covid, with the fact that a lot of people went back to their own private motor vehicles, and there was also a certain unease with some schools that put their names forward, they [schools] have approached the council to ask if they can be delayed and see what impact there is on other areas where School Streets will be coming in.
“I am glad to say we have started conversations with all, or definitely most, of the schools that initially put their name forward and the interest is still there.
“It is just taking some support to get that back to where we were pre-Covid, but I’m sure there will be good news coming in the very near future with more School Streets.”