Friday, March 1, 2024
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School Street Scheme to start in Thatcham

The upcoming School Street Scheme at Francis Baily School in Thatcham is on track to commence at the start of the upcoming school term in September. This project is part of a collection of four central government funded projects secured by West Berkshire Council for delivery in 2023-24.

The School Street Scheme will involve the temporary closure of roads adjacent to the primary school during drop-off and pick-up times. The aim of this initiative is to enhance safety and promote sustainable modes of transportation, such as walking, cycling, and push scooters, as important measures of the school commute experience.

Once the School Street Scheme becomes operational on 5 September, those impacted by the scheme will have the opportunity to raise concerns or suggest improvements until March 2024. Subsequently, the scheme will undergo a comprehensive review and potential adjustments, leading to a decision whether to make the scheme permanent or be removed.

Our first School Street Scheme was introduced in Calcot in September 2021, and although a small number of drivers still misunderstand the restrictions, it has continued to effectively reduce the number of vehicles driving through or parking in the designated restricted areas during school drop-off and pickup times.

To maintain the safety and integrity of these initiatives, we sought Part 6 powers to enforce the restrictions on a permanent basis for the Calcot initiative. These powers were officially granted by the Department of Transport (DfT) in July 2023 which permits an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera system to be implemented in Calcot. This means starting from 5 September 2023, any unauthorised vehicle entering the restricted zone around Calcot Infant and Junior School will receive a fine and be sent a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).

We understand that errors are bound to occur, and drivers who are unfamiliar with the area or may have overlooked the signage might inadvertently receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). Under our responsibilities related to Part 6 powers, we want to help educate drivers so we have also commissioned an online educational tool focusing on School Streets. Drivers who receive a PCN can choose to participate in this course, resulting in a reduction of the fine for a first-time offence. However, the sensible approach is to proactively familiarise oneself with the School Street Schemes to avoid penalties altogether.

A reminder for all, the School Street restrictions apply during the school drop-off and pick-up times, Monday to Friday, during school term-time only. Outside of term-time, the roads can be used as normal without risk of receiving a PCN.

Cllr Denise Gaines, Executive Member for Highways, Housing and Sustainable Travel at West Berkshire Council, said: “We’re really dedicated to making sure children stay safe while going to and coming back from school. Initiatives like this will encourage children and parents to increase their physical activity, reduce congestion and help minimise the impact on parking issues for residents close to the school.

“We’re excited to share our second School Street Scheme at Francis Bailey, following the success we’ve had in Calcot. We know it might take a little time for drivers to get used to the new rules, but our main goal is crystal clear: creating a clean and safe space for children who walk or bike to school.

“By reducing traffic congestion and slowing down vehicles, the risk of accidents is minimised, and children can navigate the area more safely and happier as they gain more independence.

“As we move forward, we want to invite all drivers to pay attention to the new rules. And if you’re directly affected by the scheme, we’d love for you to join our talks. Your ideas and involvement are really important to us as we all work together for a safer and lively school community!”

For more information about the School Streets scheme, visit: https://www.westberks.gov.uk/school-street-schemes.

You can also access the School Streets awareness course for free in order to better equip yourself with knowledge on the wider benefits on the community, here: https://schoolstreets.wbcroadsafety.co.uk.

If you have any questions about the School Streets Scheme, or want to provide feedback, please email us at: [email protected]