Parents to be banned from driving near schools in new trial

The school run

Traffic is set to be banned from roads near schools in a new scheme being trialled in Norfolk - Credit: PA

Traffic is to be banned from streets neighbouring Norfolk schools in a trial that could forever change school runs across the county.

Norfolk County Council has chosen six schools to pilot a scheme that is hoped to improve air quality and road safety around schools.

It will see restrictions placed on the roads surrounding the schools preventing motorists from using them at pick-up and drop-off times.

Coming into force later this year, the temporary closures will apply to roads around four schools in the Norwich area and two in Wymondham - although council bosses are yet to decide exactly which roads will close during the trial.

The six schools are Nelson Infant and Wensum Junior in Norwich, Dussindale Primary, St Augustine's Catholic Primary in Costessey and Robert Kett and Browick Road primary, both in Wymondham.

The restrictions would only be in place during term time and people living in neighbouring streets would be permitted to drive through the areas "if absolutely necessary at a slow speed".

Norfolk County Councillor Martin Wilby on one of Norwich's Beryl bikes Picture: Lauren De Boise.

Norfolk County Councillor Martin Wilby on one of Norwich's Beryl bikes Picture: Lauren De Boise. - Credit: Archant

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for transport, said: "We're excited to be part of a project that is seeking to find practical and workable ways to improve road safety and air quality around schools, and to help boost physical activity for Norfolk children, with the associated benefits to physical and mental health that brings."

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"This is the first time School Streets will be trialled in Norfolk and alongside project partners Sustrans, we will be working very closely with schools, residents and local businesses on this project.

"The team will now be getting to work in each community to understand what might work best."

Norfolk County Councillor Martin Wilby on one of Norwich's Beryl bikes Picture: Lauren De Boise.

Norfolk County Councillor Martin Wilby on one of Norwich's Beryl bikes Picture: Lauren De Boise. - Credit: Archant

In a joint statement, St Augustines headteacher Rachel Windell and Wensum Junior head Victoria McConnell, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for our schools to explore how to make travelling to school a safer, healthier and more enjoyable experience for children, their families and the local community.

"We are excited to take part in this trial and look forward to working towards a more pleasant school environment."

The trial has also been welcomed by councillors representing parts of Norwich from both Labour and Green groups.

Jamie Osborn, Green city and county councillor.

Jamie Osborn, Green city and county councillor. - Credit: Jamie Osborn

Jamie Osborn, Green county councillor for the Mancroft ward, said: "I'm delighted at the prospect of making school streets safer for children. Establishing this programme should make it easier for children to walk and cycle to school, which will benefit their health and reduce air pollution.

"This scheme should form part of a wider effort to reduce the reliance on cars, including providing better public transport, safer walking and cycling routes and low-traffic neighbourhoods to improve air quality and quality of life."

Maxine Webb, Labour county councillor for Norwich's Wensum ward.

Maxine Webb, Labour county councillor for Norwich's Wensum ward. - Credit: Maxine webb

Maxine Webb, who represents Labour in the Wensum ward, added: "I'm delighted the county council is running pilots of the School Streets schemes that were part of the Labour Group's Young Norfolk manifesto.

"The safety of school children and clean air around schools has never been more important and I'm pleased this pressing issue in the streets around Nelson and Wensum schools has been recognised.

"I hope the whole community will get behind it and benefit from the reduced congestion at school pick-up and drop-off times."

The pilot is part of the rollout of a national programme which began in London and led by the charity Sustrans.

A report prepared by council officers says the six schools chosen were ones with existing congestion and safety issues and focussed around the Greater Norwich area to allow the charity to limit its travel while checking on how it is working.

The report says: "Careful planning will take place before any School Street is implemented to ensure that any displaced motorised traffic can be adequately accommodated on the surrounding highway network.

"The trials are envisaged to start in Spring 2022 and run until Autumn/Winter."

The council will use part of £1.4m secured through the government's active travel fund.

How does it work elsewhere?

David Burt, of Sustrans, said the initiative worked in different ways across the country, having first been rolled out in London in 2019.

He said all School Streets were signposted, but different local authorities chose to enforce the rules in different ways.

He said: "Enforcement can be a bit tricky, but different councils deal with it in different ways.

"Some have made use of automatic number plate recognition cameras to monitor traffic, with fines issued by the local highways authorities.

"Others have used volunteer marshals and barriers to prevent people from breaking the rules.

"Signs have been used in all cases.

"It is very unlikely to be around 10 or 20 streets around each school - in most cases it is generally the one street with the biggest safety issues."

The council's report into the scheme says: "The trial will be delivered on the ground by volunteer marshals who are part of the school and local community and will operate the road closures in accordance with training from Norfolk County Council."