Decision over school riverbank delayed after parents complain

Parents are complaining that their children are being made to walk along a dangerous river bank at S

Parents are complaining that their children are being made to walk along a dangerous river bank at Salters Lode after a bus route was axed from Downham Market. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

A council has delayed a decision to remove free school bus passes after parents complained their children were being made to walk along a dangerous riverbank where a teenager had previously died.

Norfolk County Council (NCC) wrote to parents in Salter's Lode, near Downham Market, to say free school transport would be removed after October half-term because it had identified a suitable walking route along the River Ouse.

Residents said the route is too dangerous because there is no designated pathway or lighting and the weather is often quite windy.

They also highlighted how 18-year-old Jonathon Barber was swept to his death in 2008 after being blown into the river by a gust of wind.

After initial complaints, NCC wrote to parents and Downham West Parish Council to confirm its original decision, saying the route was assessed twice by staff from its travel and transport services team.

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However after a query from the EDP, an NCC spokesman said: 'It has been agreed that the implementation will be postponed to allow further assessments to be undertaken to take into account inclement weather – a particular concern that has been raised.'

The spokesman added that the council was writing to parents to say free transport will be extended to spring half-term 2014 while the route is considered further.

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Parish councillor Robin Pegg wrote to NCC, saying: 'My judgment is that this is extremely dangerous and certainly not suitable for schoolchildren to walk along.'

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss visited the route and said it is 'not suitable and could potentially be extremely dangerous when there are high tides and extreme weather conditions'.

Julie Ballantyne, of Waterman's Way, Salter's Lode, whose son Oliver, 10, is due to start at the Downham Market Academy next September, said: 'I've always told him it is too dangerous to walk along. Now someone is undermining my decision.'

Malcolm Judd, of Downham Road, Salter's Lode, whose son Mason, 14, and daughter Tyral, 12, attend the school, said: 'My children are not going to walk along there – it is as simple as that.'

Under council regulations, those living more than three miles from their school qualify for free transport. Salter's Lode is 2.9 miles away.

NCC added: 'It is important to emphasise that this decision was not based on financial considerations.'

It also said: 'It is not necessary that pupils must follow the shortest walking route.'

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