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Council makes U-turn on free school transport decision

PUBLISHED: 15:43 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:03 19 September 2019

Parents made the walk to prove it was not easily or safely accessible. Photo: Matthew Nixon

Parents made the walk to prove it was not easily or safely accessible. Photo: Matthew Nixon

Archant

A council has backtracked on its decision to withdraw free school transport for children after parents protested and appealed an 'unsafe' route.

The route, which parents have named 'the blue line route', crosses under the A12 and passes through farms to Pakefield. Photo: Google MapsThe route, which parents have named 'the blue line route', crosses under the A12 and passes through farms to Pakefield. Photo: Google Maps

Earlier this year, Suffolk County Council announced it would remove funded travel for children in Kessingland, where the nearest school is Pakefield High School.

At the time, the council's cabinet member for children's services, Gordon Jones, said: "We only provide SCC funded school travel to the nearest suitable school. In addition, we are now incorporating Public Rights of Way when measuring distances and assessing entitlement."

The council had drawn up an alternative route on public paths which passed underneath the A12 and through farmland, but parents said this was an alternative to the A12 route which deemed unsafe in 2012.

Claire Barnes, a mother of two, said the route is longer than three miles, adding: "It's unkempt, certainly not maintained, unlit, completely impractical, secluded and most certainly dangerous.

A group of parents from Kessingland have made the walk several times to prove it is inaccessible. Photo: Matthew NixonA group of parents from Kessingland have made the walk several times to prove it is inaccessible. Photo: Matthew Nixon

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"The paths are overrun, the ditches overflow and flood, people have fly tipped rubble along the path. Imagine the state they'll be in when they get to school."

Mrs Barnes said the council told her officers believed the route 'available' but, after an assessment by an independent road safety auditor, the council said "a section of the route from Kessingland to Pakefield has been found to be not available."

Now Suffolk County Council funded school travel will be available to eligible pupils in the area on an opt-in system.

Councillor Gordon Jones said: "The case does not need to go to the Education Transport Appeals Committee. Suffolk County Council funded school travel will be available to pupils who are affected by this decision when they have opted in for school travel."

Mrs Barnes called this a "remarkable turnaround".

She said: "I'm relieved we got a good outcome really and it is all resolved, I did think at one point I was in over my head but I kept the pressure on.

"I just want to make sure everyone who needs the transport does opt-in, don't lose your entitlement now we have won the fight."

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