Free school buses un­der threat

Macclesfield Express - - LIGHTNING SPECIAL -

A NEW gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren could face a fight to keep their school buses as it was re­vealed that some free ser­vices could be re­moved un­der a coun­cil re­view.

Al­most 300 high school pupils in Mac­cles­field en­joy free trans­port to and from school as part of Cheshire East Coun­cil’s obli­ga­tion to pro­vide safe routes to schools.

But a coun­cil re­view of walk­ing routes – which was due to go be­fore cabi­net as we went to press on Tues­day, June 14 – says some of the routes, in­clud­ing one which cov­ers part of Mid­dle­wood Way, should now be de­clared safe for pupils and could lead to the ser­vice’s re­moval by April 2017. Sim­i­lar re­views in 1993 and 2013 were aban­doned fol­low­ing public out­rage over the safety of the Mid­dle­wood Way, which is used by pupils trav­el­ling from Bolling­ton to Tyther­ing­ton, with op­po­nents claim­ing the dark path was too dan­ger­ous for stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing win­ter.

Manny Botwe, head­teacher at Tyther­ing­ton School, said he is ‘very con­cerned’ over the re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the route. He said: “We are very con­cerned to hear about these pro­pos­als and we have al­ready raised our con­cerns with the coun­cil.

“We will do ev­ery­thing in our power to pre­vent the loss of the free buses and en­sure our stu­dents are able to come to the school safely.” Un­der the plans, all high school pupils trav­el­ling over three miles to school would still get a free bus ser­vice as would pupils us­ing routes clas­si­fied as un­safe. Bolling­ton coun­cil­lor Amanda Stott said: “The (Mid­dle­wood Way) was deemed un­suit­able in 2013 by the then-leader of the coun­cil, Michael Jones. He pointed out that the route would need in the region of £375,000 to bring it up to an ac­cept­able stan­dard. This money has not been in­vested so it is hard to see why the stan­dards have now been low­ered to al­low this change of pol­icy.” Five routes could be re­clas­si­fied un­der the re­view, in­clud­ing parts of the Mid­dle­wood Way that lead to Poyn­ton High School. The cabi­net was also asked to agree to use £150,000 from the gov­ern­ment’s Lo­cal Trans­port Plan Fund to im­prove routes, which would in­clude a con­trolled cross­ing on Prest­bury Road for stu­dents walk­ing to Fal­li­b­roome Academy.

A coun­cil spokesman said the routes have been re­clas­si­fied to help tackle pupil obe­sity and could save £495,000 by 2019.

Coun Ge­orge Hayes, deputy port­fo­lio holder for chil­dren and fam­i­lies, said: “This de­ci­sion is about fairly ap­ply­ing an ex­ist­ing pol­icy, now that these walk­ing routes have been made avail­able for safe use. There are also clear health ben­e­fits from get­ting more of our young peo­ple to take reg­u­lar daily ex­er­cise by walk­ing.”

A min­i­mum 12-week con­sul­ta­tion will be held.

An on­line petition has been set up at you.38de­grees.org.uk/ pe­ti­tions/keep­tyther­ing­ton-school­buses.

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