Free school buses under threat
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.