Tuesday, 09 March 2021

Calls for permanent 20mph speed limit outside junior school

Calls for permanent 20mph speed limit outside junior school

THE speed limit outside a Wargrave school should be reduced to 20mph permanently, say parish councillors.

Their demand follows at least two “near-misses” involving cars and children attending Robert Piggott Junior School in School Hill.

Wokingham Borough Council, the highways authority, turned down a similar request late last year.

At the moment, the 20mph limit only applies when the children are arriving or leaving the school and the rest of the time the limit is 30mph.

Parish councillors say the pupils are in danger when walking to and from the school in the late afternoon and evening when it is darker.

After-school activities take place on most days, meaning some children don’t leave until 6pm.

In November Councillor Michael Etwell dubbed the road a “black spot” and called for more street lighting in the area so pedestrians could be seen better.

Cllr Etwell asked the borough council about extending the lower limit period to take account of pupils staying late.

The council refused, saying that it could lead to drivers becoming complacent about the limit and ignoring it.

Speaking at a parish council meeting this week, Cllr Etwell said:  “The council declined an application that would increase the period.

“The reason is there would be a lot of complaints from residents and it [the limit] would probably be ignored. For me that’s not a reason.”

He said there had been “a couple of near-misses” outside the school.

Parish clerk Stephen Hedges said that most drivers expected schools to be closed after 4pm so wouldn’t expect pupils to still be in the vicinity.

He said the parish council could approach the borough council again, adding: “Can they suggest other methods to stop children being knocked over here?”

Mr Hedges said a permanent limit would require some infrastructure changes, which could include small speed bumps at either end of the road.

He said: “The engineering works don’t have to be major but they have to be sufficient so that you as a driver know the limit.”

Councillor Marion Pope said: “I think this is ludicrous, it’s so unsafe when you’ve got cars speeding down there. They don’t stick to 30mph anyway. The lighting there is so bad.”

Councillor Terry Cattermole said that he could understand the borough council’s reasons for rejecting the application as he had used on the road and seen the temporary 20mph limit enforced during times when the school was closed.

He said: “The amount of times I’ve gone through and the lights are on even if it’s during the holiday time. You take no notice.”

Last month, the borough council turned down a request by the parish council to better illuminate the area around the school, saying it had no budget for this.

Cllr Pope said she would ask the school governors to lobby the borough council and the area may also be included in a survey of lighting in the village.

Robert Piggott executive headteacher Sally Ann Akers said: “We have approached Wokingham council regarding extending the length of time that the lights flash but this was turned down.

“The speed of traffic on School Hill is a serious concern for us with some vehicles making emergency stops at the crossing. We would be in support of a 20mph limit outside the school.”

Sally Reason, chairwoman of the school’s parents’ association, said lowering the limit permanently would be a really good idea.

She said: “When you are picking children up later on and it’s dark it’s really hard to see when you are coming out of the junior school entrance.

“There have been a few instances at after-school events like discos when cars have been going too fast because they think the school is closed.

“We do always use the crossing but it can still be hard to see when cars and going quickly. More lighting is needed as well as a 20mph speed limit. Parents would definitely be behind that.”

Ms Reason, whose daughter Scarlett is a pupil, said the road was dangerous as it opened up further past the school.

She said: “People don’t look out when they are driving up there. When you get past the school it is quite a fast road and goes on to the A4. People speeed up and don’t always slow down at the school.”

Councillor Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for highways and transport at council, said: “The whole point of a temporary 20mph during busy school periods is self-enforcement.

“It requires drivers to look, see kids and slow down.

“The problem with extending them is that people will start ignoring them.”

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