By Rashleigh MacFarlane
Pupils at four Cornish schools should no longer get free transport because it is safe for them to walk, according to an assessment of pedestrian routes carried out by Cormac and obtained by Cornwall Reports under the Freedom of Information Act..
The routes are the 2.6 mile journey between Newhall Green and Sir James Smith school, Camelford; Foxhole village to Brannel school; Burlawn to Wadebridge school and a 2.9 mile walk between Whitecross, Cury to Mullion school. All involve narrow country lanes with no pavements.
Routes which Cormac says are not safe are anywhere in Nanpean to the local village primary school, Swiftaford, Hatt to Landulph school and any walk between Penwithick and Poltair community school, St Austell. In all cases Cormac says the roads are too busy.
A final decision could still be months away as County Hall officials continue to analyse the 1,195 responses to their “public consultation” exercise. But you can download the 88-page Cormac route assessments here: Pedestrian route assessments
Cornwall Council is looking to cut a £5 million overspend on its statutory requirement to provide school transport.
The FOI answer reveals that officials do not intend to involve the council’s cabinet in the decision-making process, claiming that the removal of buses and taxis does not represent any change in policy. This is likely to infuriate local communities, and their councillors, who in previous disputes have demanded that their elected leaders should walk the routes themselves before accepting that they are safe.
The definition of “a change in policy” involves considerable semantics when trying to argue that a school bus which was there one day is gone the next. Previous disputes have sometimes hinged on archaic distinctions between neighbours in semi-detached homes, with one family within the distance-limit told their children should walk but the family the other side of a shared drainpipe offered free transport.
Questions of “policy” are also very much front-of-mind for local councillors as officials tell them that spending on non-statutory issues, such as the Newquay spaceport, or lobbying for offshore windfarms, are more important priorities than meeting County Hall’s legal obligations.
Once officials are finally ready to present their recommendations a report will come to a scrutiny committee.
In some cases the numbers of children affected is very small, sometimes from a single farm or a relatively isolated group of rural dwellings. If there is no cost-effective solution the council is in a difficult situation if parents are unable or unwilling to take responsibility themselves.
Cormac’s assessment of potential pedestrian routes is theoretically based on objective criteria such as traffic volumes, accident histories and visibility. But many parents would be reluctant to allow primary school age children to walk up to two miles or 11-year-olds to walk up to three miles.
The journey between Whitecross, Cury to Mullion school is particularly problematic, as there are four potential pedestrian routes but Cormac says only one – the longest route, at 2.9 miles is safe.
Part of the route between Burlawn and Wadebridge school. Cormac says it is safe for children to walk.
A 2.6-mile walk between Newhall Green and Sir James Smith school, Camelford, is safe - says Cormac
One of the most problematic routes is between Cury and Mullion, with four alternatives - but only one is safe, according to Cormac