Cllr Kieron Mallon asked for care to be taken around the prospect of banning cars from dropping off and picking up outside Oxfordshire’s schools. The matter sparked a fierce debate among county councillors last week.
The matter was discussed by Oxfordshire’s Place Overview & Scrutiny Committee as part of the overseeing of a new Street Design Guide.
It came days after it was revealed the county’s School Streets initiative – a pilot which closed roads outside nine primary schools at drop-off and pick-up times – is set to be rolled out permanently in some areas in the new year.
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The Street Design Guide is set to shape the way new developments and the streets that serve them are put together, promoting walking, cycling and travel by public transport.
It says any new school should be “located so that it encourages walking and cycling” and “central to the catchment it is intended to serve as possible”.
It acknowledges that car drop-offs and pick-ups “still need to be considered” but mitigations such as building schools near other facilities to offer parking spots at peak times, drop-off areas “away from the street frontage of the school” and connected roads that loop round, preventing the need for traffic to turn in the road, are put forward.
That did not go far enough for some councillors but others said making the measures more stringent would not be practical.
Councillor Sally Polovotsky (Lib Dem, Hendreds & Harwell) added: “Why are we designing around school drop-offs for cars? It should go. There is no reason for anyone to be dropped off to school by car, that means we need to look at our public transport infrastructure, our school transport infrastructure and walking and cycling accessibility.”
Councillor Kieron Mallon (Con, Bloxham & Easington) said: “I’m sorry, Councillor Polovotsky, we have to be pragmatic about this.
“I am a councillor for one large village, one very small village and south Banbury, otherwise known as the councillor for the A361.
“On that road are two large private schools, three large secondary schools and two primary schools. What you are suggesting would mean every single residential road on the estates next to that road will be overwhelmed by people driving and dropping off their kids.
“Are we saying through this policy and other policies that we wish to take away parental choice over education? If you think your child will get a better education in the next school, town or village, currently you are allowed to have a choice over that and as someone who had no choice in his education, I welcome that. You have to be careful.”
Councillor Dan Levy (Lib Dem, Eynsham): “I think it is entirely reasonable to design car-free spaces into our new developments, particularly around schools.
“That doesn’t mean people can’t take their kids to school by car, it means they can’t park right next to the school.
“If we want people to walk and cycle to school then we need to give them a safe space to do so.”
Councillor Ian Snowdon (Con, Didcot West) said: “I have an issue in my division at the moment. A school was built at the beginning of a phase (of development), children got places in that school from other parts of Didcot, now that development is full the children living next to the school cannot go there because it is full of siblings being brought into the area.
“Children living in that area now have to go out to schools three or four miles away or on the other side of Didcot.”