Bridgwater Town Council has launched a campaign to have 20 MPH speed limits outside every school in Bridgwater and has challenged Somerset County Council to end it’s piecemeal approach to the subject and simply introduce 20 zones to the lot. This follows a frustrating campaign by Polden street residents to get the zoning introduced in the streets around Eastover school whilst at the same time fighting an increasing number of large lorries using the route as part of a rat run around the town, exacerbated by the never-ending EDF roadworks.
Eastover’s County Councillor Dave Loveridge has responded to a 2 year campaign by residents with petitions and lobbying of County portfolio holder David Fothergill , facilitating the introduction of Speed Indicator Tests and has now asked the Town Council for support in upping the stakes by making the case for all schools. Dave says “Residents have made the case tirelessly over the years that there is a school in close proximity to these roads, there have been several near misses with children and there are elderly people trying to cross what are quite narrow streets.”
Residents urge immediate action
Campaigner Ernie Grant added “Residents have also noticed cracks in their houses due to large vehicles travelling down Polden Street which is meant to be a 3 tonne area and we want to deter these from cutting through side roads and staying on the main roads. We aren’t asking for speed humps as these would impact on air pollution and are simply asking for cars to slow down and for signage to enforce that.”
Town Council leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) has undertaken a survey of all the schools in the town and has drawn up a list of priority areas starting with Eastover clearly at the top. Cllr Smedley says “The residents have made the strongest possible case for Eastover and it is naturally top of our list to put before County Council when they next consider these schemes after the May elections. Some schools have adequate signage – Hamp, Sydenham, St Johns and St Francis are already covered, but Eastover is woefully neglected here and residents are rightly angry. Also on our list for urgent cover are Westover Green, Willowdown, Haygrove, Chilton and St Mary’s. It is up to the ward councillors now to make the case for prioritising their areas but our policy from Town Council as of now is we want all of them done.”
Town Council Votes to support Residents
At the Town Council meeting on Thursday 9th March the councillors voted unanimously to support the campaign and also raised the issue with the Police present to take action in support of the residents.
Labour’s candidate for the County Council election in Bridgwater West is Tony Heywood. Tony has the most schools in the town in his ward and non are covered. He has personal experience of what can happen as a result of speeding near schools and takes up the story….
County Candidate calls for support for the Schools 20 campaign
Tony says “I fully support the “Schools 20” Campaign to introduce 20mph speed limits outside Bridgwater schools. We have three primary and two secondary schools in Bridgwater West alone, all of these on busy roads, with two of them on main roads that are now carrying a massive increase in traffic, particularly heavy lorries on their way to Hinkley Point.
We are all familiar with the circumstances that describe an accident waiting to happen: parents rushing to drop off children as close to school as possible and often parking badly, double parking or parking opposite another vehicle, scores of children crossing the roads, often in groups, often distracted, often not at controlled crossings. And then we have the final ingredient – that one busy individual on their way to work, maybe late, maybe driving too fast and maybe momentarily distracted. At speed it doesn’t take more than a second, then it’s too late.
As a child of 12, I witnessed such a scenario outside my own school as I waited on the corner for a friend and I have re-run this scene over and over in my head ever since that day. A prominent local doctor dropped off his two daughters just beyond a zebra crossing that was no more than ten metres from where I stood and I watched as they waited to cross. A car stopped to let them go. The driver of a lorry following did not notice and overtook the car at the crossing, hitting both girls and killing one of them outright. Their father got out of the car, screaming his daughter’s name and ran to their aid, but even he was powerless to help.
Even now, I find it hard to recount the story and I have omitted details that are too horrific and too painful to recall. I have imagined how many people, how many families were affected by the random events that resulted in this tragedy. I could never forgive myself if my lack of action resulted in this happening to other families.
So, what are the arguments for introducing a 20mph limit near schools?
Tony concluded “In my view, this is a no-brainer! Please support the “Schools 20″ Campaign.”
The Smedley Schools 20 Survey