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'School streets' could be implemented when kids return to school in Shropshire

Cars could be barred from driving past schools at drop off and pick up times from September in a bid to encourage more families to walk and cycle to school.

Shropshire Council will consider implementing ‘school streets’ after councillors backed a motion asking for the scheme to be adopted on roads outside the county’s schools.

Under the scheme, the streets are closed to motor traffic for short periods at the start and end of the school day, which campaigners say discourages families from driving to school and improves children’s health and the environment.

The motion, tabled by Councillor David Vasmer, who represents the Underdale division in Shrewsbury, also said alternative highways changes should be made outside schools which were not suitable for the initiative.

Councillor Vasmer said: “It’s very important at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. It allows us to have proper social distancing outside schools and in the long term would help us to make schools function as near as possible to normal in September.

“One of the problems, particularly with primary schools, over recent years has been that the number of children being taken to school in cars has been increasing.

“We want to stop that and the coronavirus pandemic gives us that opportunity.

“We have an opportunity now to put forward some schemes to hopefully be implemented in September whereby school streets could be created outside a lot of our schools.

“I know not all schools will be compatible with this policy. Those schools which have a main road going outside them, where that’s the only entrance, then of course we would not be able to close the street in that circumstance.

“There are still possibilities for looking at ways in which we can encourage children to go to school on bikes or walk, by slowing down cars and having changes to the highway, widening pavements and improving cycle paths.”

Councillor Vasmer said the scheme would have “great benefits” to children’s health, by encouraging exercise and reducing pollution around the schools.

The motion said the scheme could be implemented using some of the council’s £432,000 emergency active travel fund government grant.

The motion was supported by members with 39 votes in favour and one against.

Councillor Ed Potter, portfolio holder for children’s services, said: “The principle of walking and cycling to school should be supported for its obvious health benefits and also its contribution to climate change and clean air, all of which we support and are working towards.

“We also know that one of the concerns for our residents is parking safety outside our schools.

“Come September, Covid may have exacerbated this or it may have no impact at all, but we should be mindful of this nonetheless.”

Councillor Potter suggested a “blended approach” by combining the scheme with existing plans for a blanket 20mph limit outside all schools, a report on which is due to be presented to council in September.

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