A worried mum has slammed Central Beds Council for “tolerating” dangerous motorists who are repeatedly parking on yellow lines outside a Leighton Buzzard lower school.
Leia Blakesley, who puts her son in a high-vis vest for the walk to Clipstone Brook Lower School because she is so worried about his safety, says the council’s traffic enforcement officers have been instructed not to enforce parking restrictions if the breach is less than five minutes.
Signage by the school on Brooklands Drive forbids parking between 8.30am-9.30am and 2.30pm to 4pm on Mondays to Fridays.
But after being told by one of the council wardens about the grace period for offenders, she was furious when CBC this week openly admitted to her there was a policy of tolerance in operation.
The council confirmed to the LBO that the council would only take action if a vehicle had been on yellow lines “for five minutes under constant observation” by an enforcement officer.
The response enraged Leia, who said: “Sorry, but that statement goes against the rules of the road! It’s ridiculous. The signs mean no-one should park there. So basically they’re now giving people free rein to park without being ticketed! Just shows how much they actually care about the kids’ safety. They should start upholding the law, not allowing people to break it.”
The mum has put in Freedom of Information Act requests to the council to find out how many visits by enforcement officers there have been since new yellow lines went down earlier this year, and has also demanded to know how many tickets have been dished out too.
“I see three to five cars parked on the lines every day since the lines have been there,” she said. “I’ve seen some cars on the single yellow lines for 20 minutes. It’s a lower school so it’s not a case of letting them jump out of the car, you’ve got to physically take them into the school.
And it’s not just at Clipstone where the tolerance policy has riled locals. Another man said: “Just picked up my granddaughter from Leedon School and see a traffic warden just standing and watching people park on yellow lines.”
A Central Beds spokesman said: “Whilst we encourage sustainable forms of travelling to schools, such as walking, trains and buses, because Central Bedfordshire is a rural area people often use their cars to do the school run.
“We would prefer parents to park further away from schools where there are not parking restrictions. But we do show a degree of tolerance towards people who park very briefly on a yellow line in order to drop off/collect their kids from school.
“However we do have officers down there to ensure there is safety, and anyone who parks for too long would get a parking ticket, and anyone who parks on the zig-zag lines outside schools will get an immediate ticket. The zig-zags are there as a specific warning to motorists not to stop in this part of the road.
“As each school situation is unique, our policy is to look separately at the needs of each. Restrictions are part of a suite of measures that are designed to provide a ‘school safety zone’.
“The extent of restrictions has to take into account the demand for parking within the locality, which in turn reflects whether adjoining properties have off-street parking. Parking near schools is not necessarily a bad thing, provided that it is done sensibly and not on the zig-zags: parked cars also have a traffic calming effect and can help slow the speed of traffic in the vicinity of the school gate.
“However safety around schools is of the utmost priority to us and we do our best to enforce this. We have carried out 24 enforcement visits to Clipstone Brook Lower School area during school term dates this year. We will continue ensure that Clipstone Brook Lower School remains on our priority school enforcement list to help address the issues it faces.”
Back in April, CBC said it was upping the number of traffic wardens to tackle dangerous and illegal parking in Leighton Buzzard.
Leighton-Linslade Town Council’s partnership committee was also told by CBC how incorrect, faded or missing signage and markings had been making it difficult for CBC to enforce parking restrictions.
As a result a long list of works was commissioned. The council also pledged to develop an improved schools enforcement programme.
Last summer five CBC councillors were appointed to review parking issues outside of schools, particularly in light of the implications of school expansion, and come up with “cost neutral” recommendations.
Their findings included encouraging schools to produce travel plans, production of a school parking leaflet, 20mph signage and better signage of restrictions, enforcing parking restrictions “taking into account existing resources”.
Lower and primary schools should also be encouraged to allocate a designated member of staff to manage collection and drop off of children, and also work closely with the local community in order to maximise shared resources including utilising village hall car parks, local supermarkets.
A council report stated at the time: “The numbers of accidents, incidents and collisions around schools in Central Bedfordshire are relatively low at 25 incidents out of a total of 18,765 pupils. As a result the inquiry felt that the council’s current policy was effective in minimising risks and prioritising the safety of school children.
“There is no current policy in place in Central Bedfordshire with regards to parking enforcement outside of schools but breaches are prioritized on a case by case basis. The future appointment of an additional enforcement officer would enable a focus specifically on this area.”
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