Anger at school crossing fiasco
The road where the crossing would have gone, with Archfield House Nursery on the left
Planners have rejected a pedestrian crossing for Cotham School – because the school doesn’t want it and wasn’t even told about it.
Head teacher Jo Butler told councillors its reputation had taken a “real bashing” after Bristol City Council’s education department submitted a planning application in its name but failed to inform or consult it.
Ms Butler said if the authority had done so, she would have pointed out the crossing was in the wrong place because students now use a different entrance.
The school was joined by a nursery, ward councillor and dozens of residents in objecting to the proposed crossing at the junction of Archfield Road and Cotham Grove.
Development control committee members refused planning permission against the advice of officers, called it a “completely disastrous situation” and said the scheme had been “dumped” on the school.
Cllr Steve Smith said: “The idea this application can come in today in the name of the school without the school even knowing about it is farcical.
“It is another example of transport engineers believing they know better than the people who live and work in the area every day.”
The meeting on June 8 was told a new crossing was a condition of planning permission granted in November 2017 for a new building with 12 classrooms, dining and meeting rooms, increasing pupil numbers by 135.
Head of development Gary Collins said refusing the proposals would mean the expansion would not have the required safety mitigation.
But Ms Butler told members: “The planning application was made in the school’s name without my knowledge.
“I wasn’t told about the Bristol City Council plans, nor were my opinions sought on them.
“If this had happened, I would have said very quickly I did not believe a crossing was necessary in the location proposed.
“Without my knowing, the school’s reputation took a real bashing.
“As soon as I became aware of the plan I have been clear to BCC of our objections, and to the community that it wasn’t supported by the school.”
She said when a previous pedestrian survey was done, students used the Cotham Lawn Road entrance but they now entered via Cotham Road and came from very different parts of the city.
Rebecca Clevett, director of Archfield House Nursery, told councillors the crossing would have been in front of her drive and threatened children’s safety.
“Officers have ignored me throughout this flawed process despite numerous requests for direct communication,” she said.
“We have been treated atrociously.”
Cotham ward Cllr Anthony Negus said: “It is hard to conceive how this saga could have been handled in a poorer manner.”
A transport officer disputed the school’s assertion that students did not use the route. He said: “Because it has taken a while to get to this point, if the school has changed the recommendation of pupils’ access, that is not something we can possibly be held responsible for.”
Cllr Marg Hickman said the school should bear some responsibility and that officers should be given another chance to amend the scheme, which received 58 objections.
But members voted by 6-4 to reject it and asked for a crossing to be proposed in a better location.
After the meeting, Cllr Negus said: “I am delighted that common sense has prevailed and the highways department will now be talking to the people who are going to get the most out of this.
“There is now an opportunity not only to make a crossing where Cotham School students regularly travel but also to very much help Cotham Gardens Primary School.”
Rebecca Clevett said: “Throughout the past two-and-a-half years we have felt isolated, vulnerable and so frustrated.
“We know the area very well and that the vast majority of Cotham pupils do not use the area stated. There are clearly some other routes which would benefit from a crossing.”
By Adam Postans, LDRS