Grantham Journal letter: I have fought tooth and nail to get a lollipop person for school

Harrowby Road outside St Anne's School, Grantham.
Harrowby Road outside St Anne's School, Grantham.

I am writing in response to the coverage last week of the implementation of St Anne’s crossing on Harrowby Road which misrepresents the situation in a number of areas.

Firstly, as District Councillor I fought LCC Highways Officers who argued there should be no lollipop person at the school at all for two years. The first council proposals did not include a lollipop person, despite everyone wanting one. Instead, they proposed a Safety Zone that had associated zig-zag lines and build-outs that would have cost over 24 parking spaces outside the school. Parents and residents would not have been able to park. This was clearly unacceptable and quite rightly opposed. At that point I had a meeting with LCC HIghways Road Safety Officer Mr Grenville and submitted hundreds of petition forms from residents and parents which outlined the issues on the road and associated proposed solutions. It also set the case for a lollipop person. LCC Highways officers accepted the objections but ignored all of the comments and persisted in refusing a lollipop person. As a result when they came back with two more proposals the same mistakes were made, with significant loss of parking and increased risk to pedestrians in the area. Each time petitions opposing the plans were quite rightly submitted with suggestions of improvement and arguing again for a lollipop person. District Councillor Cook also opposed the earlier plans as we both shared the concerns of the community. Parents would not have been able to pick up or drop off their children and Croft Drive would have come under increased pressure.

When I became County Councillor for this area, (a fact not mentioned in the earlier report) I established from LCC Officer Brian Thompson that the reason LCC were refusing to give us a lollipop person was that a Road Safety report had identified key improvements were required to enable this following an accident with the previous lollipop man. I escalated the case to LCC Director for Highways Richard Wills. After listening to my arguments, and having seen the petition comments from residents and parents, Mr Wills agreed to my recommendation to work together and jointly resolve the issue outside the school as fast as possible. However, despite promised action, there was a delay for months because Cllr Richard Davies, without any effort to consult me, decided to halt the process. His excuse was that a small group of parents from the school, who were frustrated at the apparent lack of action, had produced their own petition which ultimately just called for progress. Let’s be clear. We were ALL frustrated at the delays. Not of our doing but because LCCs Highways Officers - Councillor Davies’ department - had refused to work with us in the past.

The break through came last term when the officers finally sat down at the table with myself and the former lollipop lady Mrs Tilley and Mrs Rogers a church representative. We jointly ‘designed’ the new solution put forward to the LCC Highways Regulation and Planning committee. The new design took into account all previous comments and addressed all the points of concern that the previous LCC Highways proposals had ignored. We got the lollipop person back, which LCC had refused to support before. We got a 20mph speed limit, which LCC had refused to allow before. We got a pedestrian crossing, with an anti-skid surface, and significantly reduced the lost parking spaces. Without this joint work there would have been a stalemate situation. I am delighted that we can finally move forward after a four year battle on my part and that of the local residents and local parents who have worked all along for a resolution.

Throughout this year County Coun Davies has interfered and delayed the process and turned it into (to use his words) ‘a political football’ to the angst of all concerned. This is shameful behaviour from the LCC Cabinet member for Highways who has a responsibility for all highways matters in our County. Were this not the case he would have had the good sense to refer the parents campaigning to me in the first instance and to discuss the issues with me. Instead for an unpleasant period there were all manner of accusations and rumours being spread. His latest statement quoted in last weeks Journal was deliberate political mischief making. I supported this scheme because I helped design it and have fought LCC tooth and nail to get a lollipop person back. And, as for the school campaigners winning the day, I am delighted the campaigners did come on board with their late petitions to lend their support for the scheme, but this was only possible because of the work of others in the community who spent hours analysing the issues with road safety in the area and coming up with potential solutions. Harrowby Road has a number of issues along its length and there is still argument for a more holistic solution.

If Councillor Davies really cares about road safety I expect him to also back my call for pedestrian facilities at the McDonalds Junction which has also been stalled by LCC Highways Officers despite repeated calls for to improve pedestrian safety there. I am delighted he has supported the St Anne’s Crossing scheme at this late stage.