'Keep us safe' - schoolchildren's plea for crossing at Norton demonstration
- Credit: Adam Grant
Campaigners came out in force for a demonstration to raise awareness of the dangers faced by families using Norton Road.
Parents, children and supportive neighbours displayed their signs and chanted for a crossing to be installed on the busy road, after planned works were postponed by the county council due to funding issues.
Organiser and member of Norton Action Group, Chloe James, has also started a fresh petition, with hopes that the council will reconsider ahead of the budget meeting in February.
Chloe said: "It was a great turn out today, it's obviously what the people want and need.
"The main question going forward is what is it going to cost? We don't want it to be a child's life."
One young activist, four-year-old Albie - who sees his classmates struggling to cross the road each morning - wanted to tell the Comet: "We just want our friends to be safe."
Letchworth Grange councillor Daniel Allen attended the protest with his wife - fellow councillor Amy Allen - and daughter Evelyn.
He told the Comet: "I've been doing this for years. I was a crossing guard up the road year ago and I got hit. Nothing has changed!
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"I have to cross this road with my daughter every day and it's just not safe. We've had promises from Sir Oliver Heald and councillor Simon Bloxham and repeatedly, nothing has happened."
When it was time for school, parents successfully managed to stop the traffic using make-shift zebra crossing beacons, after many struggled to cross to get to the protest itself.
County councillor for Letchworth North Tina Bhwartas also attended to show her support for the campaign. She said she was "disappointed" about the delay, and has allocated funds from her Highways Locality Budget for a traffic study on the road with a view to reduce speeding on Norton Road.
"I'm really disappointed that so many people have been let down," said Cllr Bhwartas.
"One of the things that I don't understand is that we've run a consultation - and not for the first time - and then not gone through with the plans."
Headteacher at Norton St Nicholas School, Mr Andrew Brown said: "The school and governors are disappointed that the decision has been made to postpone the installation of a crossing of Norton Road.
"The safety of children crossing this road has been an ongoing concern over a considerable period of time.
"Previous discussions with the council regarding the installation of a crossing closer to the school had indicated that the road was “too busy” to allow a pedestrian crossing to be installed so we were relieved and pleased when the county council confirmed that a crossing was to be built.
"We are unclear as to why an important safety improvement has been postponed for financial reasons when it was previously included in what we understood to be a confirmed budget.
"The governors also continue to be concerned by the ongoing absence of a crossing patrol outside the school. The crossing from the Three Horse Shoes’ car park to the school should be supervised by a crossing patrol, but this has been absent for the whole of this academic year, with no indication on when it will be reinstated.
"We also note that the crossing patrol on Green Lane has been left vacant for a number of years. The absence of the crossing patrols means that the majority of our pupils are required to cross busy and congested roads without assistance."
Last week, following the relaunch of the Norton crossing petition, HCC gave a statement.
Anthony Boucher, assistant director for HCC Highways Operations said: “The Norton Road pedestrian crossing scheme was well received at consultation and our engineers have designed a scheme.
"We recognise that this scheme will provide a huge benefit to the local community. However, due to limited budgets available we are unable to deliver this project in 2022/23 but we are continuing with finalising the detailed design and the required legal notices so that the scheme can begin construction in early 2023/24.
"We apologise for any disappointment this has caused.”
To support the petition, go to change.org/p/nhdc-safe-pedestrian-crossing-for-croft-lane-norton-road.