Renewed campaign for school crossing as lack of funding sees plans postponed

Schoolchildren and parents having to cross Norton Road

Schoolchildren and parents having to cross Norton Road to get to Norton St Nicholas and Northfields Schools have had several near misses according to campaigners - Credit: Norton Action Group

A petition has been restarted after campaigners' hopes for a school crossing in Letchworth were dashed. 

Plans for the crossing were moving forward in 2019, after parents and Norton residents had described "several near misses" over many years when attempting to cross Norton Road to get to Norton St Nicholas School, Northfields school, the Three Horse Shoe pub and the Greenway. 

Parents and children wait for a gap in the traffic to cross the busy Norton Road during the morning school run

Parents and children wait for a gap in the traffic to cross the busy Norton Road during the morning school run - Credit: Chloe James

The previous petition - launched by Norton Action Group's Mark Nelson - received the support of Letchworth Grange councillors Morgan Derbyshire, Daniel Allen and Helen Oliver, North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald and former county councillor Simon Bloxham. 

Cllr Simon Bloxham allocated £25,000 from his Highways Locality Budget for the 2020/21 financial year for design of a crossing, with a view to it being installed within the following financial year (2021/22) - subject to funding being available.

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald will support action to instal a crossing on Norton Road in Letc

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald previously supported action to install the crossing - Credit: Archant

However, Norton Action Group were informed late last year that the county council would move the deployment of the crossing to the 2023/24 financial year due to "financial pressures".

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.”

As a result, the campaign group has launched a fresh petition to North Herts Council, Herts County Council and Herts Highways. 

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Group member and mother of two Chloe James told the Comet: "With COVID, everything costs so much more now apparently.

"I'm generally not a protestor myself - but I've got two small young children at the school and I've always lived in Norton.

"I have to cross Norton Road four times a day, Most school routes in the town have a crossing or a lollipop person, or both. Norton is one of the oldest schools in Letchworth but has nothing.

"It feels like Norton has been forgotten about. Members of the Norton Action Group and residents and parents that came before have been fighting for this for 30 years.

"Especially with more developments being built around here, it will be even more difficult, and pose even more risk."

Chloe and a group of parents will be holding a demonstration on Norton Road on Monday morning from 8am, campaigning for the crossing to be installed as soon as possible, and have even discussed the idea of crowdfunding. 

Previously, residents created hand-made signs to display along the road, which read "kill your speed, not our children, in a bid to slow traffic and make it easier to people to cross. 

"We want to show people how hard it is to cross the road with small children as part of the demonstration," Chloe continued.

"Quite a few of us will be staying and speaking to people to raise awareness of the petition.

"What is it going to take for this to happen? It's our job as parents to keep our children safe and teach them about road safety - not having to contend with a blind corner. 

"The demonstration is mainly to raise awareness."

MP for North East Herts, Sir Oliver Heald - who had previously lent his support to the crossing, told the Comet: "I have visited the site of the proposed crossing with local residents and councillors.

"I believe it would be much safer to have a crossing and have supported the campaign. I was pleased when Simon Bloxham agreed to use some of his County Council discretionary budget to pay for a survey and investigation to start the process.

"It is a pity that the installation has had to be postponed and have written to Herts Highways asking for an urgent briefing."

The petition currently has 1,036 signatures, most amassed within the first 48 hours.

All attending the demonstration will be wearing masks to keep COVID safe.

To support the petition, go to change.org/p/nhdc-safe-pedestrian-crossing-for-croft-lane-norton-road 

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