Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, spoke at a public meeting held at English Martyrs’ Catholic Primary School, calling on the council to install a pedestrian crossing on Dee Road.
Around 80 people were present at the meeting, during which parents and representatives from English Martyrs’ Catholic Primary School and St Michael’s Primary School made an impassioned plea for a crossing to be installed on Dee Road and for a lollipop person to be appointed.
Local parent Emma Simpson-Holland, who spoke at the meeting, launched a petition in November calling on the council to install a pedestrian crossing outside English Martyrs School. Many hundreds of local people have signed the petition. Emma outlined at the meeting how she and her children had experienced a number of near-misses outside the school. Other parents and pupils also spoke out about the need for a crossing and expressed their concerns that many cars ignore the 20mph speed limit outside the school and that action needs to be taken before an accident happens.
Council leader Jo Lovelock responded to the meeting on behalf of Reading Borough Council and explained that there was funding for both a crossing and a lollipop person, but that the council had not been able to find anyone willing to take on the role and stated that the council had to work within government regulations on crossings.
During the meeting Alok spoke about why a crossing was important for the safety of children and parents and responded to Jo Lovelock’s comments about government regulations to make clear that there were no regulations that should stop a crossing from being installed.
St Michael’s Primary School headteacher, Miss Higginbotham, also expressed frustration with the council for not doing enough to fill the lollipop role and for not being responsive enough to concerns.
Councillor Sandra Vickers, who is a governor at English Martyrs’ School and the local councillor, has been working on this initiative for some time and reiterated the need for a safe crossing.
Alok Sharma said: “I have organised a follow up meeting with representatives from the two local schools and the council and I hope that we can work together to come to an early agreement about putting in place a crossing and a lollipop person.”
Alok continued: “As I made clear at the public meeting, the transport policy specialist at the House of Commons library has assured me there are no government regulations that would specifically prevent the council from installing a crossing in front of a school. On the contrary, the published guidelines make clear that local representations should be one of the primary factors to consider when deciding whether to install a crossing and it is time for Reading Borough Council to listen to local voices on this issue.”
Local parent Emma Simpson-Holland said: “I was very pleased with the meeting on Thursday and I think it shows that the public expressed huge support of the crossing being installed and very much want it as soon as possible. It is an absolute necessity that it is installed for the safety of our children and members of the public. We need to prevent tragedies from happening, not wait until there is one. I was also pleased to hear that there is funding available for the crossing to happen. I'm looking forward to the sub-committee meeting on Thursday 15th January 2015.”
Photo: Alok Sharma speaks at the public meeting