The roads outside several Frome schools could be improved over the next 12 months in a bid to keep pupils safer.
The Frome Safer School Streets scheme has been spearheaded by Frome Town Council in partnership with Somerset Council and the active travel charity Sustrans, which maintains the National Cycle Network.
The project has identified streets outside four Frome schools (and a nursery) which can be altered to reduce the presence of cars at pick-up and drop-off times, encouraging people to walk or cycle instead.
The town council has now confirmed that construction work on the improvement schemes will begin in the autumn, with an 18-month trial of the scheme expected to kick off in the spring of 2024.
A ‘safer school street’ is defined as an area which limits vehicle access during school pick-up and drop-off times – for instance, by removing parking spaces or pedestrianising part of the road.
By limiting vehicle movements, the scheme is designed to encourage more pupils to walk, cycle or scoot to school, improving their health and well-being as well as benefiting the wider community through reduced congestion and air pollution.
The Frome scheme covers the following schools and nurseries:
Avanti Park School on Park Road
Bright Stars Childcare on Green Lane
Critchill School on Critch Hill
Oakfield Academy on Oakfield Road
Trinity Church of England VC First School on Nunney Road
This scheme is intended to be the first in a number of ‘safer school streets’ implemented across Somerset, and will be accompanied by an extended 20mph speed limit.
Crucially, all residents who live in the safer school streets area will still be able to access their street without restriction, as will buses and people with disabilities.
The unitary council has attracted further funding from Sustrans, allowing a ‘quiet way’ to be built along Oakfield Road and Somerset Road which will join up with National Cycle Network route 24, which links up with the town centre, the River Frome and the railway station.
Construction of the various improvements is expected to begin in the autumn – with residents receiving letters informing them of any disruption – and will take around eight weeks to complete.
Councillor Mike Rigby, Somerset Council’s portfolio holder for transport and digital, said: “We are really pleased to support this important scheme which will deliver a safe cycling, walking and wheeling route to school for a significant number of children and parents and will cut down on congestion and traffic during peak drop-off and pick-up times.
“We are committed to improving active travel provision for people across the county and this trial will form an important part of that aim.
“We want to maximise opportunities for children to walk, cycle or wheel to school.
“The benefits are huge – both in terms of creating cleaner, greener streets, and in supporting children’s health and well-being.”
The full 18-month trial of the Safer School Streets scheme won’t begin until the spring of 2024 to give it the best possible chance for success.
The trial will restrict vehicle access outside the school gates for short periods at pick-up and drop-off times and will reduce the build-up of traffic.
Families who do need to travel by car will be able to do so and park a short distance from the schools to drop off their children safely if arriving during these times.
During the trial, Frome Town Council and Somerset Council will monitor traffic numbers, ways of travel and air quality.
They will also consult with the schools, pupils, parents and residents to assess the impact of the scheme – after which a decision will be taken locally to decide whether to make the scheme permanent.
Frome town councillor Carla Collenette said: “The scheme has been developed over two years with significant engagement with the local community.
“Parents currently dropping off their children in this area will be very aware of the safety issues and chaos caused by traffic at the school gates. Doing nothing is simply not an option.
“We are emphasising that this is a trial, and we will continue to listen closely to people’s views and monitor the impact of the scheme over the 18-month period.
“My hope is it encourages many more families to walk and cycle if they can, and that this will make the roads safer, calmer and more enjoyable for everyone.”
LDRS, Daniel Mumby