Uckfield’s St Philip’s Catholic Primary School hopes a temporary access to its premises from the Victoria Pleasure Ground can be made permanent.
The gate to the Uckfield Town Council-owned land was agreed as a temporary measure to help keep pupils safe during the housing development which has replaced the former St Michael’s Convent.
Members of the town council’s environment and leisure committee were told last night (March 13) that housebuilding was nearly at an end and school governors have requested that the temporary access becomes permanent.
Access to the development is via Old Timbers Lane.
“During the residential development, we have noticed that some of our parents dropping off children by car have used the car park at VPG [Victoria Pleasure Ground] for a short period around morning and afternoon drop off / collection times.
“This has had the effect of reducing congestion at the front of the school / church and minimising pedestrians on Old Timbers Lane, where there is not a separate footpath at the top section into VPG.
“We think this is a safer arrangement for our pupils.
“We also have quite a few families who walk to school from the Forge Rise estate and the footpath access from VPG is convenient for them and eliminates the need to walk down the shared surface part of Old Timbers Lane, where a footpath is not provided.
“Our request is based upon maintaining the safest access route to school for our pupils, the governors wrote to the council.
The Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton Education Service supported the request.
Town councillors agreed to allow the access to continue for another six months.
Cllr Helen Firth, Conservative, Central Ward, said she had been waiting for this application to come in.
“I said at the time when we gave them temporary access that it would back for a permanent one.
“This council’s policy is no-one can have access on to our open spaces and I am afraid that includes the school.
“What we will end up with at the end of the day is that the Victoria will be a car park for the school,” she said.
It would be double standards, she said, if the school was allowed access on to council land while others were refused.
‘Dog in the manger’
Cllr Ian Smith, Independent, Ridgewood, didn’t think the two positions were comparable and was concerned the council might be seen as taking a “dog in a manger” attitude.
Cllr Donna French, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, said the other side was the safety issue of children.
She suggested allowing the access to continue as an extended trial period, following the completion of the development.
It was agreed to extend the agreement for the temporary access for a further six months, for a survey of use from Forge Rise to take place and that the school is reminded of the requirement for the gate to be locked when not in use by children.
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