Charlton versus the school run: Should we start blocking off roads?

Parking outside the new Our Lady of Grace school
Parking outside the new Our Lady of Grace school

We’re lucky in Charlton to have some very good schools. Our Lady of Grace Primary is lucky enough to have the newest school, having moved into just-completed buildings on Highcombe last month.

Unfortunately, some of its parents could do with some lessons themselves. Back in 2015, when planning permission was granted, there were fears about the effects of parents driving to school on the streets around the site, which sits in between two other schools – Sherington and Fossdene.

Now Highcombe is a mess at chucking-out time, with parents parking all over the pavement and even using the tiny Littlecombe cul-de-sac to reverse their cars. Greenwich Council says it will pass details onto its parking enforcement teams.

Elsewhere in London, Camden Council is taking a different approach. It’s closing a road in Covent Garden during school hours to protect a primary school from traffic and parking. This was covered by Tom Edwards on yesterday’s BBC London News, while here’s a video from charity Living Streets.

The issues facing St Joseph’s in Covent Garden are slightly different from ours in Charlton – it’s in the centre of London so there are a lot of delivery vehicles and taxis trying to get down the road, our streets are wider and more residential. The catchment for Our Lady of Grace may also be bigger.

But our streets are still clogged by double-parking, bad parking, and traffic that really shouldn’t be there. It’s dangerous for children and other passers-by and adds to the area’s already poor air quality. We design out anti-social behaviour in housing estates, so why not our side roads?

The thinking is that if you block the roads at the start and end of the school day, it becomes more difficult for people to drive their children to school and for others to use that route as a rat run. The parents take the hint and take their kids another way, the rat runners return to the main road. In theory. (It’s a very light version – a pop-up version, shall we say – of the Walthamstow Mini-Holland scheme, but targeted at schools and for just a short time in the day.)

Already, we’re seeing a couple of Charlton streets closed for a couple of hours on odd days to encourage children to play out. Should we be doing the same in Highcombe, Wyndcliff Road and Sherington Road to help them get to school safely?

15 thoughts on “Charlton versus the school run: Should we start blocking off roads?

  1. Peninsula February 8, 2017 / 08:30

    This is a problem everywhere – when Millennium was built on the peninsula there was no room for drop off/pickup, and cars parked in the road/pavement were already an issue. They are now building the Mary Magdalene through school with zero provision for drop off/pick up, the council claimed this would not be a problem. There are now cars parked in the middle of John Harrison Way and up on the pavement in front of Millennium – and if you watch, those are now almost entirely Mary Magdalene parents parking there to drop them off around the corner. The school isn’t even near completion yet and the problem is already out of control.

  2. Kevin February 8, 2017 / 08:55

    This was always going to happen (take a look at the catchment of the school). Reading through the planning docs at the time i was sceptical about the plans for parking and the claims made about the levels of car delivery claimed by the school via their planning consultants. There is a comitment by the school to reduce traffic to school by (ithink) 20 per cent year on year. Lets see who holds them to account here. Maybe worth a recap of the traffic report? Anyway. Lets see what the school does and if that doesnt work im sure god will have a word…..

  3. lydia demenicis February 8, 2017 / 10:29

    My children go to another primary in Charlton, where I’m continually astounded by the amount of selfish and dangerous parking that goes on at the beginning and end of each day. I’m also astounded to see that there are never traffic wardens on duty – surely some of the parking is illegal, and a liberal sprinkling of fines for a week or so would be enough to deter this bad behaviour? (obviously endangering children’s lives is not enough of a deterrent for some)

  4. fromthemurkydepths February 8, 2017 / 13:20

    Greenwich Council have a very small number of traffic wardens. In 2014/15 the income from parking was around £2 million less than they budgeted. That has not really changed since. Given this loss of income and endemic problems across the borough both at schools and elsewhere (see the twitter pics taken daily of cars parking in the bus lane at the new £1.2m Plumstead/Woolwich road upgrade) why have hey not expanded the numbers very much. I think there big plan was to get around 4 (yes just four) more I believe. Happy to be corrected on that.

    Wardens pay for themselves so why the reluctance to act?

  5. The Hebrideam February 8, 2017 / 14:28

    Bang on Kevin. These promises always read better than they live.

  6. Kevin February 8, 2017 / 16:20

    Ill hold my hand up and say ive worked on lots of developments through design and planning and some of the antics and caniving planning consultants pull is shameful! Before you reach for the pitchforks though, much of this is prompted and informed by LA planning departments who have strayed so far from the initial premise of the TACPA it makes you wonder.

    Lots of promises in those planning docs. Ill give the school a ring to try and book the sports facilities.

  7. Judy February 8, 2017 / 16:54

    We should be doing any traffic planning we can to privilege the children and parents who walk to school. Planning applications are the original post-fact documents, with predictions no one believes.

  8. The Hebridean February 8, 2017 / 18:12

    Yes they should be great. No toilets or changing rooms available and unless there is something I missed no floodlights either. Or do you mean you would be lucky to be allowed to do a booking? Either way it stinks Kevin.

  9. Kevin February 9, 2017 / 00:06

    The facilities according to the planning docs were going to be made available to locals…… I dont and never did think so….

    Judy. You are 100% right. It beggars belief that anyone “needs” to drive their child to school, particularly when you look at the catchment areas. I suppose that doesnt take into account the people who get the child into the school and promptly clear off to another part of the borough then ship the little ones over every day.

  10. fromthemurkydepths February 9, 2017 / 10:03

    I’ve done some digging into the figures and Greenwich Council have been receiving £2 million less each year than they budgeted for when it comes to parking, dating back at least three years with no real improvement in that time. That’s at least £6 million that could’ve gone into infrastructure projects such as the one in Camden, plus walking and cycling measures, that has gone begging. The figures are here:

    Very poor parking enforcement and pushing out of town retail with free parking at places like Charlton to the detriment of town centres have contributed to this.

  11. The Hebridean February 9, 2017 / 10:58

    After all this comment I looked back at the promises and conditions like Kevin has done. According to the letter of the thing the school should have given its bookings for locals plan to the council and had it approved before moving in. What did I miss?

  12. sew2pro February 12, 2017 / 15:00

    What I find particularly upsetting is when two parents/carers drive a child to school, one walks the child into the school and the other waits in the car with engine idling till they’re back, filling the narrow residential streets with smoke and allowing those passing by to breathe this in. Especially bad in the current cold with the pollution sitting. I feel sorry for kids in buggies.

  13. Dr Jones February 12, 2017 / 18:12

    With 3 schools in such close proximity, I can’t help but feel that the planning for a new school should have taken into account car bans for school run times. If parents and local residents were petitioned, I’m sure this would be agreed too. Greenwich council knew this would be an issue but as usual, don’t care about increased car usage and pollution – unfortunately development always comes before congestion, safety and pollution.

  14. The Hebrideam February 16, 2017 / 09:46

    Dr Jones hits the nail on the head. Until someone is killed or sues or similar nothing will be done. Then when something bad happens the council will all throw their hands up and wail “Why”? if they listened to the people who have to live with their decisions they might get an answer.

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