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Appointment of Chairman
The Panel agreed to appoint Cllr Latham as the Chairman for the Sub-Committee.
Declarations of Interest
All Members who believe they have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in any matter to be considered at the meeting must declare that interest and, having regard to the circumstances described in Part 3 Paragraph 1.5 of the County Council's Members' Code of Conduct, leave the meeting while the matter is discussed, save for exercising any right to speak in accordance with Paragraph 1.6 of the Code. Furthermore all Members with a Non-Pecuniary interest in a matter being considered at the meeting should consider whether such interest should be declared, and having regard to Part 5, Paragraph 2 of the Code, consider whether it is appropriate to leave the meeting while the matter is discussed, save for exercising any right to speak in accordance with the Code.
All Members who believe they have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in any matter to be considered at the meeting must declare that interest and, having regard to Part 3 Paragraph 1.5 of the County Council's Members’ Code of Conduct, leave the meeting while the matter is discussed, save for exercising any right to speak in accordance with Paragraph 1.6 of the Code. Furthermore all Members with a Personal Interest in a matter being considered at the meeting should consider, having regard to Part 5, Paragraph 4 of the Code, whether such interest should be declared, and having regard to Part 5, Paragraph 5 of the Code, consider whether it is appropriate to leave the meeting while the matter is discussed, save for exercising any right to speak in accordance with the Code.
No interests were disclosed.
The Regulatory Committee has agreed to amend Standing Order 12, for this committee only, to allow members to ask questions of deputees. Members are allowed to ask questions of clarification of facts to be put to all deputations on an agenda item. Questions from Committee Members will be asked through the Chairman who may seek the advice of the Committee’s legal and the other advisers as appropriate: the Chairman’s decision on a question will be final. Local Members who request to speak at Committee may also be asked questions.
No deputations had been received.
To consider the report of the Director of Children’s Services concerning the walking route from Ancells Farm to Fleet Infants and Velmead Junior Schools and to consider a confidential representation from parents as to its safety.
The Committee received a report from the Director of Children’s Services providing the contextual information behind the County Council’s rolling review of School Transport arrangements in light of infrastructure improvements which have been made in recent years.
The Committee noted that the appellants child had been refused School Transport for September 2019 and the appellant was appealing on Safety grounds rather than distance. This refusal is as a result of policy changes which came into effect in September 2018, with further changes taking place in September 2019; namely that children will qualify for School Transport from their 5th birthday instead of when they start school.
The Committee heard that the Council’s view was that the route, and similar alternatives, were available accompanied or unaccompanied by a parent.
The Committee noted that individuals in the Fleet area had formed a group in protest of this decision but that a Road Safety Officer had inspected the estate and route via Cove road and found it to be safe. The appellant appealed this decision but was unsuccessful at Stage 1, leading to this Stage 2 appeal.
With the School Transport withdrawn, parents do have the option to purchase a ‘Privilege Seat’ on the bus route at a cost of £600 a year.
In response to questions members heard that;
· The ‘Privilege Seats’ are confirmed to be available for 2019/20 but there is uncertainty in relation to their continued availability.
· On King’s road there are potentially misleading signage in relation to cycle paths, indicated a cycle path and cyclists being allowed on the pavement concurrently.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
RESOLVED: That the public be excluded from the meeting during the following item of business, as it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present during these items there would be disclosure to them of exempt information within Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, and further that in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information, for the reasons set out in the report.
Evidence from Appellant
To consider the presentation and documentation of the appellant, outlining their reasons for appeal.
The appellant expressed their gratitude to the Committee for having walked the route and noted that the impact the distance had on the children was noticeable. The appellant accepted the financial situation that the County Council was in but believed that the situation for Ancells Farm was unique.
The appellant explained how Ancells Farm had been built thirty years ago, and as there was no School on the estate a bus service was provided to the local school. The appellant stated they believe the decision to remove this service had been rushed and not properly scrutinized following comments made by their local MP and District Council. The appellant highlighted that the issue was in relation to her child being four years old, which is not the statutory school age, when starting in September. However a response from the Department of Education had stated that the Government expected Local Authorities to provide transport using their discretionary powers.
The appellant finished by noting that their child would start school with other children using the Bus Service, and as they would all receive the same education, abide by the same code of conduct at the school etc. they should also have the same transport options available to them. The appellant noted that as a seat would be provided for their child the following year, this probably meant there would be an empty seat on the bus waiting for them up until this point.
The appellant noted that there were many unsafe aspects of the route which had been identified by Fleet but disregarded by Hampshire County Council (HCC) which were noticeable when navigating the route this morning. The following were highlighted as particular issues;
· Cove Road crossing – two traffic analysis have taken place on this road which have both identified a heavy flow of traffic. The refuge in the road is required but is very small.
· Train Station Area – has a footpath but it is very narrow and slanted. Commuters use this area and get frustrated by slow pedestrians.
· Business Park Crossing – this area is difficult to cross and a child would not have clear site lines at the crossing points. A driver may not be able to see the child either.
The appellant finished by noting that Ancells farm is an estate without a school, segregated by a train line and that a commitment was made by HCC to provide a bus service. If this is continued for children aged 5-8 years old then it is inadequate not to provide to other ages also.
With the Chairman’s agreement, Cllr Collett (Councillor for Yateley East & Blackwater) spoke on behalf of the appeal.
Cllr Collett explained that his division included the area before the railway and that Cllr Forster was the County Councillor for the Fleet Town, the area south of the railway.
Cllr Collett explained how Ancells Farm estate was built in the 1980’s and the plan originally included a Primary School; the developer was to provide the land and ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
School Transport Appeal Outcome
To consider the information provided to the Regulatory Sub-Committee (School Transport Appeal) and agree on the outcome of the appeal.
The Chairman asked each party to summarise the key points they had raised before the sub-committee would retire to deliberate.
The Panel heard that the Road Safety Great Britain guidance was used by many Local Authorities for these assessments and the route was judged to be available all year round. It was acknowledged that Officers were wearing high visibility but noted that both parents on the walk were within the confines of the refuge on Cove road, including their children and push chairs.
Officers explained that the route was in a very urban area and the issues with cars pulling out of driveways is replicated all around the country and people would give way to parents with pushchairs. The route is mainly residential roads with wide footpaths and the walking time was extended today due to stops for the panel to consider elements of the route.
It was observed that the panel had seen the route at its worst today in consideration of the weather and the Council’s position was that the problems seen are encountered by numerous parents around the County.
The appellant stressed that the route was being considered for children and her four year old would have to walk to as they would refuse to go in a pushchair. The appellant added that there were many families on the estate without a car that will be affected by this decision.
Cllr Collett reiterated that the transport situation in Ancells Farm was unique due to the school originally planned not being built.
The Chairman thanked everyone for their conduct during both the walking of the route and the Regulatory Sub-Committee’s meeting.
The Chairman went on to say that a decision had been reached following consideration of the written report and appellant’s submission, the evidence raised in the meeting and the experience of walking the route. The Chairman recognised the history of the area in relation to School Transport and empathised with the concern in relation to the service being withdrawn. However, it was noted that the Sub-Committee’s remit was limited and they needed to comply with the policies of the County Council.
The Chairman announced that the Regulatory Sub-Committee had found that the route was not available if unaccompanied, but that the route was available accompanied.
Resolved: That the Regulatory Sub-Committee (School Transport Appeal) find the route between Ancells Farm and Fleet Infants School & Velmead Junior School to be unavailable to unaccompanied children but available to accompanied children.