School street closures planned in Portsmouth as part of push for ‘radical change’

SCHOOLS around the city could sign up to ‘superzone’ projects that would see roads closed and healthy eating encouraged in a bid to combat obesity.

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 1:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th September 2020, 3:36 pm
The city council has already approved the use of play streets in the city - where residential roads are closed to cars for an afternoon. Now school streets will be considered. Pictured: Francis Avenue, Portsmouth when it became a play street. Picture: Chris Moorhouse . (210719-59)

Members of Portsmouth's health and wellbeing board decided to push for 'radical change' during a meeting this week after plans for a superzone trial at one school were scrapped due to the pandemic.

Before the outbreak of Covid-19 it had been agreed that children from Arundel Court Primary School, in Landport, would lead a new scheme this year that would incorporate school streets - closing roads around drop off and pick up times - and promote healthy lifestyles within the community.

But during a board meeting this week it was revealed the school had postponed the trial until September next year.

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Several roads around Portsmouth were closed during lockdown. Pictured: Road closure on Eastney Esplanade on 5 March 2020 Picture: Habibur Rahman

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At the meeting the city council's education boss, Councillor Suzy Horton, said: 'I have to say I am a little bit disappointed. I understand the reasons why and we have to respect what the school says. But what we are hearing from schools is this is a window of opportunity to move forward.

'It took three years for me to get a play street to happen. My next job was a school street - there was massive resistance but because of Covid things have changed. It's a shame we are stopped by our resources.

'This week I had four emails from parents saying please put in some closures outside the school. I know we had put a bid in to get the money. If there's anyway that resource could be redirected to another school that wants to do it I think it would really send out a message.'

Cllr Judith Smyth agreed. She said: 'This is a unique opportunity to do things much more quickly than before. If we push it into the long grass we can't make radical changes that will help us in the future.'

Speaking outside the meeting Year 3 teacher, Lydia Grant, who was Arundel Court's lead for the superzone project, explained how the pandemic had affected plans.

She said: 'We have discussed this is still definitely something we want to be a part of because it's an amazing opportunity but unfortunately at the moment it's just come at a bad time with the pandemic, which has also delayed some of our building work.'

Pam Turton, council's assistant director of transport, confirmed she would take the feedback away and arrange a meeting to look at trialling the zones at other schools.

It is thought the school streets would be funded by part of the emergency active travel fund from government.

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