Streets in Portsmouth with schools on could be closed at busy times to improve safety and air quality
SCHOOL roads could be closed to traffic during busy hours in a bid to improve safety and air quality for Portsmouth children.
Campaigners are in talks with city councillors to consider trialling a School Streets scheme, which would mean shutting school roads to through traffic during drop-off and pick-up times.
Several other authorities in the UK already operate permanent School Streets including Edinburgh, Hackney and Southwark.
The suggestion was brought to a public meeting held by Portsmouth Friends of the Earth last October.
Rachel Hudson, Portsmouth Friends of the Earth co-ordinator said: 'Our view is that people need safe and pleasant streets and if they have them they are more likely to walk, cycle and use their cars less.
'Some of our B roads in Portsmouth are so busy, so noisy and so dangerous - they're not attractive to pedestrians. And cars are one of the biggest contributors to NO2 and CO2 levels.
'One of the solutions have been looking at are School Streets, which close for through traffic at the beginning and end of the school day. Residents can still get through. This means that children will be safer from traffic and pollution.'
For Councillor Suzy Horton, Portsmouth City Council's cabinet member for education, this was an 'exciting' opportunity. 'I will be meeting with Rachel soon along with Cllr Lynne Stagg and Cllr Dave Ashmore to find out more about the scheme,' she said.
'This is something that I am really keen for us to trial. Schools I would like to be involved include Fernhurst Junior School and Wimborne Junior School.
'Part of the problem is societal. When I was a child I would walk to school but now it's almost unheard of. This might encourage more people to walk to school.'
The scheme was spearheaded by Edinburgh City Council in 2015. Nine schools are now part of School Streets.
For transport and environment convener at Edinburgh council, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, the project had proved a success. 'We first piloted the School Streets initiative in 2015, aiming to reduce traffic and congestion at the school gates, creating a calmer, more relaxed atmosphere and encouraging children and families to walk or cycle from home,' she said.
'Since then we’ve been delighted to see the number of cars around participating schools drop and more children walking in every day, promoting healthy, active travel and reducing polluting emissions. We’re now working to introduce the scheme to more schools, helping spread its benefits across the city.'
It is thought funding could come from either the Community Infrastructure Levy, which is paid into by big developments in the area, or from the Sustainable Transport Bid that was recently awarded to Portsmouth.
Similarly the council will consider Play Streets, which are residential roads that are closed for a few hours on a Sunday to allow children to play safely outside.
Head teachers' views
PORTSMOUTH could become the next authority to trial School Streets.
One road that could be included is Francis Avenue in Southsea, home to Fernhurst Junior School and Devonshire Infant School that are attended by more than 500 pupils between them.
Roberta Kirby, head teacher at Fernhurst Junior School, welcomed the idea. She said: 'My initial reaction is that I would be in favour of this although I do think someone needs to properly consider how it will work. You can't just say "let's close the road".
'We are on a very busy road but I think this scheme would work very well here as there are lots of roads around us that could still be used to get around if our road is closed. Children could easily be dropped off around the corner to the schools.
'I do wonder how residents would feel about it though.'
Headteacher at Wimborne Junior School in Southsea, Carina Jacobs, agreed. 'It would certainly help with the congestion in our road and it would be safer for our children coming out of school,' she said.
'For us we have got a case where we have entrances at both the front and back of the school so they would have to consider closing two roads.
'Our parents are very good at not stopping on the zig zags outside the school but I am sure that in other places this would stop that happening.
'We do have a lot of children who walk to school but I think this would encourage more of them to do so.
'We are on a narrow street which can make it dangerous for children as cars try to get through.'