Mind your speed: Wetherby parents campaign for child safety

Parents and children outside St James C of E Primary.
Parents and children outside St James C of E Primary.

Campaigning parents fearing for the safety of their children are refusing to give up the fight for a stricter approach to speeding cars outside school.

Drivers who don’t abide by the speed limit of 20mph outside St James Church of England Primary School, on Hallfield Lane, are putting children’s lives in danger, according to some parents who have been campaigning for more rigorous enforcement and a safe crossing place for more than six months.

Last June, the group told the Wetherby News they would stand outside the school, wearing hi-vis waistcoats and holding hand-made signs, until something was done.

Now, eight months later, they say there is no sign of a pedestrian crossing or any attempt to enforce the 20mph limit, and the group has renewed its calls to prioritise the safety of schoolchildren.

Derek Imrie, whose five-year-old granddaughter Katie is a pupil, said: “It is the long process between the first mention and actually taking action that is the problem now. We’ve been told it can be 18 months and there are no definite dates and they are non-committal.

“It is frustrating that no action is being taken. By the time anything gets done our kids will be in high school.

“It is scary. Some of the children could be below bonnet level and drivers are not going to see them and they haven’t got a chance. A car is a lethal weapon, it is a killing machine. Car versus child, there’s no chance.

“We just feel we are not going to give up unless something is done.” The problem was made worse last year by the nearby construction of houses, which has now finished.

However, St James headteacher Pamela Edwards said, although things have improved, the problem has not gone away.

“Since the houses have been built there has been an improvement outside. However, we do not have a crossing patrol person at the moment and the authority sends one as and when they can,” she said.

“There are still days when we don’t have one and I think outside a school that is not really good enough.

“So though the houses have been built it has not addressed the long term issue of wanting a crossing patrol of some kind.”

Wetherby Coun Gerald Wilkinson (Con) is liaising between the campaign group and Leeds City Council, to which the calls for a crossing have been passed.

He spoke to Wetherby News this week from outside the school, where he was ‘keeping an eye’ on the traffic.

He said: “The ward members are very supportive of introducing a pedestrian crossing outside the school. That request has gone forward to the relevant board and the decision on that is due any time now.

“If it is approved we will have to wait until the budget meeting for it to get approval, and then we will have one if it meets the criteria and if there is funding available.

“Traffic-calming measures were initially proposed but the ward members are not keen on speed bumps. They are not popular with local residents and the professional view is that they cause extra pollution as cars slow down and accelerate, which is not good for children’s health.

“In some areas of Leeds they are being removed because they are unpopular. There are none in the Wetherby ward and we don’t want to start now. We are just hoping the pedestrian crossing will have some improvement.”

Despite these promises, Joanne Hemingway, whose 10-year-old son Rhys and six-year-old daughter Ruby attend the school, said the campaign was called to a halt because parents were told things were in the pipeline.

However, she said that now February is here there has been no insight on when any plans are going ahead.

“We see near-misses every day and cars going on kerbs,” she said.

“Somebody is going to get knocked over, and the school is expanding so quickly – there are definitely more children there compared to last year, and we have two entrances now.

“I am surprised there hasn’t been an accident already. We have had cars that have reversed and knocked children but not going at a speed to hurt them, and the lollipop lady has been knocked a few times.

“In the short term putting larger signs up would be fine, then they could do another speed check and see if that has worked.”

Wetherby Neighbourhood Policing Team has been involved in addressing the concerns raised by parents.

Inspector Paul Dwyer said: “It is a genuine cause for concern that drivers are exceeding the speed limit near to a school and it is something we have been treating seriously.

“We do deploy officers to enforce the 20mph speed limit, as and when resources permit, and those efforts will be continuing.

“We will also continue to work in partnership with schools, local residents and ward councillors to address road safety issues.”