Bad parking puts Marlborough pupils’ lives at risk, says taxi boss
Concerns have been raised that inconsiderate drivers are putting the lives of pupils at risk at St John’s School, Marlborough, by parking in taxi bays.
There are parking bays marked as ‘loading for taxis and coaches only’ but companies on Wiltshire Council contracted school runs say that these spaces are being used by teachers, sixth form students and parents.
Justin Cook, owner of Arrow Private Hire, who is also a newly-elected town councillor, said that this means his drivers are forced to double park and that pupils getting out of the taxis have to dodge the coaches when they drive into the main car park.
He said: “Instead of being able to get out onto the pavement the children are departing the vehicles on the roadside and having to dodge the coaches coming down the hill and, sometimes, when the coaches swing round they narrowly miss the children.
“When one of my drivers asked one of the teachers not to park their car there they replied: ‘I am a teacher here and have special permission to park here. If you don’t like it, speak to the headmaster’ and drove off.
“I then decided to call the headmaster Dr Patrick Hazelwood and left three messages but heard nothing back.”
Mr Cook said he then called Wiltshire Council Passenger Transport, which manages the school contracts, and was told its hands were tied due St John’s being private property because it is an academy.
Andy Layfield, transport manager for Pewsey Vale Coaches, added: “There are issues with parents parking in the bays where they’re not supposed to be and it’s a health and safety concern for the children.
“The council have been quite helpful about it but the school haven’t.”
In March 2011 Finlay Connor died after he and his mother were run over by the school bus outside Woodborough Primary School and his dad, Greg, said preventative measures should be in place to stop a similar tragedy.
He said: “The situation with children’s safety at St John’s was brought to my attention by close friend Justin Cook, who explained just how precarious the parking situation was.
“I would like to remind everyone that we have a moral obligation to ensure the safety of children around our schools.
“It is imperative people grasp just how devastating an accident can be to a family such as ours and that preventative measures should be in place.”
After he contacted St John’s on Wednesday on behalf of The Finlay Foundation, the charity will now be providing Year 7 students with high visibility vests.
A spokesman for St John’s Academy said refuted the claims.
He said: “We take full precautions to ensure the safety of all students.
"We strongly discourage car movements through the car parks at the beginning and end of the day in order to allow buses free flow through the one way system.
"Unfortunately we do not have the resources to deter parents using the car park as a ‘drop off zone’.
"The view expressed by the complainant is exaggerated. We work closely with the Wiltshire Transport Unit who advise and monitor our transport. They have been very complimentary about our arrangements which are under constant scrutiny.
"Duty staff in hi-viz vests are present at the end of every school day from 15:10 to 16:00.
"Taxis should also follow the rules of the one way system in order to comply with our guidance on safe practice. Unfortunately this does not always happen.”
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