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Levy School Streets: The report Manchester Council don’t want you to see

Schoolchildren denied their own school safety measures.

It’s the report Manchester City Council didn’t want you to see, which has been sat on by Manchester City Council since 4 June 2020.

The leaked report contains details of extensive consultation done at both primary and secondary schools in Levenshulme and Burnage. The local community, parents and pupils themselves had a key role in designing measures that would benefit them.

The report makes clear that many more school children would prefer to walk or cycle to school than are currently able to. School streets and traffic reduction across the neighbourhood is needed to allow them to do that.

St Andrew’s school, Broom Avenue: How pupils travel to school (left) compared to how they’d like to travel to school (right).

The initial six schools were:

  • Chapel Street Primary School
  • St Andrew’s Primary School
  • Acacias Primary School
  • Cringle Brook Primary School
  • St Mary’s Primary School
  • Alma Park Primary School

Draft designs for each school have been produced, but in common across all six is the need for wider measures beyond school streets themselves, with Low traffic Neighbourhoods and filtering allowing safe travel the entire school commute route. It also allows “park and stride” projects to take place, where children travel to school in a “walking school bus”.

The report states, “plans for initial street trials were cancelled due to Covid-19 and draft designs will be shared online for further feedback.”

Further meetings to discuss tweaks to designs took place between Sustrans, the Levenshulme Bee Network project team and six schools with provisional dates discussed to trial school streets with all six schools in July. Next steps were being planned along with wider consultation of the individual school plans on commonplace with the community. This further feedback should be already taking place, enabling some form of school streets to be implemented from September, with the renewed need for space due to social distancing guidelines. Instead we heard nothing.

Each school has a “proposals map” with clear school street closure, cycling infrastructure and traffic calming plans, along with a plan on how to trial these measures. All the pieces were in place to make our streets safer for these six schools, and still nothing has been done. In fact, one of these areas, containing Alma park and St Mary’s, has had their plans pushed back even further. Is this fair? We’ve seen rising traffic outside of schools and rising Covid cases within them. Something has to be done, and the plans are there to do it. What is the blockage?

Manchester City Council have indicated that they are currently working out how to implement School Streets, following the installation of the first phase of the filtered neighbourhood in Levenshulme, stating that they are “working with the schools in the area to look at whether one day school street timed closures can be trialled”.

To our knowledge, very little of that work is taking place, and, in private conversations, councillors keep wanting to separate the issue of School Streets from the Levenshulme and North Burnage Active Neighbourhood (as the Low Traffic Neighbourhood project is now called).

As was made clear by many parents in our recent public meeting, the issue of traffic and school streets are inseparable. Indeed, groups such as Clean Air Levenshulme have been campaigning on this issue for a number of years.

It’s good to restrict access to motor vehicles outside schools, but without giving parents and kids safe and comfortable walking and cycling routes to school, you’re unlikely to see the shift to walking and cycling to school that the kids themselves say they want, and which is vital for their health and wellbeing. There now appears to be a plan for the filtered neighbourhood but we need to know the council’s plan for school streets. Why is there not even a commonplace consultation happening?

As recent data has shown, the car use in the area vastly increased when schools returned, suggesting that much of the rush our traffic is caused by local school journeys. Many of those, usually very short trips, can be made by walking and cycling. But that can only happen with the combination of filtered streets, crossings of through roads, and school streets. That is what this report, sponsored but withheld by Manchester City Council, promises.

We encourage readers to make clear their support for a low traffic neighbourhood, including the much-needed trial for ‘filters’, which reduce through traffic in our community, through the new Commonplace engagement site. The council are unlikely to proceed with any positive changes, unless they can be sure they are supported by the community.

But this scheme will never realise its full potential unless the Council respond to parents and children, and ensure School Streets are implemented too. We therefore encourage positive engagement with the council’s current plans for a low traffic neighbourhood, while also urging them to bring forward school streets to complement those plans.

Please engage with current proposals here.

Read the Sustrans report here:

Sign our collective letter to councillors here.

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