THE argument surrounding the lack of transport for pupils in the Garnock Valley ahead of the opening of the campus in the new year has escalated.
Last week the Herald reported how Labour and the SNP had came to blows surrounding the issue again with the latter claiming that every opportunity had been given to locals to consult and talk about the perceived issues but the former said that the SNP administration at the time had failed and spent too much money on making the walkway to the school safe for the children who will be walking it every day.
But parents whose kids will be walking to the school, almost three miles in some cases, are saying that the route is not safe and that something tragic will have to occur before anything is done to safeguard the youngsters.
Elaine Hewitson, who has a daughter who will be attended the new school, said that the new route leaves kids vulnerable to predators. She told the Herald: “This has been all very underhand, we’ve had no time to respond and there has been no consultation and this is not good enough.
“There needs to be a safe walking route within three miles and this might be safe for pedestrians but not unaccompanied kids. It is known as an isolated school route and the kids are being put under unnecessary risk. Predators are opportunistic and if vulnerable kids are on their own they won’t be safe.
“Parents are being forced to do this and they are up in arms. I have very serious concerns for the personal safety of the kids, there is no alternative for some parents, this could have huge implications.”
Paul Wilson, who also has a child who will attend the new school, has hit out and he told the Herald: “I have no objection to the three-mile rule it is the are beyond the industrial estate that is dangerous, the new barrier has seen three accidents since they were put up but they got the go ahead anyway.
“It’s not until something happens that something will be done. It’s not enough that there will be a three-mile hike but some people will decide to take their cars and this could cause chaos. There is no persuading them otherwise, there have been campaigns about this but there was simply no intention in putting a bus service in.
“I can’t say I’m not nervous about my son walking to school himself. It’s a lovely school but it’s in the wrong location. We have to accept it come hell or high water and have to like it or lump it.”
A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 sets out statutory walking distances for schools at two miles for pupils under eight years old and three miles for any other pupil.
“Nevertheless, we go over and above these guidelines by providing transport for all primary school pupils who would otherwise require to walk further than two miles. The three-mile limit is applied across the authority for secondary school pupils.
“Properties in Beith have been designated as within the three-mile zone for secondary transport and are therefore not eligible for school transport.”
The spokesperson added: “The safety of our pupils has been of paramount importance in this process and that’s why we undertook extensive public consultation, during which parents and residents rightly identified the provision of safe travel routes as being key to the success of the new school and leisure campus.
“We listened to their concerns and developed proposals which go much further than the required planning regulations and will not only provide suitable walking routes for pupils but also radically improve the connections between and within the towns.
“Our Road Safety Team has been working with staff, parents, carers and pupils to create a new Travel Plan for the campus with the aim of ensuring the safety of all users. We are also supporting active travel to the new facility and have employed an ‘i-bike’ officer, at Beith Primary.”