‘It’s crucial that all parties work together with the single aim of improving infrastructure in and around the school’
A plan to develop a major safe route scheme for St Aidan’s Primary School in Enniscorthy in an effort to make going to-and-from school safer for children could see the speed limit on Convent Road being reduced to 30km/h and a restriction on heavy goods vehicles travelling by the school.
The newly appointed Wexford County Council point of contact for Active Travel Schemes, Alan O’Shea, presented a comprehensive ‘outline delivery plan’ document to councillors at their monthly meeting in the Presentation Centre. The document contained a number of concept designs and interventions to improve infrastructure outside the school and on all the routes to the school including improvements to footpaths and an increase in crossing points for pedestrians.
Mr O’Shea said the aim of the plan was to increase the number of pupils walking and cycling to-and-from the school.
“We propose to improve pedestrian and cycling safety and by doing so increase the number of children who walk, cycle or scoot to school,” said Mr O’Shea.
In his outline delivery plan, Mr O’Shea also included supporting data and documentation from surveys and audits carried out with the school.
In the outline plan the members were informed there is inadequate traffic calming measures at the front of the school and also inadequate signage and road markings at the front and approaches to the campus.
Some of the key findings of the Safe Routes to School survey found that 67.8 per cent of parents feel road safety is a problem around the school with 97.5 per cent of parents saying they would support works at the front of the building to improve pupils safety and which would put pedestrians and cyclists first.
A further 96.4 per cent of parents would support works that would improve walking and cycling links to St Aidan’s.
When asked what improvements would support them in terms of their children walking, cycling or scooting to the school, parents indicated the following measures: safer crossing points (56.7 per cent); reduced traffic speeding (46.4 per cent); fewer cars at the school gate (45.8 per cent); new and improved cycle paths (37.5 per cent); new or improved footpaths (36.7 per cent) and cycle parking at the school (23.9 per cent).
However, 6.4 per cent of parents said none of the above would help.
In his outline plan Mr O’Shea noted that the footpaths along Convent Road are narrow and pedestrian access to the school is further hindered by dangerous and illegal parking on Convent Road and at St Aidan’s Villas during school opening and closing times.
“Cars were observed parking on footpaths, on double-yellow lines and too close to the traffic warden,” said Mr O’Shea in the plan.
The members were also told there are inadequate crossing facilities for the volume of children attending the school.
Remarkably, on one occasion a motorist was observed driving along a footpath at the front of the school to access a parking spot in the disused bay area.
“The objective of this presentation is to inform the members of our intentions and this is all part of the approach of the Safe Routes scheme launched in March, 2021,” Mr O’Shea told the members.
“Numerous schools were invited to apply to be considered for improvement works and an Taisce provided consultancy support through surveys with the parents,” he added, before going on to say: “It’s crucial that all parties work together with the single aim of improving infrastructure in and around the school.”
The members were also told the National Transports Authority (NTA) will provide 100 per cent funding for the improvement works. There are currently 850 pupils in St Aidan’s Primary School along with 100 staff members. The members were told 263 students attending St Aidan’s start their journey from within a 1km radius.
“The speed limit on the Convent Road is currently 50km/h, which is quite high when there is drop off and pick up going on,” said Mr O’Shea, who also said the plan includes diverting HGV traffic away from the street via the new bypass around Enniscorthy.
He also said potential ‘park and stride’ locations were identified as being the car park opposite SuperValu, the GAA car park and Orchard Peace Park.
The proposed works would also see improvements at junctions on the main routes to the school including the likes of St Aidan’s Villas, Convent Road, the Moyne, Greenville Lane, Summerhill, Boreen Hill, Bellefield Road, Ross Road and Parnell Road.
Cllr Jackser Owens welcomed the plan and said the situation is chaotic at times outside St Aidan’s.
“I am a school warden and the situation is crazy,” he said. “People are parking on paths and children are having to walk on the road.”
“There is an accident waiting to happen there,” said Cllr Owens, who also pointed out that at times the residents in St Aidan’s Villas can’t get out of their homes.
He also suggested that if the school car park was opened to the public it would alleviate some of the problem and he also said the speed limit should be reduced to 25km/h.
Cllr John O’Rourke questioned why the report, which was commissioned in September, 2021, was only now being presented to the members and then said consideration of the car park in the green area being used as a drop off point was tried before but “failed miserably”.
“It’s an attitude problem and unfortunately you can’t change that,” said Cllr O’Rourke.
“We can do our best and have our lollipop person guiding people to go safely and everything else but if you have someone deciding they are going to pull into the bus lane they will do it regardless,” he added.
The then asked how effective the plan will be if implemented in full given the areas of choice available.
In response to the comments Mr O’Shea said: “We are at this point now where we can push this forward. I am delivering this here today hoping I will get your backing for the proposed works and then we’ll talk to the principal, who we’ve already spoken to, and the school is giving us their full support for this.”
Director of Services, Carolyne Godkin, said everyone knows “the town is choked” and commented: “We have responsibility in the climate action plan and Enniscorthy is a nominated decarbonisation zone so this is the type of action that feeds into that project.”
Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan thanked Mr O’Shea for the report and in welcoming it expressed hope that it will come together and make the school “a much safer place for everybody”.
She asked if another school wanted to apply to the scheme would Mr O’Shea be available to talk to them and he said he would. He also said he met with Our Lady of Fatima school in Wexford.
Cllr Barbara-Anne Murphy expressed delight that funding for the project will be 100 per cent provided by the NTA.
“This is part of active travel and when you look at the statistics which show 55 per cent of students start their journey within a 1km radius then it’s a no-brainer,” she said.
“It’s a model that could be used in all our schools,” she added.
Cllr Cathal Byrne said there are other schools that could benefit from similar plans and he sought clarity on whether or not the project would be competing with other active travel proposals in the town or if it had its own funding pot.
The Cathaoirleach, Cllr Aidan Browne, pointed out that Sean Browne Court also has children attending the school and that it can be a bottleneck at times. He also asked what the timeframe is, as to when work on the project will start.
“We would hope to do it within 2023,” said Mr O’Shea.
“We want to go back to the principal now and then we’ll do the detailed design and then we’ll take into consideration the points you raised and then we’ll start developing the detailed design,” he added.
“However, I think it’s relatively straight forward compared to some of the other schemes that we’re managing.”