Villagers have hit out at ‘dangerous’ plans to extend a school near a notoriously congested road.
Stockport council gave the green light to increase places at Ludworth Primary School by a third in 2018 despite local concerns over traffic, parking and road safety.
Bosses decided a projected shortfall of places in the Marple area – coupled with the popularity of the ‘outstanding’ school – meant it was the best option for boosting provision.
The Lower Fold school will change from a 1.5 form entry to a two-form entry, taking on an additional 15 children a year – ultimately increasing its capacity from 315 to 420.
A range of ‘mitigation measures’ aimed at improving road safety and traffic flow were approved, including a ‘park and stride’ scheme from Brabyns Park, staggered school-start times and an advisory 20mph speed limit.
But the submission of a planning application to build a new two-story extension, including a classroom, reception office and lobby have reawakened opposition to the scheme.
Objectors say that, with St Mary’s Catholic Primary school just across the road, making the school a two form entry will worsen existing issues.
And the fact the travel survey on how pupils get to school dates back nearly 20 years has infuriated many residents in the conservation village.
Julie Edwards, said: “It’s not a level playing field, they are trying to fudge the numbers and use a so-called traffic survey of kids putting their hands up in class 20 years ago.
“How can you use that as a document, as justification for a huge double-storey extension to a school in a conservation village?”
Julie, who lives on The Copse, says the plans are ‘ridiculous and dangerous’ and the village doesn’t have the infrastructure to cope.
She disputes that creating spaces at Brabyns Park will help as parents already use it and other parking is largely taken up by commuters from New Mills.
“Parents driving into Marple Bridge to take their kids to school have absolutely nowhere to go. It’s dangerous.It’s like running the gauntlet getting to school in the area. We’ve had two kids knocked over on Lower Fold,” she added.
And she points out that, in the 2019 the school took in 13 extra pupils from outside its ‘priority area’.
“The problem isn’t at Marple or Marple Bridge, it’s other areas,” she said
“We are not trying to be difficult, the kids need to be educated somewhere, everyone gets that. But we have not got the infrastructure or facilities for another 105 cars to come in.”
Sheena Morris, whose four children have all been to Ludworth Primary, says the area has changed a lot in the last 20 years – including the loss of two school crossings.
She fears that the expansion could lead to further accidents as well as more pollution.
A resident of Station Road, she has seen ‘umpteen accidents’ over the years and says that street furniture, parked cars and heavy traffic all contribute to making Lower Fold a dangerous ‘blackspot’.
She said: “The sad reality is that this extension will have a devastating effect on the area, yet the council and school are trying to tell the parents that this is the only way that they can have a refurbished school.
“I think this is playing on parents’ feelings, and also the price is too high. The council will take no responsibility if the asthma rates go up, or if more children get run over.”
Eve Beckett, who lives on Lower Fold, just a few doors away from the school, says inconsiderate parking has long made her life difficult.
While it has not been as bad recently she fears it will ‘inevitably’ go back to how it was once things return to normal – and extra places would just make matters worse.
“People would literally park on the pavement right outside my house, which has got double-white lines where you are not allowed to park- it’s illegal, like double yellow lines – they would park across my drive and make it so pushchairs couldn’t go through,” she said.
A former childminder, she also says that children have been known to bump their heads on cars as they are parked so far on to the pavement.
Eve added: “There are two primary schools facing each other, on a normal morning and afternoon, it’s absolute carnage. Unless someone does have a proper road traffic incident nothing is going to be done about it. Fortunately nobody has been seriously injured.”
Katie Rowlands also raised the issue of the data being used to support the application.
She said: “I’m much more concerned about a fair transparent process and the fact is the main issue is the road, why not do more work to help people understand what they can do about road traffic .?
“They mention a bus that hasn’t existed for about two years and are using 20-year-old data in the travel survey.”
Stockport council has been approached for comment.