Cornish politicians and parents have spoken out about a proposal by Cornwall Council to cut 16 school bus routes across the Duchy, with one councillor – who has been fighting the move for months – claiming it is “ridiculous” and “dangerous”. The council is urging parents and carers to consult with it by Sunday, October 1, over possible cuts to the council-funded routes.
The identified routes have been assessed as being ‘suitable to walk’ following completion of pedestrian route assessments (PRA) but for which free transport is still being provided. A route is judged ‘suitable to walk’ if it is determined that it could be used safely by pedestrians, while acknowledging that children may need to be accompanied.
The council is now reviewing the safety assessments of the 16 routes – especially those that may not have been carried out recently – and if they are still considered suitable then new applications for travel assistance on these routes will not be approved from September 2024 in a bid by the council to save money.
The four primary school runs:
- Hatt to Landulph School
- Minorca Lane to Bugle School
- Joan Moffat Close to Liskeard Hillfort School
- Porthtowan to Mount Hawke Academy.
The secondary school routes:
- Tregadillet to Launceston College
- South Petherwin to Launceston College
- Prince Phillip Estate to Launceston College
- St Cleer to Liskeard School and Community College
- Lamellion to Liskeard School and Community College
- Dobwalls to Liskeard School and Community College
- Foxhole to Brannel School (St Stephen)
- Burlawn to Wadebridge School
- Cury to Mullion School
- Truthwall to Cape Cornwall School (St Just)
- Delabole to Sir James Smith’s School (Camelford)
Any changes would not come into effect until September 2024 and travel assistance will remain in place for those who currently receive it from September 2023 until the agreed end date. The council wants to hear about the impact this could have on families, schools and traffic so parents and carers are being urged to have their say on the Let’s Talk Cornwall website (letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk/suitable-walking-routes). The consultation period ends at midnight on Sunday, October 1.
There is particular concern in West Cornwall about the possible loss of the Truthwall to Cape Cornwall bus, with councillors and families airing fears about children possibly having to walk the route. Leanne Marsden, a parent in the St Just area, said: “There are quite a few children who get on at the campsite at Truthwall and younger ones to come. The bus doesn’t need to go out of its way to pick them up and there are seats free for them.
“It seems crazy to make them walk down Nancherrow Hill and up the other side, navigating blind corners, when there is not a pavement until they get to Cape Cornwall road. Cornwall Council acknowledged three years ago that it was unsafe for children to walk to school on this route and nothing has changed since.”
She urged other parents to complete the survey before Sunday, October 1, making the council aware of their fears.
Brian Clemens, councillor for Land’s End division which includes the Cape Cornwall bus route, said: “I raised the issue around the withdrawal of the school transport on all 16 discretionary routes in May this year having been made aware that the intention was to withdraw the service as of September. While the cabinet have not stopped the service, this review, I believe, is skewed to achieve the answer they want, to withdraw the service next year. That is something I oppose and will continue to do as I have seen no improvement to the proposed routes and still consider them unsafe.
“We cannot rear our children the way we were reared – that world sadly no longer exists. Every week we hear of things that should never happen in our society and to put children at risk is something I as a member of the children’s and families scrutiny committee feel should never happen.”
He added the walking route the council is suggesting is “ridiculous – it’s dangerous”. He said: “It’s across open moorland – our purpose on the children’s committee is to get children to school warm, safe and dry so they get their education. They’ll be walking for an hour-plus in all weathers.”
Mayor of St Just Sue James said the news that the Truthwall to Cape Cornwall School route is under threat was “certainly causing concern” among parents in the area, many of whom who have contacted her.
“Local Facebook pages have gone a bit mad on the subject,” she said. “If you’re in Truthwall, walking that main road when hedges and verges are often overgrown in the summer is hazardous. It’s a narrow road where if a double decker bus comes there’s not enough room for a car. It’s not a wide road and the national speed limit is on part of it – it’s just not a safe route to have youngsters walking.”
She said the matter would be discussed by St Just-in-Penwith Town Council on October 9 which is after the survey finishes, “but that won’t stop us writing in as they won’t have made the decision by then”.
Cllr James added: “I can’t see they would even save much money – it’s not a big community so it’s not as if you’re going to save the money of 20 kids. It will be a small number of children each year which benefit from it. The amount of saving from the risk you’re putting them at, I just can’t see it adds up.”
Another member of the community said on social media: “Truthwall to Cape Cornwall School is a very busy road with blind corners, steep hills and not one section of pavement. There is already a bus on this route for children from Pendeen to the school and Truthwall is just the last stop – it’s not like Cornwall Council have to fund an extra bus. Ridiculous! All it would take would be a cut in refreshments at council meetings and I’m sure the money could be found.”
Concern stretches across the county, with parents worried about the safety of primary school children walking from Porthtowan to Mount Hawke Academy and similar fears for older students in South Petherwin near Launceston.
One parent said: “If the route between Porthtowan and Mount Hawke was deemed too dangerous 20 years ago why is it now safe to walk when nothing has changed and there are more cars on the road?”, while another added: “There is no actual path from Porthtowan to Mount Hawke is there? And this is a primary school! Insane.”
Adrian Parsons, Liberal Democrat Cornwall councillor for Altarnun and Stoke Climsland, said: “The children in South Petherwin are affected within the division I cover. It’s a route that’s been appealed and won before and clearly not safe for children to be walking. Parents understandably are very unhappy and have community support.
“Without mentioning other individual cases facing a similar threat, we’re going to be busy with appeals in the not so distant future if the council don’t get their act together. It’s causing undue stress and an incredible waste of everyone’s time. So much for wanting to create a place for our children to thrive!”
Adam Paynter, Independent councillor for Launceston North and North Petherwin, added: “I am very disappointed. That route (South Petherwin) and the Tregadillett one are very dangerous.”
Cllr Barbara Ellenbroek, Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for children and families, said: “With the current financial pressures we have to look at offers of travel assistance in cases where we are not legally required to provide support.”
Cornwall Council generally provides home to school travel assistance only to children who live beyond the ‘statutory walking distance’ where they can be expected to walk to their nearest suitable school – two miles for children up to the end of Year 3 and three miles for children from Year 4 onwards. It is the responsibility of parents and carers to ensure that their child travels safely to and from school if they do not qualify for travel assistance, says the council.
The survey can be completed here: letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk/suitable-walking-routes