“Dept must put Lagan College kids’ safety first”

East Belfast Alliance MLA and Party Education Spokesperson, Naomi Long, attended a meeting this week between senior South Eastern Education and Library Board officials and parents and teachers representatives from Lagan College to discuss the removal of bus passes from children who travel along Manse Road, from Ballygowan Road to the school, from last September.

Cllr. Long confirmed that, following points raised at the meeting, the Board officials have agreed to look again at the application of criteria for assessing hazard.

Cllr. Naomi Long said, “I am pleased that the Library Board agreed to meet with concerned parents and teachers following our previous representations and the meeting was reasonably constructive. Clearly, we all share a concern about road safety; however, the Board has judged that the road is not exceptionally hazardous and removed transport assistance from pupils living within the 3 mile limit as a result, from September 2004. This leaves parents to either pay for bus transport or allow the children to walk along a completely unsuitable road if they cannot afford to do so.

“In my opinion, the road is wholly unsuitable for pedestrians, particularly children, given the volume and speed of traffic at peak times. In the six months between April and September 2004, there were 10 road traffic collisions on the stretch of road in question, confirmed by the Police. At the meeting, we raised a number of issues in relation to the assessment and the application and interpretation of the Board’s adopted criteria for assessment of hazard and the Board officials have now agreed to look at the points raised in the coming weeks, a decision which I welcome.”

Local Alliance Councillor for the area, Michael Long, added, “Whilst we await the outcome of this review, I am pleased to learn that, following my request, Roads Service have agreed to consider the provision of a footpath on Church Road, which provides access along part of the route to Lagan College and also to Loughside Primary School.

“At this stage, we can only hope that good sense will prevail and that action will be taken to ensure that children can travel safely to both schools.”

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