East Belfast Alliance MLA and Party Education Spokesperson, Naomi Long, along with her Castlereagh Party colleagues Cllr. Sara Duncan and Cllr. Michael Long, have called for the SEELB to review their decision to remove transport assistance from Lagan College pupils from the Braniel, Cregagh and Lisnasharragh areas. The areas are less than 3 miles from the school, but pupils qualified for assistance as the Manse Road was judged to be an exceptional road safety hazard.
Cllr. Naomi Long said, “In correspondence sent out to affected parents, the Board justify their decision to remove transport assistance by stating that the Manse Road is no longer an Exceptional Road Safety Hazard due to road works along the entire road. This is inaccurate, as the only improvements which have been undertaken are the provision of a short stretch of footpath from Garland Hill to Lagan College which would not have any impact at all on pupils travelling from Braniel, Cregagh and Lisnasharragh.
“Local parents are not only justifiably concerned at the removal of transport assistance for their children, but are baffled by the justification given for the decision — road improvements along a stretch of road along which these pupils do not travel. The Board seem to be saying that it is now safe for pupils to walk along a stretch of road covered by national speed limits with no footpaths because there is a new footpath at the other end of the road.”
Cllr. Michael Long, who represents the affected areas, said, “I would certainly fear that this decision could put the lives of pupils at risk and I would appeal to the Board to review their decision and reinstate transport assistance to pupils in Braniel, Lisnasharragh and Cregagh. Particularly at a time when the Government are pushing initiatives such as ‘Safe Routes to Schools’, it seems ludicrous that the Board decision will lead to children walking on winding roads with no footpaths in poor visibility.”
Cllr. Sara Duncan concluded, “Having successfully lobbied for the introduction of footpaths to the far side of Manse Road towards Cairnshill, I am appalled by the fact that the SEELB are using this work to reduce access to transport assistance for pupils from the other end of the road.”