Residents react to restrictions on congested street in Brentwood

Brentwood residents living around one of the most congested streets in the country for the school run have welcomed new car restriction, saying it’s “about time”.

Stringent restrictions of cars along one of the most congested school routes in the country are to be brought in to improve safety for children and their parents. Essex County Council is to remove 26 waiting and parking spaces on Sawyers Hall Lane, in Brentwood.

All but one of which had already been temporarily removed – thereby effectively making the temporary change permanent.

The authority says this will make the temporarily widened footway permanent and deliver the fundamentals of a School Street – a road outside a school with a temporary restriction on motorised traffic at school drop-off and pick-up times.

One of the main problems that residents in Brentwood area have to deal with is school run traffic as parents picking up their children usually park on the side of the roads, and a Channel 5 documentary aired in 2018 highlighted locals’ plight.

Beryl and Trevor Ellis, who live on Sawyers Hall Lane said they welcomed the permanent changes that Essex county council says will encourage students and parents to walk and cycle more.

‘The less traffic the better’

Beryl and Trevor Ellis

It adds the widened pavements will create more space for students and parents and will make the whole area safer during school drop-off and pick-up times.

Mr Ellis said: “It is welcomed – the less traffic the better.

“That temporary change has not made a lot of difference. But permanent change will because they are going to be pushing the pavements out.

“There are still parents and children walking off the pavements and that is what they are trying to stop.”

Mrs Ellis said: “It is about time they did this. At school time it is absolutely chronic. There is just too much traffic.

“I blame the council for allowing all the school down here it is a residential road and cul de sac. It is ridiculous. Someone is going to get killed before long.”

John Bowley, who lives in Brentwood Place off Sawyers Hall Lane, said: “It’s a very good idea and we are very much in favour – that along with the traffic control, if only they impose the right had ban turn at the end of the street.

“It’s there but it has never been imposed. And when people try to turn right it causes jam and is dangerous for pedestrians.”

Bigger cars exacerbating the problem’

Steve Goodsell, who regularly visits his mother in Highland Avenue, said: “I always avoid between 2pm and 4.30pm travelling around here because it is awful. Let’s hope it is going to make things better.

“The other thing that hasn’t helped are the size of the vehicles that people now drive. Normal-sized cars can pass each other easily but these MPVs cannot and it just restricts the flow of traffic because it take so long for its to be cleared. The health aspect for children is just awful. It is terrible for the environment as well.”

He added: “The only thing that is going to make a difference is to reduce the number of cars. It would be better if there was somewhere other than here where people can easily park and let their children walk the final bit.”

Kate Smith, who also lives in Highland Avenue, said: “There are definitely a lot of people in four-wheel drive cars who could park further away. They literally park on the junction so if you are turning out of the junction it’s a bit of a gamble. They need to use a bit of common sense.”

Many of the issues surrounding school run traffic on Sawyers Hall Lane stem from the closure of a pathway that linked Doddinghurst Road with five schools on Sawyers Hall Lane.

The route, which gave parents and pupils a short cut to St Thomas infant and junior, St Helen’s infant and junior and Becket Keys from Doddinghurst Road was closed in 2015 after Grove House School opened on the former Sawyers Hall College site.

The closure meant that pupils had to walk via Highland Avenue and there has been heavy gridlock on the pavements and roads ever since.

Liberal Democrat councillor Phil Mynott, who represents the ward at Brentwood Council, said: “Essex County Council completely dropped the ball.

“At the point where it suddenly became apparent – that should have been apparent all the way through – that the cut through was crucial for accessing Sawyers Hall Lane to keep children off dangerous pavements, there was no power than even Essex County Council had to change Grove House School’s attitude.”

The cul-de-sac just outside the centre of Brentwood is in the unusual position of having six schools on its length – St Thomas of Canterbury C of E junior and infant schools and St Helen’s Catholic junior and infant schools, Grove House School, Becket Keys C of E Secondary School.

A non-statutory public consultation on the proposed sustainable scheme for Sawyers Hall Lane saw 76 per cent of respondents supporting Essex County Council’s proposal to support pupils to walk and cycle more, by reducing traffic levels near to schools.

As part of the plans Essex County Council will also be introducing alternative parking at several ‘Park and Stride’ locations at the car parks at William Hunter Way Car, Chatham Way and the Brentwood Centre – all within one mile and to be operational from September free for parents at school drop off and pick up times.

A number of other behaviour change measures including a project delivered by national charity Living Streets to encourage more walking to school and a behavioural change project supporting Walking Buses will be encouraged.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter

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