Following concerns from residents and parents, I met with the school on Friday to support ways in which child pickup and drop-off could be safely managed for all children, parents and staff. 

Poplar Farm School, part of the CIT Academies trust, is relatively new. Opened in 2018, it has quickly become popular with parents and children and draws in children across Grantham. 

Firstly, we all recognise that the road layout could be better. The nature of the road width means that there is limited space to park, which has led to unhelpful behaviour such as blocking drives and driving along pavements. Some parents would like the carpark to remain open and have found it challenging during the rare occasions when essential safeguarding measures have caused its closure. This has only happened twice in the 7 years of the schools being open. I have also had complaints about unhelpful parking further out across the area and selfish parking blocking roads and drives on Balmoral and Newark View.

Moving forward, this September will see the school reach maximum occupancy with 420 pupils attending on a daily basis, so we must work hard to ensure the new school year is as safe as possible for all.

The school’s travel plan explains: the transport arrangements need to support sustainable transport, such as walking and cycling, but also the need for a minimal number of parents to take their children to school by car due to the natural catchment area of the school. The school was designed and built with a drop-off area on-site for parents to use and avoid congestion on the access road to the school however, using this drop off/ collection point causes further disruption and congestion to the narrow winding roads leading to ongoing safety and safeguarding concerns.

The school carpark provides parking for over 60 staff who have no option to cycle or walk to school. It also provides disabled parking bays with a planned increase to the number of these to further support the growing needs of the school. There are obvious safety concerns wherever children and cars mix. However, the school is committed to keeping children safe and will ensure the gates are open by 07:30 enabling parents to drop children off for wrap-around care provided by the school. This will continue to avoid too much queuing on the road and try to keep access free. Parents could avoid arriving too early and blocking the road, carefully parking further away from the school and walking the last few yards to any of the four pedestrian gates linked to the pathways across the estate and to the main access roads which would help considerably. All children can use any of the gates to get into school.

Lincolnshire County Council has been consulting on plans to restrict parking right outside the school to keep traffic moving and reduce the impact on local residents. [Plan below]. This is currently out to consultation with a final decision due in a few weeks.

In the longer term, there is an opportunity to work with the Rectory Farm developers to see if we can provide additional parking space for the school nearby, which would provide extra capacity for people to drop off/pick up. I am actively exploring this opportunity with support from the school. Also, the opening of Rectory Farm means Helmsley Road would no longer be one way, making accessing the school easier.

The pedestrian crossing on Barrowby Road is currently under construction, which will likely encourage more parents and children from Barrowby Gate to walk rather than drive.

The latest rumours are that the much-delayed community facility plans may be coming forward, which would also allow us to address transport issues in the area.

I am pleased that the school recognises the local community’s concerns and is working to engage with me to find a sensible route forward—many thanks to Peter Bell and his colleagues at Poplar for their support and consideration. Please, if anyone has any concerns and/or ideas, do get in touch with me at [email protected], and we can work together to ensure this brilliant school goes from strength to strength and continues to provide safe access for children, families and staff. Safety is and will remain a priority at Poplar Farm School.