Shropshire Star

Plans to close roads outside schools to stop idling parents waiting outside

A proposed road-closure scheme outside selected schools will banish parents who wait to pick-up their children with their engines running.

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Councillors have been discussing plans for the new initiative

Councillors in Telford & Wrekin Council heard that parents who are 'idling' are breaking the law.

The authority's Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee member Karen Tomlinson said she had seen cars arriving at schools up to 45 minutes early, and said most parents “could walk there” in that time.

Councillor Janice Jones said signs explaining the legal position could help.

The council's Legal, Democracy, Policy and Governance Service Delivery Manager Richard Phillips confirmed it is illegal to “keep your engine idling unnecessarily while on the highway”, but said the law is difficult to enforce.

The committee was discussing the “School Streets” initiative, which will go before Telford and Wrekin’s cabinet at a later date.

If approved, it would see term-time school-run road closures at up to three pilot schools for environmental and safety reasons.

The School Streets process began at a full Telford and Wrekin Council meeting last year when Newport South and East councillor Thomas Janke tabled a motion asking the council to identify schools that could benefit.

It was referred to the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, who set up a School Streets Working Group which met six times throughout 2021 to learn about the legal, practical and environmental implications.

In its final report, it recommended officers are given the power to choose “up to three” schools.

Councillor Tomlinson, who represents Dothill, said it was a good scheme and would help educate selfish drivers.

She said she was handing out leaflets at schools and playgroups and was “quite aghast to see that it was 2.20pm and parents were already arriving in their cars”.

“If they can arrive that early, they could walk there, the majority of them, I assume,” she said.

“They sit there with the engines on for half and hour, three quarters of an hour. It doesn’t look like they’re working parents who have come straight there from work; I’d have sympathy with that.

“So I’m really pleased we’re getting along with this scheme. My only concern is that it will push it further away and you’ll get all the residents complaining that there are cars parked outside the area.”

Councillor Jones, who represents Madeley and Sutton Hill, said she had seen parents “totally ignore” the zig-zag markings outside schools, which, when accompanied by a sign, prohibit stopping even to drop passengers off.

“I believe when you run your engine sitting in the car that can now be a prosecutable offence, and in areas like London they are picking people up and fining them,” she said.

“Perhaps we could look at the legalities of that and put some signage around schools? That could cover that, telling people they could face prosecution.”

Mr Phillips said: “It is an offence to keep your engine idling unnecessarily while on the highway.

“I guess the question is, is there much appetite for it to be enforced?”

Priorslee councillor Ian Fletcher said only police had the power to enforce that law in most of the country.

“In London, some of the activities of the police are devolved to the local authorities under special regulations,” he said.

"They aren’t devolved nationally to all local authorities.”

Telford and Wrekin Council’s Neighbourhood Enforcement Officers can issue fines for illegal parking. They can report crimes they observe, but cannot themselves instigate prosecutions.

“There is actually a campaign by the Local Government Association to have more of the powers devolved, but of course it means more money for the local authority to provide,” Councillor Fletcher added.

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