Minister outlines plan to alleviate traffic congestion at local school

PLANS are being advanced to construct a new 'pick up and set down' area in a bid to ease traffic congestion at a local school.

Sion Mills Primary School has been campaigning for several years for an end to inconsiderate parking outside the gates, amid concerns a child may be seriously hurt.

In 2019 pupils hosted an innovative hustings event with council election candidates and implored them to help resolve the parking ‘chaos’ at their school gates.

They outlined the lack of a safe pick-up/drop-off area at the gates as their main concern.

At the time, the daily situation was described as a “ticking time bomb”.

Those calls did not go unheeded and since then, a number of additional measures have been implemented in a bid to discourage cars parking at the school gates.

These include the painting of double yellow lines at the entrance, the installation of new railings and signage by Derry and Strabane Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) carrying messages including ‘Protect your child’s safety’, ‘no parking’ and ‘keep clear’.

The campaign to solve the issue entirely remains ongoing, and this week, Education Minister Peter Weir confirmed the latest move in a bid to solve the school's parking woes.

He revealed the plan in response to an Assembly question by West Tyrone SDLP MLA., Daniel McCrossan.

He had asked the Minister if his department is aware of the road safety concerns and what additional action can be taken to alleviate these concerns.

"The Education Authority have advised me that they are currently preparing a feasibility report for a minor works scheme to deliver a pick-up/set-down area on the Sion Mills Primary School site," Mr Weir responded.

"I understand that they expect to complete this report by the end of the month and have the business case completed in April 2021.

"Subject to business case approval, the works recommended to progress will be added to the Minor Capital Delivery Programme for delivery."

In his reply, the Minister added that responsibility traffic management issues or road safety beyond the school boundary is a matter for the Department for Infrastructure (DfI).

Welcoming the scheme, Mr McCrossan said it will be hugely beneficial for the school, for parents and for local residents.

“We’ve raised the issue around congestion a number of times with the Education Minister and the Education Authority following concerns by parents of children attending the school," he commented.

“I am delighted that, following raising this issue, the Education Authority are now moving to progress a pick up and set down capital project for the school.

"This will be welcomed by all parents and will go some way in improving both congestion and safety concerns at the school."

While no firm indication was given for the start of the work, party colleague, councillor Steven Edwards, said liaison continues with all the relevant authorities to fully resolve the long-standing issue.

“The SDLP has worked hard in lobbying the authorities to ensure a solution is brought to tackle ongoing concerns raised by parents, the school and local residents in the wider Sion Mills area.

“This scheme is a positive one which has to be welcomed by all. We are continuing to liaise with the Education Authority and the Department of Infrastructure to ensure all concerns around traffic, safety and congestion are resolved," he said.

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