The County Council currently spends £30 million on home to school transport in Hampshire, for over 15,000 pupils – a significant proportion of its entire Children’s Services budget. Legally, transport must be provided for children over 8 years old who live three miles or more from their nearest school or, for shorter distances, if there is no safe walking route to the school.
It costs the County Council £250,000 to provide transport for pupils in Hook who live under three miles away from the school, due to the lack of a safe and suitable walking route from Hook to Robert May's School.
Therefore, in order to help reduce the pressures on Children’s Services funding so that services for the county’s most vulnerable children can be maintained, the County Council has been considering options to make a one-off investment in the local footpath network to create a safe and suitable walking route between Hook and the school, which would be usable in all weathers and also benefit the local community.
Until there is a walking route that meets the safe and suitable requirements, the County Council has given an undertaking to continue to fund the current home to school transport arrangements, free of charge.
A proposal has been developed to make use of an existing Rights of Way footpath on Bartley Heath and Holt Lane. The route would include use of the footbridge north of Junction 5 of the M3 to cross over the motorway.
As part of the work to evaluate the feasibility of a walking route, the use of the intended crossing point on the A287 (on the eastern side of the roundabout – for Newlyns Farm Shop) is being assessed, at the appropriate times of day (recording traffic counts and speeds) to ensure that it could meet the national Road Safety GB guidelines for safe walking routes to school. Feasibility work has also been undertaken to consider improvements that would aid crossing at that point.
A further drop-in session is planned to take place on 26 March 2019, between 4 and 7pm, at Hook Community Centre, giving the local community a further opportunity to view the plans and ask individual questions of officers.