This network includes existing footpaths on Bartley Heath. While the Heath holds the status of being a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the footpaths are classified as Rights of Way and one option being pursued is the development of the footpath that is a continuation of Holt Lane.
Councillor Keith Mans, Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services at Hampshire County Council, said: “By improving existing footpaths, we would ensure that there is a very clear walking route which would be usable in all weathers. The walking routes would continue to use the footbridge north of Junction 5 of the M3 to cross over the motorway.
“The cost for the upgrading work, and improvements to the crossing point on the A287 is estimated to be the region of £250.000. That is roughly equivalent to the current annual costs for us to transport students to Robert May’s School. With this one-off investment and the creation of a safe walking route, pupils living within three miles of Robert May’s School would no longer require home to school transport.”
Keen to reassure parents in the meantime, Councillor Mans added: “However, until such time as there is a safe walking route, we will continue to fund home to school transport for those pupils, free of charge.”
Hampshire County Council has begun discussions with the school and local parish councils; and has developed an information sheet about the options under consideration for all parents with children at Robert May’s School.
The Department for Education’s guidance is that local authorities are only required to provide transport for children aged 8 years and above, living three miles or more from their local school. Most pupils from Hook who attend Robert May’s School live between two and three miles from the school. Therefore the school transport that is currently in place for them, funded by the Local Authority, is provided because there is no safe walking route.
As part of the early work to evaluate the feasibility of the options, the use of the intended crossing point on the A287, as part of a safe walking route (on the eastern side of the roundabout – for Newlyns Farm Shop), is being thoroughly assessed, at the right time of day, with traffic counts and speeds to ensure that it meets the national Road Safety GB guidelines for the safety of walking routes to school. Feasibility work is also underway to consider improvements that would aid crossing at that point.
An information event is set to be held during spring 2019, where the County Council will share its plans with the school and local community in Hook, and staff, students and residents will have the opportunity to ask further questions.