Dozens of Kenton residents are urging the council to scrap a school street expansion plan over fears it will see local drivers hit with ‘heavy penalties’ and make the school run more difficult. The local councillor believes it will also push traffic further out and cause more pollution.
Brent Council has put forward plans to expand the Claremont High and Uxendon Manor Primary ‘safer school zone’ to include several new roads. It cites concerns raised about safety by the school community.
However a petition to stop expansion has already been signed by 64 residents, who believe it will have “unintended consequences” for people living around the affected roads. They feel drivers will be subjected to “unfair penalties” for breaching the new regulations.
The creator of the petition, Jessica Khetani, said: “As a resident of Kenton, this issue is deeply personal to me. My family members, friends, parents and fellow residents will be facing penalties when driving through the proposed seven roads of expansion under the Safer School Zone Scheme. This scheme, while well-intentioned, has unintended consequences that affect our daily lives.”
A ‘school street’ means there is a term-time restriction of motorised traffic on a road by a school during the pick-up and drop-off period – typically from 8:15am to 9:15am in the morning and from 2:30pm to 4pm in the afternoon..
Brent Council proposes to extend the existing school street area on Greenway and Falcon Way to include Hillview Avenue, Brookfield Crescent, Cranleigh Gardens, Oakdale Avenue, Claremont Avenue, Vine Court, and Falcon Way up to the roundabout.
As well as for safety reasons, the local authority also believes the expansion will encourage people to “adopt greener, more active forms of transport”, which will create a “safer and more pleasant environment” for residents.
A council document states: “The expansion of the zone will encourage active travel to and from school, helping children lead a healthier and more active life. In addition, the scheme will discourage motor vehicle usage which will reduce congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions, which is helping to contribute towards a cleaner, greener Brent.”
Residents and blue-badge holders who live within the zone, and emergency vehicles will be exempt from these restrictions. However, Kenton’s Conservative ward councillor, Sunita Hirani, does not support the expansion plan as she feels the people living on the affected roads would not be able to have friends and family visit them during the school run times.
She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “Residents have called me to say they work during the day and their helpers, such as grandparents, wouldn’t be able to help with the pick up and drop off.”
Cllr Hirani thinks encouraging more walking and cycling for parents and students is a “great idea” as it means less pollution and benefits the environment. However, she feels the residents shouldn’t be “penalised” and believes the motivation for the expansion is money.
She said: “We’re in a £14m deficit as a council. It is trying to claw back as much money as they can. It’s a cash cow scheme to bring money in. You’re just going to have a backlog of traffic on Kenton Road, Shaftesbury Avenue and Imperial Way. You’re basically pushing the traffic out, which will cause more gridlock and pollution.”
The councillor also raises concerns regarding the signage, which she claims is “hidden” leaving drivers unaware of the restrictions. Cllr Hirani said: “I’ve had four teachers from Claremont High School contact me saying they have received a ticket and didn’t know about the scheme. They were able to get the tickets revoked though as they are exempt.”
The petition adds: “While we all agree on the importance of children’s safety […] it is crucial that any measures taken do not disproportionately impact those living within these zones.” Residents are being asked to give their views on the proposals by December 10.
Cabinet Member for Environment, Infrastructure, and Climate Action, Cllr Krupa Sheth, said: “We are committed to working with our schools and communities to make areas outside schools safer and less polluted, particularly during peak times. We have already introduced 31 school streets around Brent and are working closely with our schools to encourage more journeys using an active travel mode such as walking and cycling.”
He added: “These have been very popular with pupils, teachers, and parents. Residents of the roads within our school street zones are exempt and they will be advised how to arrange an exemption before the scheme is introduced. We will always take into account local feedback before making any decisions, so I encourage residents to complete the consultation.
“We have clear targets on carbon neutrality by 2030 and we cannot reach that goal without making our streets safer, greener and supporting sustainable travel.”