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Bury St Edmunds school St Edmund's Catholic Primary's plan to close part of Westgate Street causes concern among residents



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Issues need to be ironed out over a school’s proposal to close part of a town street twice a day, a residents’ group has said.

St Edmund’s Catholic Primary School, in Westgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, is seeking to make a short section of the road pedestrian only for a limited period in the morning and the afternoon during term time only.

Last week, the school’s executive headteacher, Maria Kemble, sent letters to parents and local residents about the proposal, which aims to reduce the amount of traffic in the street to make it safer to cycle, scoot or walk to school, as well as improve the air and environment and reduce inconsiderate parking.

St Edmund's Catholic Primary School's executive head Maria Kemble with junior road safety officers Leja Lukoseviciute, 11, and Genevieve Dobson, 11. Picture: Mecha Morton
St Edmund's Catholic Primary School's executive head Maria Kemble with junior road safety officers Leja Lukoseviciute, 11, and Genevieve Dobson, 11. Picture: Mecha Morton

The ‘School Streets’ initiative had already been introduced successfully in parts of London and Cambridge, said Mrs Kemble in the letter to parents.

She said the closure would mean vehicles, except residents and for emergency and disabled access, would not be able to drive along Westgate Street from the junction of College Street to Guildhall Street and would not be able to turn into Westgate Street from Whiting Street from 8.15am-9am and 3-3.45pm.

Any vehicles that need to move would have to do so at walking pace. Temporary barriers would be used to close the road each day and it would supervised by school staff or volunteers.

St Edmund's Catholic Primary School in Westgate Street, Bury St Edmunds
St Edmund's Catholic Primary School in Westgate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Vivien Gainsborough Foot, chairman of the Churchgate Area Association, said there was ‘complete concern’ from residents over the proposal and added: “At the moment we just think there are too many practical difficulties, although we are absolutely in favour of looking after the children’s lungs.”

Mrs Kemble stressed residents would continue to be able to access relevant roads during the closure.

But Mrs Gainsborough Foot said concerns remained over how this would operate, adding slow-moving vehicles would add to pollution.

However, Mrs Kemble said fewer cars generally should alleviate the amount of pollution overall and ‘will also reduce idling from parents who park and leave engines running while they get out’.

St Edmund's Catholic Primary School is launching an initiative to promote safer school streets and is proposing to make a short section of Westgate Street pedestrian only for a limited period in the morning and the afternoon in term time. Picture: Mecha Morton
St Edmund's Catholic Primary School is launching an initiative to promote safer school streets and is proposing to make a short section of Westgate Street pedestrian only for a limited period in the morning and the afternoon in term time. Picture: Mecha Morton

Libby Ranzetta, so-founder of the Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw charity, said she ‘definitely’ supported the plans.

“We realise there are a few operational difficulties, but we would love to see it work. We think it would be excellent for cycling in the town,” she said.

Suffolk County Council was approached for comment.