Beechen Cliff School

Parking on the Lower Field

Beechen Cliff School issued this message to local residents through the BFA on 17 July 2020:

Dear All,

I hope this email finds you all well and that we will be able to meet again in the new academic year, possibly virtually if not in person! I am writing now to let you know about a temporary change to parking arrangements for staff on the school site.

I would like to start by thanking you and other local residents for your understanding of changes to our site during the Covid-19 pandemic to limit risk to pupils and staff. As you can imagine, we have extensively risk-assessed the whole site and put in place tens of mitigations, ranging from hand-washing to our boarding house lock-down procedures.

Looking ahead to September, we have been in discussion with the council about staff parking, taking into account the current guidance on limiting public transport use and car sharing. As you will appreciate, it is essential that the school workforce can safely attend school and as a result we feel we have no alternative but to use the lower field for a limited amount of staff parking on a temporary basis. We have discussed this with [Councillor] Winston Duguid and he is in agreement.

Initially, we will be operating this under the 28 days of casual use we have available to us. Given the exceptional circumstances, the council has indicated that, should we exceed this, it would not enforce initially. If the need is required longer term, it has told us that we would be required to submit a request for temporary planning permission to extend the use.

Following concerns expressed by some residents over use of the lower field for parking in the last year, I would like to reassure you that:

  • Parking will be for staff only;
  • There will be a maximum of 32 spaces allocated to specific staff members;
  • The spaces will be at the bottom of the field, away from the public footpaths;
  • The gate to the field will be locked during the school day and;
  • There will continue to be staff presence on Greenway Lane in the morning and afternoons.

As goes the adage, ‘hope for the best, plan for the worst’, we hope that this will be a short-term measure, but we are also looking ahead to what would be required for a longer-term change if needed as part of on-going Covid-19 mitigation. Should we need to submit a planning application for a longer duration, you would of course be consulted and we would welcome your views.

If you have not already had the chance to look at our updated travel plan, this is available on the school website. Whilst it may appear to be a retrograde step providing more parking on site, we are living in extraordinary times; I would like to assure you our commitment to more sustainable transport solutions remains firm.

Thank you in anticipation of this change and for your on-going support for the school. I would be grateful if you would share this letter with your residents.

With best wishes for the summer.

James

James Oldham,
Deputy Head

BFA accepts this as an emergency step but is seeking to engage with the School about longer-term solutions. In particular, we are asking the School to update its travel plan and make it into an effective process. We note BCS’s ‘commitment to more sustainable transport solutions’.

Our response of 21 July was:

James,
Thank you for your message of 17 July about parking arrangements…

We shall, as you suggest, pass your message on to our members.

We appreciate what a difficult time this has been for the School and the challenge you face in making the resumption in September safe for all.

… Although there is much goodwill to the School, certainly from BFA but also from many residents, your message is bound to cause some disquiet. Many cherish the lower field as open space and enjoy the public path across it. There will be widespread concern at the loss of amenity and change of character even if for a finite period. Use for parking will be seen by some as potentially the thin end of a wedge.

It would help if there was more reassurance about the length of time the temporary use might last, when a planning application would be thought necessary, or at least a firm commitment to review matters on a stated date such as October half term.

It would also be helpful to know what advice and encouragement has been given to staff that they might car share /use park & ride / bus services / cycle / walk etc.? The Government rules do not forbid car sharing, incidentally, but give guidelines (small groups only, clean inside of car regularly, have good ventilation, do not face one another, and use a mask). Perhaps the relaxation of advice about use of public transport that has emerged since (one imagines) your note was drafted might have a bearing on the necessity for use of the field.

That brings us on to what you describe as the ‘updated travel plan’.  The document currently on the BCS web site (it is hard to find by the way, and a search of ‘travel plan’ does not produce it!) is dated February 2020 and does not seem to have changed in the last five months. It is thus pre-covid. It sets dates for events that have now passed. It is hard to find it convincing as an effective process when there is apparently no Travel Plan Champion nor School Travel Plan Working Group in place. And it is not clear whether the Plan has been approved by the Council as is obligated by planning condition.

We propose to convey your message to our members at the end of this month. What would be enormously useful to us would be first to have a response from you to this message such that we may try to allay members’ concerns by saying this move is rigorously short-term and forms part of a systematic set of measures to shift travel to school away from single-occupant cars.

Best wishes,
Timothy
Timothy Cantell
Planning and Transport Convenor, Bear Flat Association
planning@bearflat.org.uk   www.bearflat.org.uk  

In subsequent correspondence between BFA and the School, BCS have agreed to review the arrangement by October half term and they have written to staff encouraging alternative means of transport. BCS added: ‘It is very much not our desire to use the lower field unless absolutely
necessary … We equally value its use and enjoy sharing it with the community.’

Residents’ Briefing

Beechen Cliff School gave a briefing to residents at the school on 5th December. A total of seven residents, including the BFA Chair Nick Francis, attended. The briefing material can be found here.

Travel Plan

The School is now working to finalise its Travel Plan, which includes measures to control parking and encourage the use of more sustainable modes of transport.

BFA has sent in comments and suggestions about how the Travel Plan could be strengthened. We want to support the initiatives the School is bringing forward to encourage travel to and from School for pupils and staff by bus, on foot and by cycling.

When planning permission was granted in August 2019 for more parking around the Beechen Cliff School buildings, the Council required that a full (i.e. not draft) Travel Plan be approved by B&NES.

BFA’s submission can be found here.