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Simon Atkinson, of Thornton-le-Dale, hits out as free transport withdrawn for son Joseph, 12
A FATHER says he is ‘outraged’ after being told by county council officials that his son’s home to school transport is to be withdrawn as the family live 49 metres over the qualifying distance.
Businessman Simon Atkinson received a letter last week indicating that 12-year-old Joseph’s eligibility for free transport to Lady Lumley’s School would be withdrawn from the end of the autumn term.
Following a routine check, an assessor, who walked from the Atkinsons’ home in Thornton-le-Dale to the school, found the distance to be 2.9602 miles – the qualifying distance is three miles.
The assessor concluded that the route through Pickering , Thornton-le-Dale and on the A170 was safe to be walked for a child aged 11-plus, accompanied if necessary.
Mr Atkinson, who has since set up a Facebook page and online petition to campaign against the decision, said the county council had gone ‘barmy’.
“It is absolutely disgusting to expect a boy Joseph’s age to walk to Pickering and back along the roadside through an open stretch of countryside where there is no proper path or street lighting,” he said.
“Last weekend it took my family seven minutes to cross the road and then we had to run across. From a safety aspect this just beggars belief.”
Mr Atkinson said he was not the type of person to go against official policy but felt children should not be expected to walk alongside a road which has seen four serious and seven minor accidents during the last three years.
“If that is the policy then so be it but if that is the case a pedestrian crossing and street lighting is needed along with better footpaths,” he said.
“Whatever the outcome there is no way my children will be walking along that road to school – it just isn’t safe.”
Comments have been left on Facebook from local people and others living further afield.
One supporter said: “The part of the A170 they were expected to walk on and cross is also a blackspot for accidents. How dare North Yorkshire County Council try to put children at risk.”
While another added: “It is a disgrace, how much do these people get paid to decide that you live X amount of yards out of catchment, if the rest of Thornton-le-Dale get a pass then the whole village should – behind you all the way.”
A spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council said the home to school transport policy for pupils of secondary school age was that free transport was provided if the walking distance, measured by the nearest available route, is three miles or more from the pupil’s home address to the normal or nearest school.
“Following a routine check, it has come to light that the distance from the family home to Lady Lumley’s School has recently been walked and measured using a calibrated Tru-meter and has been verified as 2.9602 miles using the school entrance accessed via First Avenue,” they said.
“As the measurement is under the qualifying distance, Joseph will not longer qualify for assistance with transport unless the family is in receipt of the relevant low income benefits. The decision has been made in line with the county council’s home to school transport policy.”