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Cutbacks to Ancells Farm school bus service approved

Ancells Farm Bus

9:23am 10th May 2018
(Updated 3:44pm 23rd May 2018)

Plans to reduce the school bus services in Ancells Farm in Fleet are going ahead after a decision by Hampshire County Council.

Following a consultation earlier this year, a recommendation that the service be scrapped for children aged 8 and over has been approved.

From September 2019 those travelling to Velmead Junior School will no longer be entitled to use it.

The move is part of wider cost-saving measures - which the council estimates amount to £1.5m.

The decision was made yesterday at the council's Children’s Services Decision Day meeting.

For nearly 30 years a special arrangement has been in place for children living in Ancells Farm, after plans to build a school in the area were discarded.

According to Google Maps, it takes an adult 47 minutes to walk from Ancells Farm to Velmead Junior School.

Yesterday, we spoke to parents worried about the effect on those living in the area.

More than 1,000 signed a petition calling on the council to keep the service.

The petition set out concerns including the impact on traffic from Ancells Farm into Fleet town centre, and resulting pollution, an increased volume in cars on the road, safety hazards for children walking to school, and parking problems around the school.    

It also said: "We have to consider the safety and wellbeing of our children on their journey to and from their place of education.  To withdraw a bus service that has been well established, needed and appreciated for many years, is an enormous step backwards, and will certainly have a detrimental effect on the school children and the local community."

The council has published the decision on its website, saying the move was part of changes to the Home to School Transport Policy, including implementing the walking distance of three miles on a child’s 8th birthday. 

It went on to say that meant that "transport from Ancells Farm to Fleet Infant and Velmead Junior School, becomes subject to the usual statutory distances and therefore from September 2019 eight year olds will not have transport provided to Velmead Junior School."

It also said the Director of Children’s Services should look into how schools could provide more minibuses and examine the opportunities for additional park and stride schemes, as well as examining with Fleet Infant and Velmead Junior Schools and with local Councils the possibility of supporting a community transport service for families living on the Ancells Farm estate.

It cited previous consultation had shown that residents and stakeholders opposed reducing spend on services for children, older people and vulnerable people - and that proposed savings from a discretionary service would allow other critical services to be maintained.

 

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