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New "school streets" introduced in Lees

Oldham Council is trialling a new traffic scheme to tackle a notorious "chaos corner" in Lees.

Two "school streets" will be trialled outside Hey with Zion Primary School and St Edwards RC Primary School to create "safer", traffic-free school runs.

Roads around the two schools are said to turn into a "living nightmare" during school rush hour, according to local residents. 

But with the new scheme, the cul-de-sacs around Medlock Way will be closed to school traffic during drop-off and pick-up times. Only residents and business owners with permits will be allowed to use the roads during the 30-minute or 60-minute periods in the morning and afternoon. 

The idea is to encourage kids and parents to arrive on foot or by bike instead.

Local councillor Mark Kenyon, who has been working with colleagues to introduce the scheme for years, said: “Up to 300 cars try and access two primary schools on one cul-de-sac twice a day… It’s the very definition of an accident waiting to happen. 

“There’s been so many other efforts over the years to fix this problem, so this really is the last chance to make these streets safer for kids walking to school and for the long suffering neighbours of the schools.” 

One of those long-suffering neighbours, Natalie Mills, regularly drives a 20-minute diversion on her way home from work to avoid the "carnage" and "standstill traffic" of the school pick-up rush. She suggested the situation frequently became dangerous because drivers often "lost their temper", "beeping" and "mounting curbs". There is also very little space for emergency vehicles to pass through, she said. 

A council spokesperson added: “Numerous residents have lodged complaints regarding vehicles parking on their driveways, in addition to incidents of inconsiderate driving, verbal altercations and the use of inappropriate language, all of which occur within proximity to the children. The schools have also voiced concerns regarding the children’s safety due to these issues.”

The plan was designed in consultation with the schools, neighbours and parents but there are some concerns about the knock-on effect the new traffic scheme could have on surrounding roads.

Councillor Sam Al-Hamdani acknowledged the concern but argued the current state of traffic "makes life extremely difficult" for locals and families who attend the schools. 

He said: “This isn’t a magic wand but hopefully it will make people feel safer to walk or cycle to school with their kids. 

“People are worried about the traffic going elsewhere and that is a genuine concern. That’s why the scheme will include monitoring traffic. We want to give it a real fair chance and let it settle [over the 18 months]. If it’s not working, then we’ll look at it again.” 

The zone would be Oldham’s third school street if made permanent, alongside St Anne’s Primary School in Royton and Buckstones Primary School in Shaw. All school streets carry automatic exemptions for some motorists, such as blue badge holders, local residents and business owners, carers seeking to access houses in the area and emergency vehicles.

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