Posted: 18.11.20 at 17:02 by The Editor
POLICE officers were deployed this afternoon to stop members of a Thurrock community forum operating a temporary crossing point because of the continued absence of a lollipop lady.
The issue of traffic issues outside Aveley Primary School was highlighted at the weekend in a Thurrock Nub news in which a call was made for the council to act – and long term for the installation of a pedestrian crossing on the very busy Stifford Road.
The matter came to a head last week when children narrowly avoided being hit by a speeding van, which prompted parents to raise the issue with the village’s Aveley and Kenningtons Community Forum.
Its chair, Teresa Webster, contacted the council and asked for some positive action to deal with the absence of the ‘lollipop lady’, one of two in the area who have been long term absentees through ill health.
Mrs Webster says she has had no positive response after writing to the council’s chief executive Lyn Carpenter, on Saturday, other than Ms Carpenter responding by saying contacting her directly was not an appropriate channel!
So Mrs Webster, helped by fellow forum member Sue Hewer (a former lollipop lady herself who has undergone training), decided to take pro-active and positive action and after checking that they were covered by the forum's insurance to act on its behalf in public, turned up at the school this morning (Wednesday, 18 November) and with some cones to keep an area clear of parked cars and wearing high visibility jackets they helped parents and children cross the road.
“We were given a warm welcome by parents,” said Mrs Webster. “They really appreciated what we were trying to do to help protect village children. It can only be a temporary measure but it is something the forum is prepared to do. I thought it was community action at its best.”
However, when the duo turned up to repeat their actions at school closing time this afternoon, two police officers were there and told them they would not be permitted to help or operate a crossing service. When Mrs Webster asked what would happen if they carried on, she was told – in the presence of Thurrock Nub News editor Neil Speight who had turned up to film the community action – that the matter would be ‘escalated’ and they could be arrested.
“I was so shocked and angry, I couldn’t believe it. We are trying to do something proactive to help keep our children safe,” said Mrs Webster afterwards.
“This is a very, very busy and dangerous road and the council have acknowledged it needs a crossing patrol. Through unfortunate circumstances the lady who does it is not available but that doesn’t mean that the danger has gone away.
“There was a near miss last week and we felt we had to do something. The parents who were there this morning were mostly very supportive and though one did question what we were doing and asked if it was legal, most thought we were doing a good job and were grateful.
“However, it seems the lady who questioned us has made a complaint to the police who turned up and stopped us doing this. I am so upset that someone would do that when all we are trying to do is make crossing the road safer.
"And I was shocked the police turned up to stop us. I had been in contact with our community policing officer about what we were planning to do so I was not expecting that.
"We may not be experts but being there, keeping an area free of parked cars and having High Vis jackets on to let drivers know there is the potential for danger surely can't be increasing the risk to children, it can only be making them safer!"
Essex Police have responded to the incident, saying school traffic patrolling is a matter for the council, but it issued the following statement: "We are aware of community concerns about traffic outside Aveley Primary School and have been liaising with the Aveley and Kenningtons Community Forum regularly, and with Thurrock Council, on how best to deal with this issue.
"We had advised individuals looking to assist with crossing patrols to seek advice from the council as there are training and other procedures that would need to be followed.
"These are in place for the safety of crossing patrol wardens, children and road users.
"Police community support officers reiterated this advice when we were contacted on Wednesday, 18 November reporting these unofficial patrols were taking place."
Thurrock Council and the school have been asked to comment.
Earlier this week Thurrock Council did put out a Twitter message saying: "Our school crossing patrol staff are doing an amazing job helping to keep pupils safe outside school.
"Please allow extra time for your journey to school so you can help them as they follow social distancing guidance. Thank you for your support."