Wed, 18 Feb 2015
THE head of Robert Sandilands Primary School has warned that a child will be seriously injured or killed unless a car park adjacent to the school is reopened to parents.
For years, parents have used the car park of The Starting Gate pub to pick up and drop off their children.
However, Punch Taverns, which owns the pub, has now instructed a contractor to put up signs warning that non-pub customers will be fined £50 for parking there.
Punch Taverns says it cannot allow non-customer use due to not being insured for any incidents that may occur and being in breach of its head lease with West Berkshire Council.
However, the school has hit back, accusing them of a lack of goodwill and compromising the safety of its pupils.
A spokesman for Punch Taverns said: “We have written to the school on two occasions to explain why we cannot allow non-customer use.
"It is worth pointing out, that the use of the car park by school parents has also affected the pub business negatively on occasions, with pub patrons unable to use the car park at certain times of the year."
Punch Taverns added that while it appreciated the concerns of parents, it also had a "duty of care" to its pub customers and pub partners.
As a result of parents not being able to use the Starting Gate car park, many side roads around the school, including Digby Road, Brummell Road, Burchell Road and Kersey Crescent, have become clogged up with cars.
Parents are also worried about the safety of children due to the construction traffic from the nearby redevelopment of Kersey Crescent.
The school’s head, Richard Blofeld, said: "We had a statement from Punch Taverns saying that they were going to deny access to parents parking. We did not respond to it because we were not asked to.
“In the 21 years I have been here the school has benefited from parents being able to use that car park as a drop off point for just ten minutes or so in the morning and afternoon.
“Clearly for the last fifty years they have been waiving that. It has never been an issue before.
“Why can't Punch Taverns change its insurance to allow my school to use that car park for an hour a day - half hour in the morning and half hour in the evening? I am happy pay to get the conditions of the insurance changed.
“The safety of the children arriving and departing my school is paramount. It would be absolutely catastrophic for a child to be seriously injured or worse because of this.
“I can see that as a massive reality if this continues. The whole thing is an absolute joke.”
A spokeswoman for West Berkshire Council, Peta Stoddart-Crompton, said: "From my understanding, there has been an informal agreement in place, where Punch Taverns have kindly allowed parents of Robert Sandilands School to use the car par to drop off and pick up their children.
“Even in their capacity as lease holder, it would have been up to Punch Taverns, rather then the council as to whether they allowed the car park to be used in this way. “
However, Punch Taverns strongly denied that any formal or informal agreement has ever been made.
Mr Blofeld is also furious that the council have agreed, in principle, to sell the freehold of the site to Punch Taverns.
He said: "At no time whatsoever did Punch Taverns or West Berkshire Council planners consult or communicate with this school about this. We have been totally kept in the dark and excluded from any form of consultation.
"Why didn't the council ask if the school wanted to buy the site? We could have built a new school building to help cope with additional numbers in the future.
"Now Punch Taverns can do what they like with the land."
Punch Taverns says it has spent its own time and money in trying to come up with a permanent solution to end the parking issue.
It has suggested that a car park and drop off zone be built within the school site which would involve the school losing a third of its football pitches.
However, Mr Blofeld described the proposals as "farcical and insulting."