A solution to traffic congestion at Culmore Primary School could lie in wider development plans for the area, the head of the school’s board of governors has said.
Situated on one of Derry’s busiest cross border arterial routes, Culmore Primary School has flourished over the last 15 years, growing from just over 20 pupils in 1995 to the current school population of in excess of 90 pupils.
As students numbers have increased, so too has traffic congestion at school opening time and when parents pick up their kids in the afternoon.
“We are in this situation because of the tremendous success of the school.” Board of Governors head Philip Gilliland told the ‘Journal’ this week.
“We have grown from 23 in 1995 to 92 today - parents want to send their kids to the school, it’s a shared education school, it is totally religiously mixed, with excellent pastoral care and excellent academic standards and has really integrated into the community.
“That is a mix that really seems to strike a chord with parents - so the reason why the traffic has increased, why cars are parking outside the door of the school is because of our growth.”
He says while a number of remedial measures are currently in place to alleviate the daily bottleneck a longer term solution could be found within either plans for a bypass for the area, or for housing development in the ‘barley field’ adjacent to the school - both of which are awaiting approval.
Mr Gilliland says the latter option is both more tangible, provide alternative access to the school and would also afford the school further room to expand.
But those housing development plans - for more than 240 houses - have long been subject to local objections.
More than 440 local residents have lodged complaints regarding the development.
“We are neutral about the development. It must be sensitive to the needs of local community,” Mr Gilliland says.
“But there must be a solution to traffic congestion. I acknowledge that people have a strong view on the number of houses planned. We as a school do not take a view on that, it is not our principal driver. Our principal driver is that some development, complete with access plans for the school, is approved.”
Mr Gilliland says plans for a bypass are more “remote” but “were that to be approved we would also be delighted.”
The Governor’s head says he hopes the local community understand the school’s views.
“We would say to the local community that we are part of this community, and ask them to please acknowledge that this is an unfortunate by-product of a community school growing. Work with us while we try and find a solution,” he says.