Parents, community representatives and the Principal of Ebrington Primary School, which makes its long-awaited migration to a brand new build on March 20, want Derry City and Strabane District Council to expedite a new greenway from Clooney to Caw so pupils can walk to school safely.
A path, via the new Foyle/Ebrington site has been in the pipeline for years but according to angry parents, it is being held up by red tape.
That’s despite the fact the new school is now finished and parents, staff and pupils are getting set for the big relocation.
It should be a time for celebration but new anxieties have arisen for parents of pupils from Bond’s Street, Lincoln Court and Clooney.
Melanie Brannen, speaking on behalf of frustrated parents, explained: “We were under the impression that the walkway was going to be in place when the school opened.
“Obviously now that’s not happening. I just don’t feel it’s safe for primary school children to be walking out on the Limavady Road. There is a bus being funded by the school, which we appreciate, but it’s not helping every family, and I don’t think it’s fair one child in the estate gets the bus and another doesn’t. It’s about the children’s safety and the Limavady Road is far too dangerous.”
Nicky Duddy agreed: “The Limavady Road’s not safe. Children are children. They are going to be boisterous and muck about.”
School principal Nigel Dougherty shared the parents’ frustration. Behind the scenes he’s pushed hard for the greenway’s timely completion. He’s also funding a 46-seater bus to run pupils from Lincoln Court, Clooney and Bond’s Street, down to the new school in Caw but it’s oversubscribed.
Mr. Dougherty said: “I’ve been told by Derry City and Strabane Council that it’s all in planning. It’s stuck in planning, these things take time, and basically it’s not being delivered at the same time as the school. Our response to that has been that, we run a bus from Caw into the school, we will just reverse that and run it the other direction.
“I can understand their frustrations, really understand their frustrations, they’re my parents.
“I said two and half years ago to the council, I clearly said: ‘There will be very angry parents if you don’t deliver on time’ and there are angry parents.”
Don McClay, from Clooney Estate Residents’ Association, which has helped facilitate the bus from Bond’s Street to Caw said: “We are trying to get the relevant agencies to come to an agreement, to provide the additional transport for the 25 children.
“It’s a health and safety issue. The parents are very irate. They need to know before the new school opens where they stand.”
DUP Alderman David Ramsey added: “It’s a unique situation where we have a lot of kids that normally walk to school who are now in a situation where they’re not able to get on the pathway because it’s not there and obviously there’s the danger on the Limavady Road.”
Derry City and Strabane District Council says its fully committed to the development of a new Clooney greenway as a safe route to school for pupils but its completion pends the successful outcome of live planning and funding applications and legal lands negotiations.
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said: “Council remains committed to the Clooney Greenway project and has been working very proactively to bring this project to a successful conclusion.”
The spokesperson explained that Council established the Clooney Greenway Steering Group, comprising of key stakeholders, who meet on a regular basis in order to develop and progress the project.
“Council has also undertaken comprehensive project community engagement. To date, Council has taken the lead in completing designs and details, submitted a planning application and have lodged a funding application to the Department for Communities, the outcome of which is pending,” the spokesperson added.
They said that the Council is fully committed to the continued development and subsequent delivery of this greenway as it would provide enhanced walking/cycling opportunities for residents and provide a safe means of access for school children attending the new Foyle College and Ebrington Primary School, however the proposal is pending the successful outcome of the planning application, the funding application and legal lands negotiations.