Worthing grandmother pleads for safety measures on road used by three schools - 'It feels like something really bad has to happen'

A campaign, led by a Worthing grandmother, is calling for further safety measures on a road in the vicinity of three local schools – to prevent an ‘accident waiting to happen’.

Valerie Knight, supported by her daughter, Katy Parsonage, launched a campaign to West Sussex County Council for further road safety measures in the vicinity of Whytemead and Downsbrook primary schools and Jack in the Box Pre school in the Dominion Road and Sompting Road areas of Worthing.

They have been pleading for action since 2022. Since then, a lollipop lady reportedly quit her job over fears for her own safety and she felt she was unable to protect schoolchildren from the dangers of the road.

“Do we take our life in our hands when we walk our children to school?” asked Valerie, in her campaign letter.

"When I started taking my grand-daughter to and from her pre-school in Dominion Road, on several occasions I felt we were in serious danger of being hit by a vehicle turning into Penfold Road.

"The drivers' view of me, and me of them, was restricted by legal car parking between the roundabout and Penfold Road. I saw two occasions when vehicles hit each other at that junction – that could have been us.

"A number of times I had to take evasive action, yanking my two year old with me, to avoid being hit.”

Katy added: "It's an accident waiting to happen. It feels like something really bad has to happen before something is done. Something awful shouldn't have to happen.

"The council can't say they were not aware of the risk factors. We have done everything we can. We’ve demonstrated local public support through a petition, meetings and surveys. We have collected pages and pages. They could not have more evidence that's a recipe for disaster.”

Valerie said there have been ‘at least three collisions’ since 2022 as well as a number of ‘near-misses’.

She launched a petition in February 2022, which has been signed by 160 people. A further 126 people completed a survey in the Autumn of 2023 – ‘voting on the solutions and giving new ideas’.

Valerie and Katy said they were grateful for the support of Dawn Smith, county councillor for Broadwater.

The councillor told this newspaper: “I have been in contact with Valerie and her daughter Katy several times, in their pursuit for road safety improvements in the area of Downsbrook and Whytemead Schools.

"I support her as the local West Sussex county member, a borough member, as a former teacher, and as a once parent governor at Downsbrook school, along with my borough colleagues in Broadwater too who consistently support road safety initiatives.

"When Worthing Borough Council launches its consultation on 20mph travel, we will support the implementation in roads deemed suitable throughout the borough, including in Broadwater to help improve driver and pedestrian safety too.”

An application for road safety improvements, via a community highways scheme, was submitted by Valerie in March. Councillor Smith also sent a ‘submission of support statement’.

A West Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “We have received an application for a community highway scheme on Dominion Road which will shortly be assessed regarding its suitability.

"If it is found to be suitable, it will be considered this autumn alongside all of the applications we have received. We will then prioritise them for delivery against the future budget.

“Our officers are also in ongoing communication with councillor Smith regarding Sompting Road and Dominion Road.”

Whytemead and Downsbrook Primary School work closely together, being part of the same multi-academy trust. Respective headteachers Richard Waddington and Just Jeffrey issued a joint statement.

They said: “We are really pleased that the safety of the roads around both our schools are a concern to local residents. Julie had worked as a school crossing patrol officer for many years and kept our children safe in a really friendly way. We were sorry to see her retire and WSCC have said they will keep us informed with the process of appointing a replacement.

“Both schools are pleased that this important matter is being raised with West Sussex and road safety remains a high priority on both of the schools’ curriculum.”

Among the possible solutions suggested is to introduce a 20mph speed limit or install a pelican crossing.

Valerie said: "There's vegetation around the roundabout and often on the middle island. Because of cars parking between the roundabout and Penfold Road, nobody can see there are pedestrians crossing, especially for people who don't live locally.

People might be doing 29 or 30mph but that's too fast if you're about to hit a pedestrian. People have just come off the A27 doing 60 or 70mph – they are still in speed mode."

Katy added: "The former lollipop lady dealt with aggressive behaviour by motorists. We were upset and frustrated when we heard we were losing her but I wasn't surprised.

"She would walk out with her pole to help people cross and some motorists would barely slow down. People would almost drive around her and carry on. Sometimes people would shout aggressive things at her and not be very nice to her at all.

"It was a symptom of how fast traffic goes around the roundabout. It's such a big roundabout you don't have to slow down.

"Some traffic calming measures are needed to slow things down. There are crowds of people and kids trying to cross.”

Councillor Smith said she has ‘consistently advocated’ for safety measures and has arranged and attended a meeting with Valerie and highways staff ‘regarding what improvements could help’.

She added: “With regards to the lollipop crossing vacancy, this has been advertised for, but I have not had any updates on whether anyone has applied for the position to date.”

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