While 15-year-old Ben Savage takes a free school bus his 12-year-old brother Josh is expected walk via an unlit bridleway because they live 0.05 of a mile too close to school.
As we reported on the front of our Mildenhall edition last week, three families in Pott Hall Road, West Row, have been told by Suffolk County Council that some of their children will lose free school transport from December because a bridleway has been surfaced as a cycleway and is now deemed a ‘safe route’ to Mildenhall College Academy.
Angry West Row villagers remember their Suffolk County Councillor, now council leader, Colin Noble telling a public meeting in 2013 that if the bridleway was turned into a cycleway it would not be used to withdraw school transport. He stressed: “It’s not a safe route. It won’t be lit.”
But last week he told the Bury Free Press that national criteria had been applied and the route assessed as safe so three children no longer qualified for free transport.
The county has now written to some of the families saying it had been wrong to apply it to older children who were at the school before September 2013 when the cycleway surfacing was completed.
The letter to Josh’s mum Caroline Savage states: “The distance from your home to Mildenhall College Academcy is 2.950 miles. This is under the three mile threshold.”
It means the Savages live 88 yards outside the three-mile limit, so Josh cannot take the bus from outside his home unless they pay £800 a year.
Caroline said: “How can I put one of my children on the bus and expect the younger one to walk?
“As far as I’m concerned, the bridleway is unsafe. They say if we’re bothered we should walk with them, but my little one starts a pre-school in September – how can I be in two places at once?”
The bridleway is unlit, ungritted and not overlooked in the 2.5 miles across fields.
Caroline said: “If you don’t send your child to school, they don’t phone up until 11 o’clock so my son could have been face down in the river for three hours before they ring.”