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Residents' fury as Westlands School, Sittingbourne, bans buses

A popular secondary school bursting at the seams has told bus companies they can no longer use its premises to drop off pupils.

From Monday, October 28, a fleet of coaches will park on the busy A2 London Road and four new stops in Adelaide Drive, Sittingbourne.

Westlands School, Sittingbourne
Westlands School, Sittingbourne

Furious residents have complained to Swale council leader Cllr Roger Truelove who has demanded Kent County Council and Westlands School back down.

But school head Simon Cox said: "We are a victim of our own success. We are an incredibly popular school and now have many children coming from the Isle of Sheppey.

"But while we were quite prepared to accommodate more pupils than our planned admission number of 285 this year, we did not expect the independent appeals panel to direct us to take even more."

The school has had to find places for 358 in Year 7.

To meet the demand it has converted a classroom into a toilet block and part of its car park into a playground. Work on building 11 classrooms is to start next June.

Westlands School bus plan
Westlands School bus plan

Mr Cox has been forced to ban buses from the reduced car park at its Cryalls Lane entrance but said turning playing fields into a car park to make more room was out of the question.

He said: "Buses will now have to pick up and drop off children outside our premises like other secondary schools. This was always on the cards. It was never a case of 'if' but 'when'."

He has written to parents outlining the new bus stops and adding safety advice for pupils.

Roland Eglinton, managing director of Chalkwell Coach Hire, said: "For decades school buses have been setting down and picking up in the school grounds.

"There are 12 buses a day serving the school from three different operators transporting hundreds of children. But we will not be able to go into the school and must make alternative arrangements."

Roland Eglinton of Chalkwell Coach Hire
Roland Eglinton of Chalkwell Coach Hire

He said bus operators had worked with KCC Highways to find a solution but would have to stop on the A2 at Wickes and The Billet and Adelaide Drive.

He warned: "This will be particularly difficult in the afternoons when buses must be in position for children to board. We anticipate the impact on the surrounding road network will be substantial with delays on the already busy A2.

"Residents of Adelaide Drive will not only have to contend with several buses in their road at peak times but also several hundred children spilling onto the narrow pavements, front gardens and drives."

Kent Highways has warned residents in Adelaide Drive, Sittingbourne, that parts of their road will become a clearway with no parking during school pick-up and drop-off times.

Swale council leader Cllr Roger Truelove (Lab) has written a strongly worded letter to Kent County Council's head of transport Cllr Mike Whiting complaining about a lack of consultation.

Swale council leader Cllr Roger Truelove (Labour) for Homewood. Picture: Swale council
Swale council leader Cllr Roger Truelove (Labour) for Homewood. Picture: Swale council

He said: "I am most concerned that no consultation took place with either officers or members of our council.

"We are supposed to work in partnership but we knew nothing of this decision.

"We only learned when Cllr Ghlin Whelan, who lives in Adelaide Drive, received what I can only describe as a derisory letter from Kent Highways. I consider the decision-making to be shabby and underhand.

"Are we really to believe this announcement came completely out of the blue? The position in the school as a result of increased admissions has been known for sometime.

"There are too many students travelling to Sittingbourne schools by bus. Part of the long-term answer must be to enhance the standing of the Sheppey school to disincentivise the daily exodus from the Island.

The A2 at Sittingbourne could become a coach park. Picture: Google
The A2 at Sittingbourne could become a coach park. Picture: Google

"This is a complex situation not only involving highways but also education.

"I am asking for an embargo on the decision for the sake of more open and inclusive consultation."

The Oasis Academy on Sheppey has been rated "required improvement" by Ofsted. It's new head Tina Lee is trying to improve the school and has recently merged its two sites into one.

Which buses will stop where

Stop 1

328 - Sittingbourne, Upchurch, Rainham

372 - Upchurch, Lower Halstow, Sittingbourne

IB1 - Halfway, Sheerness, Minster, Sittingbourne schools

Stop 2

370W - West Minster, Sheerness, Minster, Thistle Hill, Sittingbourne

Stop 3

332 - Deans Bottom, Stockbury, Yelsted, Sittingbourne schools

370H - West Minster, Sheerness, Iwade. Kemsley. Sittingbourne schools

Stop 4

370L - Leysdown, Eastchurch, Minster, Thistle Hill, Sittingbourne schools

Stop 5

341 - Sheerness, iwade, Sittingbourne, Northwood Drive

321 - Iwade, Kemsley, Sittingbourne schools

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.

Read more: All the latest news from the Isle of Sheppey

Read more: All the latest news from Sittingbourne

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