Published: 17:05, 17 October 2019
| Updated: 18:54, 17 October 2019
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
"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."
Which buses will stop where
328 - Sittingbourne, Upchurch, Rainham
372 - Upchurch, Lower Halstow, Sittingbourne
IB1 - Halfway, Sheerness, Minster, Sittingbourne schools
370W - West Minster, Sheerness, Minster, Thistle Hill, Sittingbourne
332 - Deans Bottom, Stockbury, Yelsted, Sittingbourne schools
370H - West Minster, Sheerness, Iwade. Kemsley. Sittingbourne schools
370L - Leysdown, Eastchurch, Minster, Thistle Hill, Sittingbourne schools
341 - Sheerness, iwade, Sittingbourne, Northwood Drive
321 - Iwade, Kemsley, Sittingbourne schools
More by this authorJohn Nurden