Pupils' safety 'put at risk'
A HEADTEACHER has claimed that children's safety has been compromised by changes to the road network in the city centre to accommodate John Lewis.
As part of the alternations for the arrival of the department store, traffic is now being diverted away from the city centre down Longbrook Road and York Road and directly past St Sidwell Primary School.
The school said the increase in traffic had been "huge" and their worst fears over the added danger were confirmed just days into the new term when a four-year-old girl was knocked over just outside its gates.
Emergency services were called to the school at 8.42am on Friday, September 14, after reception pupil Yalda was hit by a car while using the zebra crossing with her mother Anisa Alizada.
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She was taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital for precautionary checks but escaped with just minor injuries.
The road was cleared just before 9.30am. Ms Alizada said: "I was hit in the shoulder and then my daughter was hit and rolled in the street. I was very shocked and very scared. I pulled my daughter towards me and clung to her.
"She had injuries to her head and knee but was well enough to return to school on Tuesday.
"I am still very shocked by it all and I cannot sleep very well.
"I would like to urge everyone to slow down especially when they are approaching the zebra crossing in front of the school."
The incident was an accident waiting to happen according to the school's headteacher Anne Hood who said it highlighted the increased risk to pupil safety.
She said: "There is a huge amount of traffic here now. The whole area has been re-done with the arrival of John Lewis in mind and they have rerouted traffic that used to go up Sidwell Street through York Road.
"It has had a huge difference in the volume of traffic and they narrowed the road as they thought it would slow people down. But it has just made it more dangerous.
"It is very busy at peak times. The council have put in a zebra crossing but we did ask for a pelican crossing but the authorities would have to fund that.
"We would also like to have a lollipop lady, which we recently lost, that would help matters."
School governor Jackie Willey said they warned the council in advance of the changes about the risks. She said: "From the outset a lot of people said it was ridiculous to reroute the traffic past the school. It is a shame it is not just temporary while the John Lewis work was done.
"Apparently outside the old Debenhams was a hotspot for accidents but how long until we become a hotspot? This will happen again and maybe next time it will be more serious.
"This has all come down to money and the cheaper option was a zebra crossing. What is the cost of a child's life and how many accidents have we got to have outside the school before something is done?
"When John Lewis opens it will only get worse. We will have all the lorries that have to go to the back of John Lewis and then all the cars travelling to park at King William, which is currently closed.
"All the authorities have bent over backwards to bring John Lewis to Exeter and give them what they want. Yet surely the safety of children is of more importance."
A Devon County Council spokesperson said: "We have been working with the school, local community and representatives from the Mosque to improve pedestrian routes in the York Road area, and to help reduce the impact of traffic diverted from New North Road.
"One of the decisions supported by the community included relocating the zebra crossing from the bottom of York Road near Longbrook Street to a more convenient crossing point for parents and children outside the school. We will continue to work with the school to help recruit a school crossing patrol."