Child forced to walk home from school along ‘dangerous’ Midhurst road

Nicola Hall and her daughter on Bepton Road
Nicola Hall and her daughter on Bepton Road

A child who lives ‘too close’ to school could have to walk down a ‘dangerous’ road alone after council officers refused to let her on a bus.

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) said 11-year-old Tabitha Hall-Parker, who lives in Severals Road, Bepton, cannot have a place on the bus to Midhurst Rother College.

Tabitha’s mother Nicola Hall said she has offered to pay for a place on the bus.

“I am a single mother and work, and I cannot pick my daughter up from school on three days of the week,” 
said Nicola.

“There is no public transport so the council has said she will need to walk along the 40mph Bepton Road by herself. I have tried to explain to them it is not a suitable road for an 11-year-old girl to walk alone. There are no street lights.

“The road is rarely used and it would only take one unsavoury person to notice that she is walking down a deserted road on her own at the same time every day.

“I cannot bear to imagine the consequences.

“I don’t expect anything for free, I have offered to pay for the whole week. The other option is for her to walk through the woods and I’m not even contemplating that.

“I don’t have an issue with her walking – it wouldn’t be a problem if we lived along a main road.”

A county council spokesperson said: “The council is responsible for providing secondary school transport only when children live more than three miles from their nearest school.

“In this case, the family home is 1.6 miles from the school and it is for the parent to make the arrangements.

“The majority of the route is a walkable path and is not regarded within the county council’s criteria as an unsafe route for a child to walk, accompanied as necessary. We do have a minibus that goes near to the family’s home but it does not have any spare places at the moment, although the pupil’s name is on our waiting list.”

Chairman of Bepton Parish Council Howard Ewing said the route was dangerous. “There is a part of the footpath outside of Bepton which becomes like a quagmire in winter – forcing walkers to step out onto the road. It is an issue that an 11-year-old girl is having to walk along that 40mph road when it gets dark.”

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