FAMILIES from a West Devon village are pressing for extra support so their children do not lose out from the closure of a bridge which results in a considerably longer trip to school.

The closure of Denham Bridge over the River Tavy for several weeks has affected 20 families with 31 children from the Bere Peninsula who attend St Andrew’s Primary School, Buckland Monachorum.

The three-mile trip from villages such as Bere Alston and Bere Ferrers has now been extended four times by the necessary diversion forced by the bridge closure. It has been closed for two weeks now after being badly damaged by two crashes. The county council is preparing to repair the bridge and it is likely to be closed until the end of March.

Parents are asking for flexible schooling and group bus transport for the affected children because of the affect of increased mileage, the extra time taken and cost.

Children are also affected because they arrive home later and have to leave home earlier. Stress is affecting families, especialy those with working parents. They are now lobbying councillors at parish, district, and county level in order to try and get help with transport.

During the week beginning January 22, Denham Bridge was hit by two vehicles in two separate incidents, with the second on Friday 26 resulting in closure of the bridge to all traffic.

Parent Chris Smart said: “This closure, whilst of course necessary, is impacting on a community of road users who use this route. One specific user group are children and parents attending St Andrew’s C of E Primary School, Buckland Monachorum. The typical journey from Bere Alston is three miles, taking ten minutes each way, via Denham Bridge. The shortest route via Tavistock is now 12 miles, and takes upwards of 30 minutes driving each way.

“For parents driving to Buckland Monachorum and then returning to Bere Ferrers, the total door-to-door school journey now takes upwards of 1hr and 30 minutes, twice daily, up from 45 minutes.

“This is further exacerbated by multiple sets of traffic lights between Tavistock and Yelverton. In the week of January 29 with gas main renewal in Tavistock, the return journey was taking up to two hours.”

Parents have asked for the option to provide education from home for a day or two a week in order to reduce the burden of the long commute.

Chris said that option worked for his family because his wife works part-time, but many other will not be able to take up this optin because they cannot work from home. Chris said the local education authority informed St Andrew’s School it will not consider flexible schooling or provide group transport for children.

“We, as parents, urge all parties, Devon County Council and West Devon Borough Council in particular, to reconsider and come to the aid of the 20 affected families by providing a group travel option ie bus or coach to and from school for the 31 children.”

He added: “Severe impacts are being felt on parent’s work, an increase in school commute time by 1.5-2hrs a day is unsustainable for working parents and finances – the increased costs of driving.

“Children’s wellbeing is affected by spending longer stuck in cars, leaving early and getting home late. This will be the case regardless of the means of transport until and affect siblings under school age who can ’t be left at home. Both of my children are now complaining daily about the journeys, and having to get up earlier and get home later. We as parents are exhausted by it. I’m having to catch up on work at night. Increased tiredness, stress, and worry is not conducive to a happy family life.”

He said he thinks the headteacher of St Andrews is awaiting a reply from various parts of DCC about the matter but as it stands if parents do not take their children to school it is classed as unauthorised absence.