Why these frustrated Sharow parents want to build a car park

Katerina Gilbert with parents and pupils on the car park. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Katerina Gilbert with parents and pupils on the car park. Picture: Tony Johnson.

The hazards of the school run – and the resulting traffic nightmare – have been well documented with schools across the country drawing up ‘safety charters’ and even introducing outright driving bans.

Now, a group of frustrated parents in a North Yorkshire village have taken matters into their own hands and come up with a novel idea - to buy their own car park.

The church and village of Sharow, near Ripon, has rallied and, with the support of Heritage Lottery Grants, secured a space for a £100,000 community car park. Now, parents have set up a crowdfunding page to source the final £30,000.

“We had to do something, we just felt it was really unsafe for the children,” said fundraiser Katerina Gilbert, treasurer of Sharow School Parent Teacher Association (PTA). “We don’t even have a lollipop lady.

“We’ve been trying for two years to get somewhere, but it’s such a struggle. There’s only a very narrow lane in the village and that’s where everybody has to park.

“Police have been called a number of times – people just aren’t happy with parents parking there.

“This would solve everyone’s issues. The whole community will benefit. And with the economy at the moment, we have to take control and do it ourselves. There’s no point waiting around for someone else to do something.”

The narrow 30mph lane outside Sharow Primary School and it’s neighbouring St John’s Church is constantly blocked at school pick up and drop times as anxious parents collect their children, Mrs Gilbert has said. But the increasing popularity of the church, following a massive modernisation project, means that parking is becoming more of an issue as more people are visiting.

“There are 90 pupils at the school but, because of the catchment area, parents come from all over,” said Mrs Gilbert, 43, who has two sons aged seven and 10. “This is a busy road. It can be very dangerous.

“The school has helped, changing children’s pick up and drop off times. They have tried to break up the congestion times. But you’re still really vulnerable walking with children.

“I could never take my younger son on the school run in his pushchair, we couldn’t have fit past the cars parked on the side of the road.”

The church’s recent modernisation project which helped to make it so popular was made possible with £165,000 raised by villagers. It also included a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £520,000 – £39,000 of which will go towards creating the car park.

“It was the church that suggested it,” said Mrs Gilbert. “Now that it’s used so much, we need a car park more than ever.

“We and St John’s Church sat down with the teachers and the parish council and said how can we turn those fields into a community car park. It’s a big cost – £90,000 to £100,000.

“So we, as a few parents, started fundraising.”

The PTA has held an auction of promises, which raised £10,000. Sharow Parish Council has contributed, as has Harrogate Borough Council. Now, more than 60 per cent of the sum total has been found, with £30,000 to go.

“The bid was successful – but it’s based on match funding and without the rest we can’t do much,” said Mrs Gilbert. “If we don’t meet the 50 per cent match funding requirement, the project risks being called off. So we thought about crowdfunding.

“Maybe I am too optimistic. But hopefully we will be able to get this development off the ground. The aim is to start work in April.

“It’s a new way to tackle this issue. It’s a new way to protect the children. But it will make a huge difference.”

Parking on the school run has long been an issue of contention, as few schools prepare spaces for the deluge of cars which appear for 10 minute intervals twice a day.

In many areas, police have become involved, with regular letters to parents warning them of the dangers of obstruction.

And in one school, in Solihull, councillors have even agreed to trial a driving ban – with any motorist ignoring the order to face a £70 fine. In Sharow, the plan to convert an old field into a community car park for the village is reliant on donations and fundraising. To find out more visit www.spacehive.com/sharow-community-car-park-on-the-green.

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