THERE ARE concerns over the potential environmental impact of cuts to school buses that could put hundreds of cars on the road.

As previously reported in the Gazette, Hampshire County Council (HCC) have been considering cuts to services from Hook to Robert May’s School in Odiham, creating a safe walking route instead.

However, a group of parents have said that they feel that the route is unsafe, and that most parents would instead drive their children to school instead, putting hundreds more cars on the roads, creating traffic chaos and damaging the environment.

“The route is unsafe on so many levels,” said Samantha Vinten, from the group Positive Action Against Transport Cuts (PAATC).

She expressed concerns that the hour-long walking route crosses the M3, the A287 and Bartley Heath, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, adding that during the winter months, it will be dark when children walk it.

According to their research, darkness will continue past the point that pupils will have to start walking to school for 18 school weeks of the year.

An impact assessment provided to the group from consultancy firm Decarbonize, estimated that 157 more cars would be put on the roads, creating 1,567 extra kilometres of distance travelled by parents and adding another 273 kilograms of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, per day.

“HCC’s proposal to cut the school bus service clearly falls short of the government’s clean air initiatives and is focused solely on the short-term cost savings without understanding or mitigating the greater implications to increases in outdoor air pollutions and its longer-term effects on global climate change,” the PAATC report to HCC says.

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “We can confirm that plans for a walking route are still under discussion and no final decisions have been made. If the route and funding are agreed later in the spring, works would be undertaken to make the route suitable for use all year round and would include drainage and improvements to Holt Lane and the footpath south of the M3 motorway to Darby Lane; as well as highways improvements at the crossing points on Station Road and the A287 (at the Newlyns Farm Roundabout).

“Improvements to the pathway across Bartley Heath would also be put in place; this would encourage the public to stay on the right of way and reduce impact on the surrounding heathland.”