A popular plan for a new car park for a west Belfast primary school has been approved by Belfast City Councilors after a headteacher said it was about “when, not if, a child will be injured by traffic on Springfield Road”.

The application for a site visit by councilors was delayed compared to last year, but at the recent meeting of Belfast City Council’s planning committee, elected officials unanimously agreed to provide a 24-space car park for Springfield Primary School, including road access and fencing.

The site is at 425 Springfield Road and the application is being made by the Colin Bingham Education Authority, Armagh. The plan calls for a new exit from a nearby roundabout to the proposed car park.

The motion was recommended by city officials despite violating city policies related to loss of zoned commercial land, loss of open space, access, traffic, parking, drainage and flood risk.

Headteacher Mr Osborne told the committee: “I go out twice in the morning and once in the afternoon and I see cars trying to go around the lollipop lady while children are crossing the road. We have seven parking spaces plus one disabled parking space.

“We’ve tried everything, we’ve tried taking kids to the playground, nothing seems to work. We have a bike park at the school, which we provided ourselves. We always try to encourage the kids to ride to school , but then they have to cycle on Springfield Road, which is one of the main roads to Belfast.”

He said: “After the pandemic, our school was chosen for the minister to come and welcome the children. Two days before, perpetrators knocked down a telegraph pole right in front of the school and I had to make sure everything was cleaned up at the weekend so that the minister and the media could come. It’s constant.”

He said: “Our children come to the breakfast club and walk up the hill as staff try to get to the school to park. This is in addition to the cars driving to work on Springfield Road at this time of the morning.

“Seven parking spaces plus one disabled space for staff to store all this stuff – it’s not enough.”

He added: “For me it’s not important if a child gets hurt, it’s when. Our lollipop lady had to pull children while the cars drove down Springfield Road. And they really don’t care. The PSNI came to us in September and they were shocked by what they saw.”

According to the Council’s planning report: “The loss of working land is relatively small and there is a sufficient supply of working land in the area. (It) is believed not to outweigh the benefits of the program in terms of improving road safety for children, parents and staff and reducing rush hour congestion. The proposal is considered acceptable in the planning balance sheet.”

Stormont’s Roads and Rivers Infrastructure Department did not object to the proposal, subject to certain conditions. No objections were received from third parties against the proposal from residents or companies.

235 messages of support were received, including 26 letters from staff, individual letters from students and parents, two emails from parents to the principal expressing safety concerns, a group letter from the student council, a letter from the Governor of Springfield Elementary School, and a Letter from family support groups.

Summarizing the support, the council’s planning report said: “Springfield Road, as a major artery, has a high rate of accidents, speeding and car accidents, exacerbated by neighboring police and fire stations and the university. Child safety must take precedence over zoning.

“Continuous complaints from neighbors about parking – off-street parking should be viewed positively. Between December 2010 and November 2020, there were 186 road deaths between Isadore Avenue and Mill Race, according to PSNI statistics. The lack of parking places forces cars to park along the street, which forces pushchairs and wheelchairs from the footpath to the street. This proposal creates a safe place to drop off/pick up children.”