A BRIDGE that has protected hundreds of pupils from A40 traffic is set to be demolished on safety grounds.

The footbridge outside Burford School in West Oxfordshire was built decades ago, after a child was fatally struck while crossing the busy road.

It was closed by Oxfordshire County Council in November, after the structure was deemed unsafe, and a temporary crossing controlled with traffic lights was installed.

On Wednesday a child was hit just around the corner, while crossing the A361, fuelling concerns about the conflict between traffic and pedestrians.

Now the council has revealed that it plans to demolish the bridge and replace it with a puffin crossing.

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Mayor of Burford and town councillor John White told the Oxford Mail: "This idea is penny-pinching and playing with children's lives.

"All along, the town council and the school have said they want the bridge rebuilt."

He said it was most likely the expense that was putting the county council off.

One pupil's mother, commenting on Facebook this week, said: "Cars go way too fast near both entrances [the A40 and A361].

"It’s only a matter of time before a child gets killed unless the council takes steps to improve safety."

Another added: "People drive like maniacs down there.

"Even if you are sensible crossing the road, there's a huge risk because both entrances are near a busy roundabout."

The county council closed the footbridge over the A40, Oxford Road, after the structure was repeatedly clipped by lorries.

A spokesman for the authority said: "Following a number of bridge strikes from vehicles, the integrity of the bridge has been significantly reduced.

"In order to reduce any risk to pedestrians using the bridge, it was decided to close the bridge and install a temporary signalised crossing.

"The bridge is due to be demolished in the next couple of months and work to install a new permanent crossing is planned to start in July 2020."

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It has unveiled a proposal to replace the bridge with a puffin crossing, as well as reducing the speed limit in the area.

A concerned mother, who asked not to be named, contacted the Oxford Mail with concerns.

She said: "The pedestrian bridge was quite simply the safest way to usher hundreds of children across the road.

"Putting a new puffin crossing in the bridge's place is like putting a crossing on the M1 - I am speechless at the lack of common sense.

"It's farcical."

Burford School is a state secondary school, which teaches almost 1,400 pupils.

The A361 was partially blocked on Wednesday, and there were reports on social media that a boy had been hit by a car while crossing.

It is not thought that anyone was seriously injured.

The county council clarified that it is 'undertaking works' to remove the footbridge, and that it is consulting on plans for other safety measures in the area.

A spokesman added: "Neither of these things appear to be connected to the accident which took place on the A361.

"As with any accident we will receive information from the police, and consider whether anything should be done in response."

The council's new proposals include a 20mph limit in the town centre, a 30mph limit on part of the A361, and a 30mph on part of the A40 instead of the existing 40mph limit.

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Consultation documents state: "The proposed measures are aimed at ensuring that danger is minimised whilst facilitating the effective and safe passage of traffic."

The council's proposal was triggered by road safety concerns raised by Burford Town Council.

Mr White said when the temporary crossing was first installed, it was radio-controlled and would often fail due to interference from RAF Brize Norton traffic.

Teachers reportedly had to pull on high-visibility jackets and stop traffic themselves to ensure pupils had safe passage.

The issue has since been fixed, Mr White understands.

Burford School sent parents a letter about the proposal on Wednesday, highlighting that the footbridge is not due to be replaced.

It advised parents to respond to the consultation if they had a view about the plans.

A puffin crossing differs from a pelican crossing because it has sensors which detect pedestrians in the road as well as while they are waiting, to ensure the lights are only red when they need to be.

Consultation closes on Friday – see consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk for details.