Buses banned from stopping at Potteries Museum - and now schools are cancelling Staffordshire Hoard trips
COACHES taking schoolchildren and tourists to see the Staffordshire Hoard have been banned from stopping outside the region's biggest museum.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is warning coach drivers they will be hit with parking tickets for dropping off visitors at bus stops outside the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Bethesda Street, Hanley.
They are instead being ordered to drop off coach loads at Piccadilly – forcing visiting groups to walk to the museum – and park up in Clough Street.
The Sentinel has learned schools have started cancelling trips over safety fears, forcing the council to admit it is rethinking its new rules.
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Changes being imposed to cut congestion ahead of the opening of the new city centre bus station will also see coach drivers warned they face fines for using city centre bus lanes.
Local bus services will be allowed to stop on Bethesda Street, which will become a main bus route when Hanley's new station finally opens.
Stoke-on-Trent District Disability Network said the decision, combined with the withdrawal of disabled parking spaces on Bethesda Street, will make the museum 'virtually inaccessible'.
Network vice-chairman Pam Bryan, a former school teacher, of Weston Coyney, said: "It is absolutely ridiculous. I just cannot understand it.
"Coach drivers are not asking to park for hours – they just want to drop off visitors at the bus stops which are already there.
"If I was arranging to take a party of children to the museum I would have to think again because of the risk assessment. I took groups of 30 children there as a teacher and it is hard enough making sure they can safely cross one road.
"We are talking about a renowned museum with brilliant exhibitions which the council is making virtually inaccessible."
Doug Wardle, founder and former owner of the Wardle Transport bus company, said he would raise the issue as chairman of the City Centre Partnership.
He added: "More consultation between the council and the coach operators is needed to get this ironed out and I'll be raising it at the next meeting."
Peter Vigurs, deputy chairman of the Friends of Potteries Museum charity, said: "It's very frustrating to think that the previously very good access to the building has been compromised.
"It is very common to see disabled visitors as, unlike some museums, it is very easy for them to get around inside.
"School parties had started to cancel and the manager is very concerned about that, to put it mildly, and it has been raised."
The city council has now pledged to review the new rules to find a 'workable solution' for schools and is considering new disabled parking spaces near the entrance to the museum's cafe.
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transport, said: "The changes to bus routes mean some local buses on scheduled services use the two new bus stops directly outside the museum.
"If coaches use these stops as well it creates problems for normal services, because of the length of time that they take to load and unload."