Museum bus ban U-turn
COUNCIL bosses have performed a U-turn on controversial plans to stop coaches carrying tourists and school children from stopping outside a city centre museum.
Headteachers began cancelling school trips to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery's Staffordshire Hoard exhibition after Stoke-on-Trent City Council banned coaches from stopping outside the Bethesda Street attraction.
The authority imposed the ban as part of its bus lane overhaul ahead of the opening of Hanley's new bus station opening, which is scheduled for next month.
Bethesda Street is to become a main thoroughfare for local bus services and the council said regular passengers could face delays if coaches continue using the bus stops to drop off museum visitors.
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Instead they were ordered to drop off passengers at Piccadilly, in move that teachers said was impractical and unsafe to lead large groups of children across main roads.
Now the city council has said coaches can drop passengers off on Bethesda Street, provided that they wait for 'no longer than necessary' and move to park up on Hinde Street or Clough Street.
The U-turn comes after mounting criticism of the ban.
Stoke-on-Trent District Disability Network had said the decision, combined with the withdrawal of disabled parking spaces on Bethesda Street, would make the museum 'virtually inaccessible'.
David Moreley, from Nottingham, led members of the University of the Third Age on a coach trip to the Potteries Museum in January.
Mr Moreley said the group, made up of 32 pensioners, had a 'nightmare' trying to find somewhere to park.
He said: "Despite bringing sat navs and maps we drove around for at least half an hour trying to find somewhere suitable to park. We were informed of a park and ride site but it was much too far away for us to walk to the museum.
"We were surprised and annoyed to find no facilities had been provided for the drop off of large or small groups and their means of transport.
"In the end we took the risk of dropping off and Tesco came to the rescue.
"The manager there was very kind and let us park there but there's no way the pensioners in the group would have been able to walk there if there had been ice on the roads. Stoke-on-Trent will suffer a serious drop in visitor numbers unless someone gets to grip with the problem very quickly."
Tina Mizen, from Meir Hay, visited the museum with children Fred, aged two and Daisy, aged five months.
The 34-year-old said: "If you're elderly or disabled it could be quite difficult to find a parking spot and make your way down, or climb the hill from Tesco."
A council spokesman said: "As a result of concerns expressed by schools about coaches not being able to stop in front of the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, the council has reviewed the issues which led to coaches being prohibited from using Bethesda Street and the new bus stops in front of the museum.
"All other bus stops in the city centre will still be restricted to local buses only and coaches will not be able to use them."