A small laneway divides the grounds of Our Lady of the Way primary school in Emu Plains, but the lane’s possible closure has divided the community.
Mackay Lane runs between Mackay Street and Troy Street and was dedicated and registered as a local road in May 1997.
However, a request for closure of Mackay Lane was made to Penrith Council by the school’s principal in June 2013 in response to child safety and security concerns that had emerged.
The school owns the land on either side of the laneway, with a playground and carpark on one block and the school’s buildings on the other.
Since August 2012 there have been four incidents of loitering in the area and since July 2012 there have been 12 incidents of graffiti and malicious damage to school property.
In October 2013, there was a notable incident where a motorcycle, whilst being pursued by police, drove through the laneway narrowly missing school children.
“This public laneway runs directly through the school grounds and I admit it is a unique situation,” said principal Sue Veling, who joined the school this year.
“There have been a number of concerning incidents at the school and so the closure of the lane is a matter of safety for the 380 children who attend.”
She said currently the school has no way to stop trespassers, no way to stop non-custodial parents from trying to access their children and no way to stop illegal acts such as vandalism.
However, several residents informed Council that the lane is a necessity.
“I would like to see the laneway kept open because I use it very regularly with my two young children during the day to walk to the shops or playground,” said resident Carmel Mifsud.
“Other routes along Russell Street are more dangerous, the footpaths are usually blocked by bins or school students and the cars travel much faster along there.”
Fellow resident, Narelle Jarman, said her family had lived in neighbouring Dukes Place for three generations and that the laneway was vital for elderly residents.
“As people are selling off their homes, developers are coming in and building town houses, which are being taken up by the elderly,” she said.
“The lane is vital for them to access the shops safely due to the traffic issues also created by school parents in the area.”
Cr Karen McKeown said that the school had knowingly purchased the blocks on either side of the laneway.
“At the time the Catholic church reassured residents and school parents that having the laneway in the middle of the school grounds would be manageable,” she said.
“It is not good enough for the school to now say it cannot be managed when it has always been public land.”
Council voted on Monday evening to keep the laneway open for public use.
“We are very disappointed with the outcome of our application for the physical closure of Mackay Lane, Emu Plains. At present Our Lady of the Way school is in discussion with the Catholic Education Office, Parramatta for alternate options for the security of its students and staff,” Ms Veling said.