ANGRY parents and councillors in Badminton are contesting a council decision which will force young children to walk on an unlit, rural road to school.

Following changes to its discretionary school transport policy in June, South Gloucestershire Council has announced that pupils at Trinity Primary School in Acton Turville who live in Badminton will now have to walk the two miles to school or face paying expensive fares.

The authority is abandoning the free transport it has historically provided in a move branded ‘disappointing’.

Cllr Sue Hope (Lib Dem, Cotswold Edge), who has previously fought to save free school transport between the two villages, said: "The council says it does not consider it is a hazardous route.

"It is quite a long way, the pavement is very narrow and it is now lit so at this time of year it is practically dark at 3.30pm.

"I am really contesting that it is a safe route to school."

The Gazette understands nine children will be affected by the decision and their families will be asked to pay £360 a year for bus travel.

There is no primary school in Badminton but under local authority rules, children aged eight and under are expected to walk anything up to two miles to school and for children aged over eight it can be up to three miles before free bus travel will be provided. The distance between Acton Turville and Badminton is approximately two miles.

Added Cllr Hope: "There is a footpath but it is unlit. We are talking about primary school children here.

"This is just going to encourage more people to drive to Acton Turville and therefore aggravating the residents of the village more than they at the moment. It is a very disappointing decision."

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesman said: "Following a committee decision to remove discretionary free transport from home to school earlier this year, we have already carried out an assessment of the route from Badminton to Trinity School in Acton Turville.

"There is a footpath along the full distance of the route, and the measured route is below the statutory walking distance, making it a safe walking route to school.

"Parents of children affected have been notified of the decision well in advance of September 2013 when the change comes into effect. From this date, parents will either have to pay for transport to school or make alternative arrangements."