A GROUP of parents have won their fight for free school transport after the Ombudsman ruled the county council was at fault .

The families, who live in Whitwell-on-the-Hill, made an appeal last year after their were told their school bus service to Welburn Primary was being withdrawn leaving children to walk an 'horrendous and unsafe' route

After their second appeal as turned down by North Yorkshire County Council they matter was referred to the Local Government Ombudsman who said there was a fault in the way the school transport appeal committee had considered their appeals and free transport should be restored.

Michelle Bertucci, one of the parents said they were 'elated and relieved'.

"It has been extremely stressful and has taken a lot of time and effort but we are delighted with the outcome," she added.

"We have had a very long drawn out battle with the council with myself and another parent spent hours trawling the internet, writing letters, visiting MP's."

Mrs Bertucci said: "It has caused a lot of sleepless nights but we want other parents who may be in the same situation to know what can be achieved and if they want any help and advice we are quite happy to push them in the right direction.

Last year the county council told families living in Whitwell-on-the-Hill, that because the village is within two miles of the school, they were responsible for transport arrangements and the route is considered to be safe to walk if the children are accompanied.

However parents argued that the route was very uneven, had no street lighting and was often knee-deep in water.

In a report, the Ombudsman considered evidence given by the parents and also brought into question the conduct of the county council in the appeal process.

He concluded that the council was at fault in its decision-making process and councillors should receive training before taking part in appeal committees.

"Provision of free transport for the current school year will provide a remedy to this complaint," the report said.

"The council has confirmed that it will consider the individual characteristics of walking routes carefully before withdrawing bus passes in the future."

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council said: “North Yorkshire considered the route to be a safe walk to school but accepts the findings of the Ombudsman and will continue to provide bus passes for the children. We have no plans to remove free transport from the families concerned or to review the route again at this time.”

Anyone who would like to contact Michelle Bertucci can do so by emailing karen.darley@gazetteherald.co.uk or phone 01653 695600.