FURIOUS parents have accused council bosses of a “putting children at risk” forcing them to walk through a park where an Irvine mum was murdered after they axed a vital school bus.

Parents of Greenwood Academy pupils have blasted North Ayrshire Council for failing to carry out a proper risk assessment of the 2.8mile walking route they identified for pupils in place of the free bus.

The route - which would see children walking almost three miles from Lawthorn and Perceton through dense wooded, overgrown and unlit areas through Bourtreehill Park - has parents terrified their children will come to harm - with one parent even citing the unsolved murder of Irvine mum Shona Stevens.

At a public meeting last Friday, parent Phill Pitt said Lawthorn and Perceton Parent Group have repeatedly asked for an independent risk assessment done but says the council have not provided one.

“They have failed to provide us with a proper risk assessment even though we have directly asked for one. They say they have done a ‘route assessment’, but that is not the same thing. We have asked for an independent risk assessment done by an outsider, but they haven’t bothered and keep just fobbing us off.

“We don’t feel this route is safe and neither do our children. Let’s not forget this is the exact area Shona Stevens was murdered in broad daylight- and her killer still hasn’t been caught, yet the expect 11-year-old to walk that twice a day.”

Another parent, who asked not to be named said he was outraged at the council “putting children at risk”.

He said: “North Ayrshire Council have a very flippant attitude towards the safety of our children. “The council are knowingly putting our children at risk by allowing them to walk this route. When asked by the Times, the Council still did not confirm whether they had carried out an official risk assessment.

A spokesman said: “The council has engaged with Police Scotland and the Community Safety Team in reaching its decision. Both Police Scotland and our Community Safety Specialists have carried out an assessment which was distributed to the Parent Council Meeting on Monday 21 August 2017.

“It is our position that whilst risks can never be completely alleviated, the suggested routes remain appropriate.” Parents say they have had mixed messaged from the council over their reasons to axe the bus.

One parent said: “We have been told it was financial but then we have been told it’s not about money, it’s about entitlement and our kids don’t ‘qualify’ because the route is less than three miles.”

However parents then accused council chiefs of “moving the goal posts” on the distance. They say the bus was first instated 11 years ago because the distance measured over three miles, but NAC have changed the finish destination to stop at the school gates - making it fall just below the three miles cut off - meaning they have no legal obligation to provide a free bus.

One parent said: “It used to be the distance from the bus stop to the school door, but it’s now only to the first part of the school gate. That seems preposterous to me, kids don’t start classes at the school gate, teachers don’t start teaching at the school gate, so as far as I’m concerned that can’t be a true refection of them having arrived at school.”

A spokesman for NAC denied ‘moving the goalposts’ however did admit to changing the entrance gate at the school - thus making the distance shorter - but said it was at the parents request. He added: “Our policy is that we measure to the nearest school gate. This is done when assessing all routes across schools in North Ayrshire.”

Councillor Angela Stephen was at the meeting and admitted the bus was cut due to cash problems.

She said: “If I could wave a magic wand the bus would be back on, but it all comes down to money. They were just about to buy the Rivergate for £55million, but they say they still don’t have money for this bus.”

Councillor Stephen - who was the only member of North Ayrshire Council who attended the meeting, despite 12 NAC representatives being invited - also admitted that she lives in Bourtreehill and feels unsafe in parts of the park.

She said: “There’s only certain parts of the Bourtreehill Park I would walk my dog in because there’s always that bit in the back of my mind that it’s not safe.

“I know the council should be doing more to protect children and I am 100 percent behind this.”