Stop the Welsh Government imposing 20 mph speed restrictions

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The Welsh Government has plans to change every 30mph road in Wales to 20mph and we here in Buckley are one of 8 unluckytowns whose councils decided to sell them down the river and bid to be the “pilot towns”.

It is causing chaos, people avoiding the area and people having to take new routes.

Many of these roads aren’t suitable for a 20mph speed limit. They are busy access roads on steep hills. The lorries are struggling to get up the hills in such a low gear and sticking to such a low speed downhill is hard on the brakes. This is doing nothing to reduce emissions, instead there will be more pollution from more cars struggling in a lower gear for a longer time.

Despite the Welsh Government having spent nearly £30,000 on sinage alone, these signs have not been thought through, there are completely unnecessary signs at the start of 50m long, single track, unadopted and untarmaced roads that you physically couldn’t drive down over 10mph, and yet there is completely inadequate signage at the start and finish point on the previously 30mph main roads – people are confused and are spending so much time looking at their speedometers that it is actually a cause of dangerous driving!

It has caused bus delays; making environmental commuting more inefficient than it was before. It is also going to affect property values on specific routes and traffic to be diverted into more residential areas to bypass this limit.

There have not been high occurrence rates of road traffic accidents, deaths or injuries on roads in and around Buckley that require a change to our regular 30mph limit on these roads. It’s entirely unjustified and was not supported by the community making it a non-democratic change. The community already support the 20mph zones outside schools and other significant areas and would fully support keeping these in place.

Flintshire residents were not part of the closed Welsh Government survey, and we feel the questions asked were completely misleading. We all agree slower driving is appropriate in specific areas (schools, hospitals, around shops) but nobody supports a blanket 20mph zone across all our roads. It doesn’t make any sense and is leading to significant inconvenience, distress, and dangerous road conditions. We ask that more research is conducted, and a wider survey completed with more appropriate questions prior to this pilot taking place in Buckley. No research indicates that a 20mph limit will reduce accidents in Wales.

As you’ll know, setting speed limits should be “evidence-led and self-explaining”, according to the Department for Transport. Speed limits “should also be seen by drivers as the maximum speed rather than as a target speed at which to drive irrespective of conditions”. The evidence used in the Welsh 20mph Task Force Group Final Report appears to be based mostly on dangerously out of date research and statistics. Using a reference from 1991 to back up this statement “Child pedestrian deaths in deprived neighbourhoods are over four times those in affluent neighbourhoods.” is appallingly bad practice. If the information is older than 5 years it’s no longer current or relevant and new research studies should have been completed prior to the scheme being considered.

According to national statistics, there is one death per 20,000 cars on the road, making the UK’s road safety rating one of the highest in the world. Therefore, it is shocking that the Welsh Government would be so out of date that it would bring in a limit that was last seen in Law in 1903 (Motor Car Act). This law was scrapped when cars were made more safely with the current 30mph limit taking effect in 1934. Buckley is not alone in not wanting the 20mph limit. Motoring organisations the RAC and the AA have expressed support for 20mph limits outside schools, but completely oppose a blanket change from 30 to 20 based on their own research.

Improved road engineering, better cars and better brakes have brought about a significant decrease in deaths since 1934. These improvements have decreased accidents, not speed limits. The speed limit change in Buckley has caused more accidents in the 3 days it has been live than we would usually see in a year, including a child being hit on Bryn Road, now a 20mph. People are now spending more time looking at their speedometers than they are on the road ahead. This scheme is entirely counterproductive. The only road in Buckley to have a RTA resulting in a fatality in the last 10 years is one of only 3 roads to have had the speed limit left at 30mph.

We also feel this change is unlawful. Section 82(1)(a) (of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (RTRA 1984)) defines a restricted road in England and Wales as a road which is provided with “a system of street lighting furnished by means of lamps placed not more than 200 yards apart”. Section 81 specifically makes it an offence for a person to drive a motor vehicle at a speed of more than 30 mph on a restricted road. Therefore, whilst Wales are now able to set speed limits, what law change has taken place to make this 20mph zone legally enforceable in courts?

The signage is also not clear and given this is a brand new change, we would expect forbearance for a period of 6-12 months for residents to get used to a whole new way of driving. Especially as we live on the border of England where more sensible road speed limits currently apply meaning residents may be even more confused.

One of the biggest issues we have had with the scheme in Buckley is that Phase 2 was also not consulted on. Flintshire County Council pushed it through, opening the consultation period on the 17th December and closing it on the 7th January WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE. The county councillors didn’t know. The town councillors didn’t know. Because no one knew, no one could object. Therefore the main access roads, through roads and main commuter routes were all lowered to 20mph AGAINST the wishes of the town council.

People were also voting in favour of improved links between the primary schools and cycle paths to allow more children to be able to walk and cycle to school safely, thus also reducing congestion and emissions – this has not happened at all. Yet the Welsh Government are hell bent on “inviting the community into the roadspace” a line which no one has been able to give an explanation to as yet. The community has the pavements. The road users should have the roadspace!

We are also looking to seek legal support on the enforceability of this limit given it’s not UK Law but Devolved law. For a town on the Wales/England border, this is very confusing and dangerous.

Finally, the people of Buckley are absolutely disgusted with their MS, Jack Sargeant’s, repeated attempts to abdicate from responsibility of this scheme. This is a Welsh Government scheme, Jack is our elected Member of the Senedd, elected to represent the people of Buckley and to be their voice to feed back to the Welsh Government on issues that affect them. His copy-pasted responses denying any responsibility and offering no help or support to his electorate have been brief and disappointing. The people of Buckley already feel deeply let down by the Welsh Government in all it’s guises, we have seen no financial investment to the town centre, no youth services and despite all the lip service and fanfare, still no mobile bank.

A poll was conducted in the Facebook group over the first 3 days after the scheme went live. The results were 70% of respondents were in favour of returning the 30mph speed limit to the main access roads in and out of Buckley and the surrounding areas, such as Mold Road, Liverpool Road, Church Road and Bannel Lane and keeping the 20mph limit only outside schools and in heavily built up residential estates such as St. Matthew’s Park. 10% of people want the 20mph to stay outside schools only and almost 20% of people wanted to scrap the scheme entirely. Just two people, in a town of 21,000, were in favour of the scheme as it stands.

Calling it a “pilot scheme” is truly insulting when the government has said “20mph is a legislative change across the nation” coming into force 2023. A Pilot is done as an experiment or test, evaluating the results before making plans to implement more widely.

They made plans to implement it nationwide before the pilot was even in place.

The Task Force Group Report says that the Welsh Government should commission an independent study, five years after the implementation of the national default 20mph speed limit for restricted roads, to provide an assessment of the programme both in terms of outcomes and process. It should be recognised that the programme is an internationally-important intervention in generating data, not just for Wales.

5 years is NOT an experiment. It is not a pilot. It is not temporary. Not when the Welsh Government is aiming to achieve the following key milestones to enable a 20mph default speed limit on restricted roads to be introduced across Wales by April 2023:

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