Flintshire politicians, Council, and Welsh Government in talks to find ‘pragmatic approach’ for changing more roads back to 30mph
Three local Labour politicians are getting Flintshire Council and Welsh Government round the table to “ensure a more pragmatic approach is taken to new 20mph limits.”
Welsh Government’s controversial 20mph speed limit has been under growing pressure to scrap the restriction which came into force on September 17.
A petition has been tabled in the Senedd to scrap the “disastrous” 20mph law on restricted roads in Wales. It has received nearly 450,000 signatures.
Earlier this week, a vote of no confidence in the minister behind the 20mph speed limit has failed.
The Welsh Conservatives tabled the vote against Lee Waters, deputy minister for climate change, in response to the growing number of signatures on a petition calling for the Welsh Government to axe the new speed limit.
The petition has seen more signatures from the Alyn and Deeside and Delyn constituencies than anywhere else in Wales.
Earlier this week the Leader of Labour-controlled Flintshire Council, Cllr Ian Roberts defended the Welsh Government’s 20mph policy, stating it was part of the Welsh Labour manifesto before the last Senedd election.
He stated: “People need to understand the policies they are voting for.”
Buckley was an initial testbed for the 20mph policy, however Lee Waters MS admitted they got it wrong there by imposing a blanket 20mph speed limit change to all roads.
However, the ‘trial’ sparked a fierce backlash in Buckley, with residents arguing that it has led to road rage incidents, as well as an increase in pollution and fuel costs.
Calls were made for the main arterial roads through the town to return to 30mph after the blanket 20mph limit was imposed.
Following feedback, Flintshire Council reviewed several roads in and around Buckley, identifying a number that either meet an ‘exception’ criteria to the 20mph speed limit restriction or qualify for reassessment as 40mph zones.
Taking the ‘learning’ from this, Welsh Government gave all councils the opportunity to opt out some roads where it was felt the 20mph reduction wasn’t appropriate.
Flintshire County Council undertook an assessment of local roads against the Welsh Government’s 20mph exceptions criteria.
Twelve sections of road including Liverpool Road in Buckley, St Davids Park, Ewloe and Queensferry Roundabout met the criteria and will revert back to 30mph once signs have been erected.
Across Wales, many local authorities have already varied a significant number of roads back to 30mph where this makes practical sense, these include Swansea, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Carmarthenshire.
Powys Council is looking at around 140 exceptions where the new speed limit will be reversed back to 30mph.
Alyn and Deeside’s Welsh Parliament member Jack Sargeant MS, MP Mark Tami and Carolyn Thomas MS will hold roundtable talks with the local authority and Welsh Government to discuss the possibility of reverting more roads back to 30mph in Flintshire.
In a joint statement, the politicians said: “We have facilitated a meeting between Flintshire Council and the Welsh Government to seek to move towards a more pragmatic approach where more roads are brought back to 30mph in Flintshire.”
Jack Sargeant said: “I have been listening to the concerns of local residents and, as I have said in the Senedd, we need an approach that is responsive to the requests of our local community.”
The Alyn and Deeside MS has previously advocated in the Senedd for the Welsh Government to work closely with councils on this process, citing the example of Buckley in his constituency as a pilot area where the need for exemptions was evident.
Answering a question earlier this week, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, acknowledged the challenges and learnings from the pilot run in Flintshire.
He highlighted the importance of trying different approaches and learning from failures to ensure the effectiveness and appropriateness of the speed limits.
The Deputy Minister expressed his commitment to working through the issues in the next stage, ensuring that local authorities have the confidence and clarity needed to apply exceptions where necessary.
He said: “In terms of the pilot we ran in Flintshire, the whole point of a pilot is to try things, and part of trying involves failing and learning from the failure, and I don’t see any problem with that.”
“In fact, that’s the whole point of doing it. Now, we decided in different settlements to trial different approaches. So, in some areas, we trialled monitoring, in some, we trialled enforcement. In the case of Buckley, we decided to trial the exceptions procedure.”
“Now, there was a debate about whether or not we should allow some exceptions within Buckley as part of that trial, or to take an area-wide approach, and it was decided, for the purposes of testing that approach, to take an area-wide approach.”
“Now, I think that Buckley has shown that an area-wide approach does not work, and the exceptions procedure is best used, particularly for communities like Buckley, where part of the road goes through almost a semi-rural area, where there aren’t any houses, and another through Liverpool Road, through far more dense population.”
“So, it’s a really tricky example—we probably couldn’t have chosen a more difficult area to pilot the exceptions, frankly.”
“We also had some real difficulties with the local authority, who were very nervous about moving away from the strict letter of the guidance, because they have had a number of legal challenges from retired highway officers, and they wanted to make sure that there was no room for further challenge on their part.”
“Now, I’m pleased to say that, as a result of the whole process of working with them closely, we have given them confidence to apply a number of exceptions through Buckley that the pilot project showed us were worthwhile.”
“I’m disappointed they haven’t felt able to apply their own process themselves through the rest of Flintshire, and they still require, I think, some confidence about the extent to which they might be liable to legal challenge in the event of a collision.”
“And that’s one of the issues we now need to work through in the next stage. But it’s not the case that they’re not able to apply exceptions, because, if they had, how could they have applied the ones they have applied in Buckley?” Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com