Hertfordshire councillors back 20mph zones as petition demands stop to £7million ‘mad scheme’

The petition is backed by more than 1,500 Hertfordshire residents
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Councillors have backed the county council’s £7million roll-out of 20mph zones, after being presented with a petition calling for the “wasteful spending” to be stopped.

According to budget proposals – agreed last month – the county council is set to spend £2.3milion on 20mph zones this year (24/25).

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That builds on £3million allocated for 23/24 and a further £1.7million for 25/6 – a total three-year spend of £7million.

Hertfordshire County Council were presented with the petition at a recent meeting.Hertfordshire County Council were presented with the petition at a recent meeting.
Hertfordshire County Council were presented with the petition at a recent meeting.

The county council believes the 20mph zones can create safer walking and cycling environments, while improving air quality and encouraging people to be more active.

But on Wednesday (March 12) they were presented with a petition – backed by more than 1,500 Hertfordshire residents – calling for the roll-out to stop.

It called the £7million ‘a waste on a mad scheme that few Hertfordshire residents actually want’.

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The petition was presented by John Dowdle, who suggested the 1,500 signatures reflected the strong body of opinion.

He highlighted data he said suggested 20mph zones reduced median traffic speeds by 0.9mph or less and said spending £7million to reduce speed by less than 1mph was ‘not an example of money well spent at a time of a cost of living crisis’.

But councillors backed the authority’s approach.

According to council policy, 20mph zones can only be implemented in Hertfordshire in areas with existing average (mean) speeds of 24mph or lower – with priority given to areas with schools, poor air quality or low footway widths.

And only schemes with “a good level of public support” are implemented.

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Liberal Democrat Cllr Nigel Taylor highlighted plans for a 20mph limit outside a school in his Berkhamsted division – backed by 92 per cent of residents.

And he said: “I would ask the petitioner, ‘Why can’t these people in my division not have a 20mph to protect their children?'”

Conservative Cllr Reena Ranger also stressed the importance of public support: “The right approach is putting these areas in where they are needed and wanted – and not where they are not needed.”

Conservative Cllr Jeff Jones added: “I think the system we have in place is appropriate.

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“If residents want 20mph in their areas, and it gets majority support from those residents, I don’t see a problem in having that implemented.

“I don’t support 20mph blanket across everywhere. But I think if there are appropriate areas – like schools, community centres etc – where 20mph would be a benefit, then I see no problem in implementing. And I think the county has the right scheme in place for that.”

Labour Cllr Asif Khan said that in some cases the roll-out of 20mph zones was not happening quick enough for residents.

And he said: “This isn’t about curtailing people’s freedoms to drive.

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“It’s about actually ensuring that people have freedom to drive and live safely within their neighbourhood. And that is what is being provided.”

According to the council’s report, a recent YouGov survey – undertaken for HCC Highways – showed 64 per cent of residents supported 20mph limits where they live and 63 per cent supported the zones in places such as High Streets.

Councillors also heard a 1mph reduction in traffic speed reduced collisions by six per cent in urban areas.