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Special report: slow down on 20mph 'victory for common sense'
The brakes have been put on plans to roll out 20mph speed limits across the city.
Brighton and Hove’s Green administration was left with a bloody nose yesterday after opposition councillors forced it to make concessions on a key element of its transport strategy.
It means major roads across the city will remain at 30mph instead of the lower limit the Greens had hoped for.
Last night, pro-motoring campaigners described it as a “victory for common sense”.
JOHN KEENAN reports.
According to the Green Party’s map for the future of Brighton and Hove, yesterday should have seen it change gear towards 20mph limits across nine new swathes of the city.
But opposition Labour and Conservative councillors had other ideas about where the journey should be headed.
They jammed the brake on the plans which could have seen more traffic forced to reduce speed and left the Greens’ plans frayed around the edges.
When councillors met to discuss the second phase of the speed limit roll-out, some expert advice from the council’s officers was ignored, leaving Green members to ponder if this is the end of the road for their radical ideas.
Speed limits were reined in for the first time in April this year when 20mph limits were implemented in Brighton and Hove city centre.
The second part of the scheme considered yesterday was bidding for the boundaries to be stretched from Portslade in the west of the city to Moulsecoomb and Whitehawk in the east and to Patcham in the north.
A spirited campaign from unions, taxi firms and tourism bosses called for some of the city’s main routes to be cut out of the plans.
Yesterday everything on their Christmas lists landed in their laps when the council officers’ advice was overturned and lower traffic speeds in all four areas were thrown out.
Portland Road, Surrenden Road, Preston Drove and Stanford Avenue, as well as a large areas of Patcham and Hollingbury, will remain at 30mph.
But a special meeting of the environment, transport and sustainability com- mittee at Brighton and Hove City Council yesterday gave the go-ahead to 20mph limits on a large swathe of the city stretching from the centre to the suburbs.
Residents will be given the chance to comment on the plans in the new year before a final decision is made in March 2014.
The council said introducing more 20mph speed limits would improve safety and the street environment for all road users, including car drivers, by reducing the number and severity of collisions and casualties on the city’s roads.
According to the Department for Transport road safety comparison figures, there were 35.5 casualties per 10,000 residents in Brighton and Hove in 2012, compared to 43.60 in Blackpool and 27.50 in Reading.
And the council has already allocated £350,000 for the introduction of 20mph speed reductions in the city, as part of the Local Transport Plan capital budget for 2013-14.
But the Labour and Tory councillors tussled with the Green Party members, rejecting claims from Green councillor Christopher Hawtree that opposing the scheme would leave city roads unsafe.
The rival councillors insisted 30mph limits must be kept so buses and taxis run on time.
Excluding the main roads from 20mph, they claimed, would keep the city running smoothly.
Tory councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn, whose constituency includes Portland Road, said it was “logical that all the main arterial routes in the city should have a speed limit of 30 miles per hour”.
The Green administration slammed the successful move by Labour and Tory to derail parts of the plans and itemised the reasons they wanted to include main roads in the consultation.
A spokesman said: “As a result of today’s decision, more of the city’s residents will in the future be able to benefit from slower speeds and safer streets where they live, work, shop, play and go to school.
“Left out of the scheme is Portland Road – a busy shopping street with one of the largest primary schools in the city.
“In the last three years there have been 44 collisions and 50 casualties, meaning it has the worst road safety record in the whole of the Phase Two area.
“Surrenden Road – a road where residents have been campaigning for safer streets for years. Approximately 5,000 children attend the nearby schools including Varndean, Dorothy Stringer and Balfour Junior.
“Preston Drove and Stanford Avenue – which include busy residential areas adjoining two busy community parks, Blakers Park and Preston Park.
“A large swathe of Patcham and Hollingbury including the area around Carden Primary School.”
Representatives from lobby group Unchain the Motorist, set up amid concerns about the council’s transport policies on the city, attended the meeting at Hove Town hall yesterday to see their key demands met.
Unchain member John Streeter, from Streamline Taxis, said: “This was a victory for common sense. All we ever wanted was a long-term sustainable transport strategy for the city.
“We are so pleased the Labour and Conservative groups at the council acted in the best interest of the resi- dents. Long may it continue.”
Fellow Unchain member Andy Cheesman, boss at City Cabs, said: “We have come a long way in 16 weeks.
“We have tried to work with everybody and we are very pleased with the way the Labour and Conservative administrations have come out with a common sense transport policy which looks after residential roads but keeps the main arterial routes flowing.
“We support 20mph in all residential roads near schools and hospitals.”
After the meeting, Elliot Raggio, from the Traders Need Transport Group, said the fight must continue.
He said: “Today is a good day but it’s certainly not over.
“I want to thank those who put their heads above the parapet and to thank those who have supported the Unchain the Brighton Motorist campaign – not forgetting all the councillors that joined forces to stop this horrendous scheme.
“We must continue to make a stand and make the council see sense.”
Councillor Gill Mitchell, leader of the Labour group at the council, said that the Labour group was pleased that the key routes for public transport would remain outside the scheme so buses and taxis could run to time.
Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, leader of the Conservative group, insisted there was no clear public mandate for changing the speed limit in Patcham and Hollingbury to 20mph.
But Councillor Ian Davey, the administration’s lead member for transport, accused the Conservative and Labour councillors of carving up the proposals and disregarding residents’ views and the safety statistics.
He added: “The majority of our proposals were untouched and as a result most areas will get what they asked for.
“However thanks to the Tories and Labour, some residents near schools and accident hotspots have been left high and dry.”
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