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Mark Drakeford pressed on lack of 20mph exemptions in north Wales

16 Jan 2024 5 minute read
A 20mph speed limit sign. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

Emily Price

Vale of Clwyd MS Gareth Davies has called for an explanation from Mark Drakeford as to why local authorities in north Wales are not making exemptions to the 20mph speed limit.

During First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday (January 16) Mr Davies drew attention to the figures stated by the Deputy Minister for Climate Change last week, that Denbighshire County Council have only approved exemptions to the 20mph speed limit on 0.6% of roads in the county.

The percentages are similarly low across north Wales, with Conwy at 0.8 per cent and Flintshire at 0.9 per cent.

In contrast, figures in south Wales are much higher with Swansea and Bridgend’s exemptions at around 10 per cent.


Mr Davies called on the First Minister to explain the disparity between north and south Wales, and to establish why local authorities in the north of the country are more hesitant to approve exemptions to the limit.

In November, the Tory MS submitted a list of possible roads in his constituency that he felt should be considered for exemption from Wales’ 20mph default speed limit.

Mr Davies says he’s received “extensive queries from constituents” on the matter of the new road regulation which came into force on September 17 this year.

It saw most roads in Wales that were 30mph switch to 20mph – although councils have discretion to impose exemptions.

The Welsh Government has provided guidance for councils to follow when deciding which routes should remain at 30mph.

Some local authorities have been criticised since the speed limit roll out for not consulting properly on which roads should “opt out” of the new default speed limit.

This is thought to be because department resources are overstretched.

Fears have been raised among some councils that if a road were to be changed back to 30mph and there is a death on that road – a council could be legally liable.

However some councils have been fairly bullish with their approach to road exceptions and have chosen to keep all main roads at 30mph.


Speaking in the Chamber, Mr Davies said: “I sent a letter to Denbighshire County Council with a list of proposed highways that constituents suggested for exemption, following a consultation with residents.

“Denbighshire County Council informed me that they would review these highways, but we’ve had no progress since.

“My constituents would be grateful if they had an explanation for the disparity between the level of exemptions that are being approved by local authorities in north Wales compared to south Wales, and why they are so slow in north Wales?”

“Could the First Minister please shed light on this issue and explain whether the delay in 20mph exemptions for Denbighshire is due to a lackadaisical local authority?

“Is it due to obstruction from the Welsh Government? Or is it due to local authorities struggling to navigate the new legislation?”

The Welsh Government has said that cutting the limit from 30mph to 20mph will protect lives and save the NHS in Wales £92m a year.

A review will be undertaken in 2024 to look at the current guidance for local authorities and decide whether the flexibility is enough for councils.


Responding, the First Minister said: “I’m happy to help the Member as best I can, and to say again what I’ve said here and what the Deputy Minister set out in some detail last week. We are committed to a review of the guidance that we provide to local authorities.

“If it has not been sufficiently clear to some local authorities, we will work with them to make sure it gives them the clarity that they need.

“Then there will have to be a review by each local authority in applying that guidance in the circumstances that they themselves face, and those circumstances do change from one local authority to another.

“The topography is different, population density can be different. One of the things I think we have found out in this whole exercise is that there were different approaches in any case to designating 30 mph roads in different parts of Wales.

“What we will do is to be as clear as we can, working alongside local authorities on the guidance. It is then for them, Llywydd; it is local authorities who interpret that guidance in the circumstances that they face.”

He added: “I think the point that the Deputy Minister made last week is an important one: that there is an unexpectedly wide gap between those local authorities that have exempted fewer than 1 per cent of their roads and those local authorities that have exempted as much as 10 per cent.

“The exercise I think will look to see whether there are anomalies there that can be ironed out, and it’ll be done in that partnership way—a review of the guidance by the Welsh Government to help with clarity, and then implementation decisions that lie with local authorities themselves.”

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4 months ago

I’ll tell you one good reason they’re more cautious! North Wales has far too many Tory MPs who pick on anything

4 months ago
Reply to  Alwyn

Given that many Tories have jumped on R2D2’s bandwagon and have tried to use the 20mph limit as a political issue then your statement makes even less sense.

4 months ago

Interesting article on the BBC, where a Tory councilor, Lyall Reed of Sunderland, England, is running multiple Facebook pages campaigning against the 20mph speed limit in Cymru, while supporting it in his council area of Sunderland. What more evidence is needed to disregard the ludicrous 1/2 a million signed petition. And a great example of Tory hypocrisy. He also is peddling the ” blanket” lie.

Last edited 4 months ago by Gareth
4 months ago

English conservate councillor criticised over 20mph speed limit.

Why vote
Why vote
4 months ago

Is there a pettition running with half a milion votes? Is it a sennedd pettition, who in wales would sign a pettition disagreeing with our beloved Lord and masters who looks after the country with such love and affection devoted to the populations every whim. Roll on the sennedd election.

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
4 months ago
Reply to  Why vote

Did you go to school, at all?

4 months ago
Reply to  Why vote

Yeah there is. It’s still open, and doesn’t stop accepting signatures until the 13th of March.

Why, did you think it was a referendum or something?

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