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Motion calling for reversal of 20mph speed limit fails

13 Oct 2023 5 minute read
Photo Ted Peskett

Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter

A motion calling for the reversal of newly introduced 20mph speed limits in Cardiff has failed.

Cardiff Council’s Conservatives group, who were behind the motion, also called for a review of the impact of default 20mph speed limits in the city and for the findings to be published three months on from the day of the motion debate which took place at County Hall on Thursday October 20.

The council leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said the meeting was “possibly the worst use of an hour of the council’s time that I have ever heard”.

It has now been nearly a month since the Welsh Government’s new default 20mph law came into force.

“The public are angry and I agree with them”, said Tory council member, Cllr Joel William, who proposed the motion.

He added that slowing traffic will “cost the Welsh economy” and that Labour will “create more congestion… and then they will claim this is the reason they are bringing in a congestion charge”.

The councillor also highlighted his concern that the new default 20mph speed limit could have an impact on emergency call outs.

A Senedd petition which calls for the Welsh Government to rescind the new 20mph law has gained 461,427 signatures so far.


Labour council member, Cllr Peter Bradbury, called the motion “hypocrisy of the highest order” and made reference to a letter calling for 20mph to be introduced in Cllr Joe Williams’ own ward.

The letter, which was obtained through a freedom of information request, was signed in July 2019 by Cllr Williams and his then ward colleague Cllr Dianne Rees and called for improved walking and cycling routes to the expanded St Mellons Church in Wales Primary School site.

It states: “This should be done before the new site opens in September 2021, with upgraded pavements on Tyr Winch Road and Ruperra Close and a 20mph speed limit throughout Old St Mellons.”

Cllr Williams said his group were not entirely opposed to 20mph zones being introduced in some places, especially where there are schools and areas of high pedestrian footfall.

The Conservative groups motion also calls on Cardiff Council to “work with local communities to ensure any requests to reduce roads to 20mph speed limits are undertaken on a case-by-case basis”.

Tory council member, Cllr Calum Davies, said: “We only want to go back to where we were a couple of months ago.”

A number of polls that were carried out on the 20mph law have been mixed.

One poll, carried out by YouGov on behalf of Welsh language magazine Barn Cymru, saw 61% of the 1,051 respondents answer that they were opposed to the speed limit reduction.

The same poll saw 31% of respondents answer that they were in support of the speed limit reduction.

Another poll, conducted by Redfield and Wilton Strategies, saw 46% of respondents supporting the speed limit change and 34% opposing it.

A poll for ITV showed that 66% of respondents were opposed to the speed limit change and that 31% support it.

The Liberal Democrats group at Cardiff Council put forward an amendment to the motion which instead called for a review of the impact that the new default 20mph speed limit has had on key and arterial routes in the city.


Whilst admitting he doesn’t buy into the Conservatives “latest crusade”, the leader of the Liberal Democrats group, Cllr Rodney Berman, said that the way that the Welsh Government has gone about introducing the new 20mph law has “left a lot to be desired”.

He said the reasons why some roads have been exempt from the default 20mph limit and why some have not is not entirely obvious and added: “Let’s adopt a more sensible approach”.

Labour councillors across the chamber came to the defence of the new 20mph law, with the council’s cabinet member for climate change, Cllr Caro Wild, saying: “If you get hit by a vehicle at 30mph, you are more likely to die.”

Cabinet member for transport and strategic planning, Cllr Dan De’Ath, said the new law will save lives and “improve the quality of life for everyone in our communities.”

The council leader said the new legislation puts safety first and added: “Yes, the roads can be quicker, but we have to go through the process of making them quicker.”

Other Labour councillors also accused the Conservatives group of wasting time and resources through the motion, but Cllr John Lancaster said his group would make no apologies for initiating the meeting.

Standing up and directing his comments at the Labour members, the leader of the Conservatives group at the council said: “You keep refusing to listen to people and this is why we are standing up for the people of Cardiff.”

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6 months ago

Conservatives gonna grift.

6 months ago

Cllr Joel William stated that a 20mph default will, cost the Welsh economy, create more congestion and have an impact on emergency call outs. Is there any evidence from Bristol, London, Edinburgh, Spain that this has happened in those 20mph default areas?

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
6 months ago

I wonder if the Tories will EVER get back to pushing policy rather than just opposing things for no good reason

6 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

Next motion for the Senedd, free meals for Conservative councillors.

That should fry their noodles.

Ap Kenneth
6 months ago

My residential road has been 20 mph for past 8-10 years and a large proportion of cars were speeding, you can tell by the sound they make as they accelerate, but since the new default came in there seem to be far fewer. Purely anecdotal, plus it does seem more pleasant driving around lots of urban areas.

6 months ago

I drive around Cardiff regularly and I’ve noticed that hardly anyone does 20 unless there’s heavy traffic, speed bumps or cameras. 27 mph or higher seems to be the norm. It will gradually settle down to what it was before because the law is realistically unenforceable.

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