Swansea opposition leader slams new 20mph speed limit as ‘absolute nonsense’
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
A new default 20mph speed limit in Wales is “absolute nonsense” with serious questions marks about how it will be enforced, according to the opposition leader in Swansea.
Cllr Chris Holley was responding to a vote by a majority of Senedd members to approve plans to limit residential roads and busy pedestrian streets to 20mph.
The Swansea Liberal Democrat leader said he felt there had been very little consultation about the plans and that he wanted to hear more details about 20mph pilot schemes that have been running in Wales.
The Welsh Government said the new limit will reduce the risk and severity of injuries as a result of collisions between vehicles and vulnerable road users, encourage more people to cycle and walk, make Wales more attractive for people and bring physical and mental health benefits.
Cllr Holley said he agreed with 20mph zones outside schools, care homes and parks, for example, but not more widely.
“How are you going to enforce it in Landore, in Manselton, in Penlan?” he said. “Are they going to put speed cameras on every corner?”
Under the plans, which will come into force from September 2023, councils will be able to exclude certain roads via an exceptions process.
The Welsh Government said it will be up to road casualty reduction group Go Safe to work with councils to establish implementation time-scales but enforcement will still continue during the transition period.
Climate Change Minister and Swansea West MS Julie James said local residents will get a say in how their street should be.
Cllr Holley said some cars may be more polluting at 20mph than 30mph, and that, in his view, drivers had to put up with roads in “appalling condition” in Wales while helping to fund new cycling and walking schemes through road tax.
“It’s an absolute nonsense,” he said of the 20mph limit. “How are they going to enforce it?”
Cllr Lyndon Jones, leader of Swansea Conservatives, said he felt the 20mph limit was good in certain areas but would cost businesses because of slower delivery times.
Cllr Jones said he believed decisions about which roads to apply the limit to should be left to individual councils, and also reckoned that pollution might actually increase due to vehicles travelling slower.
“It is a bit Big Brother-ish, telling councils what to do,” he said. “I think the Welsh Government should have spoken to councils and asked them which roads they thought it should apply to.”
Dr Sarah Jones, consultant in environmental public health at Public Health Wales said travelling at 20mph had been shown to reduce the risk of crashing and the severity of crashes that still happened.
She said: “It also produces less noise pollution and reduces fuel consumption. It encourages people to walk and cycle, helping to fight obesity and improve mental well-being.”
Rob Stewart, the leader of Swansea Council, said: “20mph limits in local streets will be popular in many areas and help save lives and prevent serious injuries.
“Many roads outside schools and in communities are already 20mph. We are working with the Welsh Government and will continue to do so on appropriate exceptions for other roads.
“We will also need to ensure police and enforcement officers are prepared for the changes coming in 2023.”
The city’s Labour leader added: “It’s important that as we deliver the new limits, consideration is given to bus services, taxi services and key workers journeys, like those taken by social care workers, so they are able to be undertaken in reasonable time to ensure service levels are not impacted.”
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