North Yorkshire Council’s 20mph policy was not based on insufficient evidence, say councillors

County Hall, Northallerton. Photo: LDRS.

North Yorkshire councillors have rejected a claim that the Conservative-led authority’s decision to undertake a six month review into speeding was based on insufficient evidence about the benefits of 20mph zones.

At a specially arranged meeting in Northallerton yesterday, Andy Brown, Green Party councillor for Aire Valley, requested a “call in” of the Conservative executive’s decision to begin the review into how it tackles speeding across North Yorkshire.

The council said the review will lead to a speed management strategy and a rolling pipeline of safety improvement schemes but it fell short of the demands of campaigners who want widespread 20mph speed limits implemented as soon as possible.

The 20s Plenty campaign has the backing of over 150 parish councils and campaigners met at County Hall in Northallerton yesterday with several making passionate pleas about why they want action on speeding now.

A statement was read out on behalf of Pam Fawcett who said she had lived in Beverley for over 50 years but is now afraid to cross the road due to speeding motorists.

She said: “I’m afraid to cross the road in the village and I must get somebody else to collect my pension. I have great grandchildren living in the village, they must cross the road to get the school bus and I’m genuinely frightened they’ll be hit by speeding car.”

Cllr Brown said a report that underpinned the council’s decision to undertake the review underestimated the benefits of 20mph speed limits and overestimated over difficult they are to implement.

He also said insufficient consultation was conducted with members of the public and parish councils.

Cllr Brown said:

“This is not a political issue, go to Cornwall and the Conservatives there got themselves elected and promised 20mph zones where residents support it. We should be thinking about this whatever our politics are.”

Both Green Party councillor for Ouseburn, Arnold Warneken and Liberal Democrat councillor for Knaresborough East, Hannah Gostlow, queried why the report rejected calls to have a 20mph pilot in Harrogate & Knaresborough despite it being backed by local councillors. Cllr Gostlow said:

“Where was the consultation regarding local communities? We can’t just mention active travel in our strategies, we have to take action. Our goal won’t be reached by words alone.”

However, several Conservative councillors spoke to say they backed the review, including Conservative councillor for Bentham and Ingleton, David Ireton, who said:

“This is not about whether we like speed limits, it’s about whether the executive’s decision was made correctly. I do believe they had sufficient evidence in front of them. I feel that it was a sound decision that was made.”

Alan McVeigh, the council’s head of highways network strategy, defended the council’s approach to speeding in the chamber as did Cllr Keane Duncan, the Conservative executive member for transport, who spoke through a videolink.

Mr McVeigh said:

“We’ve heard a lot, quite rightly, about the benefits of 20mph zones. None of that is in dispute. But a one size all default risks imposing speed limits on communities that may not want them.”

Cllr Duncan that parish councils will still be able to ask for 20mph zones and the strategy should speed up the process for these requests. He added:

“We will be communicating with all parish councils in North Yorkshire to explain the policy and how they can shape proposals. I’ll make sure every councillor gets that in advance. We’re working with communities and I think we can make a positive difference over time.”

Councillors ultimately voted by 9 to 6 to back the executive’s initial decision to undertake the review.