20mph speed limit plan

SPEED limits could be slashed to 20mph in residential streets under new proposals by civic chiefs.

That is the key recommendation after a six-month scrutiny inquiry led by a Hartlepool Borough Council forum into the future of traffic calming.

Councillors sitting on the neighbourhood services scrutiny forum say 20mph speed limits should be introduced in all appropriate residential streets, but using signage and awareness campaigns rather than physical measures such as speed bumps.

The council currently uses a variety of traffic calming measures including speed humps, pedestrian islands, motion-activated speed warning signs and speed cameras.

But, since the end of 2009, guidance from the Department for Transport has recommended 20mph speed limits for all predominantly residential roads and in town streets where there are large numbers of pedestrians and cyclists, but which are not part of any major traffic route.

Forum members gathered a range of views from the council's highways and road safety department, members of the public and organisations such as Cleveland Police and Cleveland Fire Brigade, Housing Hartlepool, Road Safety Great Britain North-East, campaign group 20s Plenty For Us and other councils including Warrington, Oxford and Islington.

Schoolchildren were also involved as a number of schools already have 20mph speed limits in place.

A series of views were given during the inquiry including that 20mph limits tend to be self-enforcing in large residential areas, that traffic calming needs to be balanced against the need for traffic to flow and that the public has concerns about the damage caused to vehicles by speed humps.

Financial pressures facing the council mean that any move to introduce 20mph speed limits would need to be phased over a number of years.

The forum recommended a full public consultation be carried out and that the council develops a set of criteria before rolling out such a scheme.

Also that the local authority continues to provide school safety schemes and that no new physical traffic calming measures be installed in residential areas unless speed surveys or accidents reveal there is a need to slow the traffic down even further.

Members of the forum will present its findings to the council's cabinet committee for consideration in March.

Councillor Stephen Thomas, chairman of the neighbourhood services scrutiny forum, said: "I would like to thank everyone for their contribution to what has been an important and valuable investigation – we had an excellent response from individual residents, schools and community groups.

"The findings clearly show that there is a real commitment to reducing speed in residential areas and making our streets safer for all road users and pedestrians."

The forum is due to meet on Wednesday, January 19, at 4.30pm at the civic centre, to formally move the recommendations. The public is welcome to attend.

For more information about the scrutiny forums log onto www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk and select the link in this story, or call scrutiny support officer Laura Stones on (01429) 523087.