Councillors fear 'bun fight' over which areas of Oxfordshire will see speed limits lowered to 20mph first
Councillors fear there could be “an appalling bun fight” over which areas of Oxfordshire have 20 miles-per-hour (mph) zones put in first.
Oxfordshire County Council’s 20 mph Policy and New Approach states that 10 per cent of areas previously set at 30mph have had limits reduced. These proposals could see that rise to approximately 85 per cent.
The report says “there is huge local interest and desire” to realise that ambition and despite police indicating that direct enforcement is unlikely, it is hoped it will “become socially unacceptable” to break 20mph limits over time.
Locations must be “supported by local town or parish council and (the) local county council elected member”, within built-up environments where “vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner” and where the speed limit is currently no higher than 40mph.
Top priority will be given to areas where there have been recorded instances of people being killed or seriously injured (KSIs) followed by where minor incidents or near misses can be evidenced.
After those considerations, schools walking routes, volume of people crossing roads, the “level of active frontage” from buildings such as shops and areas of high traffic volume will have priority. New projects and schemes that include 20mph limits are set to be considered separately.
The county’s Place Overview & Scrutiny Committee recognised overwhelming public support for the venture but shared concerns over every community expecting the rollout to happen in their area first.
Councillor Richard Webber (Lib Dem, Sutton Courtenay & Marcham) said: “Quite clearly the big question is going to be when. We all want it but when will we have it?
“There is going to be the most massive barney over who comes first so we have to get our priorities sorted out with a clear position that we can all stand behind.”
Councillor Dan Levy (Lib Dem, Eynsham) added: “I have eight parishes on my patch, several of them have more than one village. Everyone is very keen on having at least one 20mph zone.
“Could I ask who is going to do the work to prioritise who gets what first and could the criteria be slightly more objective? Otherwise, as Councillor Webber says, it is going to be an appalling bun fight.”
Paul Fermer, Oxfordshire County Council’s assistant director of highways and transport operations, invited suggestions over how the criteria could be clearer ahead of the matter being considered by cabinet.
Councillor Brad Baines (Lab, Isis) raised the point that universal agreement between councillors at different levels could also prove tricky.
“It is not beyond the realms of possibility to consider that full agreement will not be reached, particularly with county councillors covering huge numbers of parish councils in some rural areas,” he said.