fylde counterbalance logo

search counterbalance

plain text / printout version of this article

countering the spin and providing the balance


20 mph

20mphAdvertised at around £135 a go, these signs are not cheap, and you need a lot to blanket an area.

That's partly why LCC is spending £9 million to bring in the 20 mph speed limit.

In 'Snippets September 2012', under the sub-heading '20 Mph Limit On Its Way', we warned about the 20 mph blanket speed restrictions that were about to affect the majority of people in Fylde, and are intended eventually to cover the all residential streets in Lancashire. We also set out our own objections to the scheme - both in principle and in practice.

We said "Anyone would think LCC had turned into a branch of the Health and Safety Executive (who themselves have achieved little more than becoming responsible for lowering our national productivity and competitiveness, and encouraging ridiculous Codes of Practice that tell people which way round to hold a spade and insult the intelligence of capable artisans). "

"We'd have thought the job of a Highway Authority would be to provide proper surfaced roads that highway traffic can proceed along quickly and efficiently, not making it more difficult for them, and slowing people down."

We argued the philosophy underpinning the reduced speed limit further contributes to the removal of personal self-reliance and the creation of a culture that expects others to take responsibility for *our* actions. It seeks to promotes a culture to make our lives 'safe' and 'harmless' (and these days to have the 'right' not even to be 'offended' in some instances).

We said this was "a dangerous direction for society at large to be travelling. It moves us ever further away from the culture of risk, reward, and personal responsibility that produced incredible individuals who made this nation into a great world power, and brings us ever closer to Huxley's 1932 prediction of our future society operating on the basis of "Passive obedience, material consumption and mindless promiscuity."

We argued "it is self-evidently the responsibility of parents and teachers firstly to ensure that no small child is left unattended on a highway until they reach the age where they understand the risks associated with roads and what to do about them. Secondly, it is also the responsibility of those same people to make sure that children learn how to act responsibly on a highway and grow into self-reliant, confident road users of one sort or another, (or in a few cases, to provide practical support for those in the community who will never achieve that ability). The existing law has provisions for those who set out to disregard proper highway behaviour."

It is not, and should not be, the responsibility of the rest of society to make allowances, and to suffer measures like lower speed limits to eliminate the risks associated with vehicular traffic, in order to make up for the failings in the education of road users.

And we stand by what we said.

Last week, just as the details for Lytham's 20mh order had been published and the consultation period got under way, County Councillor Tim Ashton - who represents Lytham on the County Council - announced that he was standing down as the County's Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Highways and Transport in order to conduct his campaign to become the first new Lancashire Police Commissioner.

We had a terrible sense of de-ja-vu about wasted money when we saw this.

In our 'Police Commissioner' article we reported how the Streetscene department that Cllr Ashton was responsible for when he was Cabinet Portfolio Holder at Fylde Council reported a loss of £700,000 that cost us the closure of both our swimming pools and more.

We also reproduced Cllr Ashton's quote to Fylde's Scrutiny Committee - the (long delayed) inquiry into how the losses came about. He told them: "It was unfortunate it happened, I regret it...... that it happened..... but I don't think anybody acted in a way, deliberately, to act wrongly in what happened, and at the end of the day nobody died"

Furthermore, we reminded readers that his Streetscene's performance on the 'Wyre Waste' contract had been so bad that Wyre Council wouldn't even let them on the tender list to bid for their bin emptying contract a second time round.

Because of these and other failures counterbalance christened him "Dim Tim" at that time.

Now he's 'moved on' to the County Council, and he's got a much bigger budget to play with.

He's currently in the process of wasting £9,000,000 (yes, nine million) of our money on this scheme for blanket 20mph limits. It's money from the capital spending account - which often originates from borrowing - though we haven't looked at its sourcing.

We say he's 'wasting' the money for three main reasons:

  • Firstly those reasons we set out in '20 Mph Limit On Its Way' where we argue the spending is wrong in principle.
  • Secondly, the Department of Transport (who commissioned a detailed report on a similar scheme in Portsmouth) found the "average reduction in mean speeds on all roads was 1.3 mph"
  • Thirdly, we also say it because (again according to the Department of Transport) The number of people injured or killed on Britain's roads in 20mph zones actually *rose* by 24% in 2011.

The BBC reported that the number of people injured or killed in 20mph zones on Britain's roads rose by 24% last year (2011)

In total, 2,262 people were road casualties within 20 mph zones last year, and of these, seven were deaths (a 17% rise on 2010), there were 289 serious injuries in 20mph zones (a 39% rise) and 1,966 minor injuries

Casualties on 30mph roads saw a drop of 1% over the same period.

The BBC also reported Neil Greig, director of policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, as saying the evidence on 20mph areas "now seems very mixed and contradictory."

"The IAM has always expressed concern that such areas were being seen as a magic bullet to stop all accidents when this had never been clearly proven..."

"In our view the main benefits of 20mph zones are health and environmental improvements. The jury is still out on their wider road safety success."

So we don't believe £9m for a speed reduction of 1.3% and an increase in deaths and injuries is anything like value for money, and worse than that, it's the wrong direction in principle anyway.

And we dread the prospect of Dim Tim being let loose on the budget for the whole of the Lancashire Police Force if he gets the £85,000 a year job as Lancashire's Police Commissioner - which he's now abandoned his Highways and Transport Cabinet post to campaign for.

We can't see the good folk of Lytham being best pleased when they find he's ducked out of the Cabinet responsibility for dealing with their views on the 20 mph plans for their patch just as the Lytham scheme is made public. Especially as he is the County Councillor who represents Lytham.

For the 20mph scheme's introduction, Lytham has been divided into two areas, 'Lytham' and 'Saltcoates' - the maps have been published for each area on the County Council website. Readers can follow this link to see the maps of proposed 20 mph areas for Lytham North and South - and this one for Saltcoates  - as pdf files. When the maps are no longer available on the LCC website, readers can contact us for a copy.

As well as publishing the maps, the County has opened a 'consultation' on the proposals.

Whilst the maps are quite easily downloadable as pdf files, without the latest versions of browsers and MS Word, we don't think anyone will be able to download the Public Notice documents that give the reference numbers for each scheme, that LCC say you need to use to be able to comment, so we've added the currently published reference numbers below for our readers.

Quite frankly, the information provided on the Lytham scheme by LCC is an absolute mess

Their webpage listing all consultations in Fylde says the Lytham North and South Area consultation started on 14thSeptember 2012 and it ends on 26th October 2012.

But their official Public Notice (pdf link) says comments have to be in before the 18th October 2012, and the notice has no email address to which comments may be sent.

Yes, really.

We can't tell if this consultation is intentionally made confusing and difficult, or whether it is simply incompetence on their part.

So if you want to comment on the Lytham North and South one you should probably aim to have it there for 18th October - just in case.

Area:  Lytham North and South
Reference: LSG4/5.45354/SLO/5/10/MB
email for comments: 20mph-consultation@lancashire.gov.uk

For Saltcoates, the consultation started on 27th September 2012 and ends 8th November 2012 - these dates agree with the Public Notice (link) and this notice does publish an email address for comments.

Area:  Saltcoates
Reference: LSG4/5.46621/SLO/5/11/MB
email for comments: 20mph-consultation@lancashire.gov.uk

And according to this week's Express, a Public Notice dated 4th October says that the Lytham Moss and Heyhouses Area is also being consulted on. That advert says the consultation has a closing date of 15th November, but as at this morning (10pm 4th October), it isn't listed on the LCC website so we can't link the map for it yet

Some quotes in support of the scheme from the LCC'S Website:

  • "The safety of our children and young people on the roads is a major concern for Lancashire residents. By introducing the 20mph speed limits in residential areas and outside schools, we want to reduce the number of road accidents and increase safety for all Lancashire residents. We also want to improve the quality of life for all communities providing safer streets for residents to walk and cycle."
  • "The 20mph programme is funded from resources set aside from the Environment Directorate's 2011/12 Capital budget. The capital budget is a central investment budget which is used for infrastructure schemes and is a separate budget to that which funds highway maintenance activities. The costs are estimated to be roughly £9.2m over the 3 year period of the project."
  • "The County Council is currently in discussions with Lancashire Constabulary about the development of Community Road Watch schemes. Members of the community will be able to monitor traffic speed in their neighbourhoods, whilst being supported by the police. Community Road Watch has been developed in conjunction with the police. It involves trained volunteers working alongside neighbourhood policing teams to monitor and record speeds. Motorists who are observed as speeding will receive a letter from the police and a visit from a police officer if caught three times. If you are willing to volunteer for the scheme in your area, or would like to know more please contact 20mph@lancashire.gov.uk"
  • "The draft Local Transport Plan 2011-21 identifies investment in the safety of our children and young people as one of our top priorities. The aim of the 20mph speed limits is to reduce the number of children and young people involved in accidents on our streets, particularly in our disadvantaged communities."
  • "The Leader and the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport approved the 20mph sign only project and the capital expenditure for the next three years during the early part of 2011. The capital budget is a central investment budget which is used for infrastructure schemes and is a separate budget to that which funds highway maintenance activities. Therefore the introduction of the 20mph speed limit programme will not have a detrimental impact on the delivery of other services."

Well, in December 1990 the Government's Circular 'Roads 4/90' set out guidelines for the introduction of 20mph speed limits; local authorities had to apply for consent from the Secretary of State to introduce a 20mph zone.

In 1999, the law was changed by the Road Traffic Regulation Act (Amendment) Order 1999, which gave Highways Authorities more flexibility so they no longer had to apply for permission to introduce a zone.

The updated legislation created two *completely separate* types of 20mph speed limit in the UK:

The 20mph *limit*

and the

20mph *zone*

LIMIT areas
The 20 mph LIMIT (which is what LCC are doing) consist of just a speed limit change to 20mph, and this has to be shown on specific speed limit and repeater signs (Follow this link for details of the ABM's explanation of the required signage)

20mph LIMITS are intended for areas where there are no physical measures to reduce vehicle speeds within the areas. Drivers are alerted to the speed limit by the 20mph speed limit repeater signs.

20mph LIMITS are said to be most appropriate for roads where average speeds are already low, and the guidance suggests below 24mph. The layout and use of the road must also give the clear impression that a 20mph speed or below is the most appropriate.

DfT's current guidance is that 20 mph speed LIMITS using signs alone would be most appropriate where 85th percentile speeds are already low and further traffic calming measures are not needed.

ZONE areas
The 20 mph ZONE has also to be signed, but there is no requirement for repeater signs. The main point about 20 mph ZONES is that they should control speed by physical measures such as humps and chicanes, road narrowing, planting and other measures.

20 mph ZONES use these traffic calming measures to reduce the adverse impact of motor vehicles on built up areas. The principle is that the traffic calming slows vehicles down to speeds below the limit, and in this way the zone is becomes 'self-enforcing'.

It's said that 20 mph zones should be used where excessive speeds occur, and where traffic calming measures would be needed to ensure speeds are at or below 20

The latest guidance from DfT is that 20 mph ZONES would be particularly appropriate where there is an existing record of accidents to children occurring over an area, or where concentrations of pedestrians and/or cyclists exist or are anticipated. They can help to protect children walking and cycling to and from school, and may encourage other children to walk or cycle.

The truthful answer seems to be 'no one really knows.'

There are conflicting studies with different results.

For example, the Transport Research Laboratory carried out research on 20mph limits in 1998 which examined the effectiveness of 20mph limits without traffic calming measures.

It found that traffic calming was a more effective way of reducing vehicle speeds than signs only, which only produced a small reduction in speed. There was some evidence that public awareness campaigns and enforcement further reduced traffic speeds.

In 2009, an interim analysis was conducted of the 20mph limits introduced in Portsmouth, which cover 91% of the 438km of the city's roads. The evaluation was taken from 158 sites which were monitored for vehicle speeds, one year after the limits were implemented.

It found that 20 mph speed limits reduced the average speed by 0.9 miles per hour, which was not statistically significant. However, at sites where the average speed was above 24mph before the new limit was introduced, there was a statistically significant average speed reduction of 7 mph.

An analysis of accidents found that there was an overall reduction in casualties but it was not significant when compared to the national trend. Further research after 3 years of the scheme will hopefully clarify its effectiveness.

The Transport Research Laboratory have also carried out a review of low speed-limit zones in this country and abroad, where physical measures have not been used extensively to influence speed, and reliance is placed primarily on signing. The results of this review are reported in TRL Report 363 - "Urban Speed Management Methods". The review has indicated that using 20 mph speed limit signs alone, without supporting traffic calming features, led to reductions in ’before’ speeds, on average, of 1 mph.

DfT guidance says that the value of adequate consultation being undertaken cannot be over-emphasised.

Without such consultation, it says schemes are likely to be subject to considerable opposition, both during and after implementation.

The police need to be consulted about a scheme, particularly where a 20 mph speed limit is proposed.

If sufficient measures to reduce and control speeds are not installed, DfT says the zones or limits will not be self enforcing and the police could be faced with calls upon their time to enforce the 20 mph speed limit.

Residents within the zone or limit would of course need to be consulted, and it might be advisable to consult with school communities occurring within the zone.

Consultation with the fire and ambulance services, and any bus operators will be necessary. Additionally, haulage operators may need to be approached depending on the land use of the area where the zone is to be installed. The views of users of agricultural equipment in more rural areas will need to be obtained.

DfT also say Councils should be prepared to modify schemes to meet valid concerns raised, and they also speak of having a public exhibition of 20 mph speed limit proposals.

Well according to supporters (as we said in 20 Mph Limit On Its Way) nationally, 70% of people are believed likely to support the scheme.

When the Lancashire Telegraph did an (admittedly not statistically representative) readership poll on the matter, the result of the question "Are you in favour of cutting the speed limit on all residential roads to 20mph?" gave the following answers:

Yes: 33%
No: 67%

The Telegraph report said "County Councillor Tim Ashton said he wanted speeding in built-up areas to be ‘as taboo as drink driving’ in a bid to halt the thousands of people killed or injured on the region’s roads every year.

Coun Ashton said: “It is quite radical but we need to do something drastic to reduce the number of deaths on our roads."

“I think there will be a huge amount of support for what we are doing but if there are critics I will take them head-on."

“I have heard the arguments but speeding in residential areas is totally unacceptable. By dropping the speed limit we will certainly save lives.”

The project will be implemented in 2013.

All roads in ‘residential areas’ in the Lancashire County Council area will be made 20mph under the scheme.

Coun Ashton said that commuter routes, trunk roads and main roads would not be affected.

New signage will be put in place, along with a publicity campaign and a public consultation.

‘Community road watch’ volunteers will also be sought to use speed guns, with those caught-out receiving a letter from the community warning them about their speed.

The scheme will covers the Lancashire County Council area which includes Burnley, Chorley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Lancaster, Pendle, Preston, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire and Wyre.

In Blackburn and Darwen, there are no imminent plans to follow suit. "

(Blackburn, like Blackpool is a Unitary Council and no longer part of the administrative area of 'Lancashire', so they can make their own minds up)

Some of the comments from readers below the Lancashire Telegraph article were quite vitriolic about the idea, and included:

'notchuffed' (who on Tue 25 Jan 11 said)
Yet another blinkered, egotistical, self-centred, anal retentive, useless money wasting idea. He "he wanted speeding in built up areas to be taboo" What do most of the main roads do in this county?

What ration of deaths are there in side streets in comparison to his so called "main roads" which will not be affected.

My true thoughts on how this stupid decision has been reached are not printable but this "Person Elected to look after our welfare" (don't make me laugh, might need an incontinent pad and they're short of those at the Royal) He is seeing i) Votes in his eyes!! ii) He can see where there will be a budget spend shortfall and he's making sure it is spent. iii) Toadying to his masters to find yet another way to penalise drivers in a pathetic excuse to comply with another uselss 'Green Code directive'. Reckon Tufty the Squirrel (as above) would be more effective as a Councillor

dmmike (also Tue 25 Jan 11 said)
"When is this bloody nonsense going to stop. If it's not trying to control our alcohol intake, fat intake, speed we drive at, "carbon footprint" etc etc, it's driving me mad!

Councillor Ashton, just get on with sorting out Council problems like weekly bin collections, and do what you were elected to do.

Either that, or *ugger off."

And almost all the comments were in a similar vein.

We've had two counterbalance readers contact us after we published the first news of Lytham's proposed 20mph zone, one of whom had made an objection and said

"I don't believe there is any evidence of road safety hazards caused by excessive speed on these particular roads."

"From experience of watching drivers in Wrea Green (where 20 mph limits have already been introduced), these changes are being ignored with drivers being frustrated by this reduced speed. This can only lead to increased risk."

"It's very difficult to maintain 20 mph or less in a car- it's too fast for 3rd gear yet too slow for 4th gear. "

"The only circumstances where I strongly support the introduction of 20 mph zones are:

  • within the vicinity of schools during arrival and departure times (note- not at other times of the day or when the schools are on holiday).
  • Where there is clear evidence of accidents on a particular road"

"In the current financial climate I believe there are more important priorities Lancashire County Council finances should be spent. "

We were given sight of a reply to our potential objector who had earlier asked Cllr Ashton for answers to some questions. Cllr Ashton replied "The consultation is carried out by the County Council (The Highways Authority) and I suggest that you search the Lancashire.gov.uk website for the information you require. Like any traffic regulation order if objections are received then the decision to implement the order (or not) is made by the Cabinet Member. These proposed and final decisions are published on the County's web site both prior and post decision date."

Our correspondent responded to say "In your earlier e-mail you stated that this was a ‘consultation’ and that ‘if objections are received then the decision to implement the order (or not) is made by the Cabinet Member’.

But then our correspondent added:

"In your recent reply you state categorically that 'this is a Lancashire wide policy and to exclude some residential roads will cause confusion. We want all drivers in Lancashire to understand that the default speed limit in residential areas is now 20 mph.’ "

"If this is the case what is the point of the ‘consultation’- it’s a ‘done deal’ isn’t it?"

We have to agree that it looks that way.

And in the week of the rail franchise 'U-turn' by Government - caused by not having a case strong enough to stand up to a Judicial Review - you have to wonder whether statements by Cllr Ashton before the consultation would be regarded as a prejudiced view to the extent that he ought not to take such decisions himself.

But then, perhaps if he gets to be Police Commissioner, he won't be taking the decision himself anyway.

A similar theme was picked up at Bryning With Warton Parish Council this week. There was much discontent in the public participation part of the meeting about the recent introduction of 20 mph zones. (They're already 'in force' at Warton who were ahead of Lytham). There seemed to be conflicting views as to whether the Police would enforce the limit or not. One speaker told the meeting he had been told by a senior police officer that "they were not going to enforce it".

Another speaker said the Police had told Lancashire County Council that "they will enforce the 20 mph"

In the end, the Parish Council decided to write to the Chief Constable and get the official view, and have included an item on their next agenda to discuss it further.

The concluding comment in their debate of the matter gave us a wry smile, one parish councillor said "Well, if Cllr Ashton gets the job of Police Commissioner, he will at least be able to resource its policing - after all the 20 mph scheme is his idea in the first place"

Another reader who contacted us worried that: "in the scheme proposed at Lytham, only the arterial roads remained 30mph which includes Park View Road, over which children cross to access the much utilised and "famous" Parkview4U playing fields and also at the end of this road, Lytham C of E Primary School stands.

Furthermore, Saltcoates Road over which children have to cross on their way to and from St. Bedes school, via the Green Drive, remains 30mph including that bit leading to Preston Road, the subject of much complaint about the dangers of accessing the few shops opposite the large Saltcoates flats complex"

Both readers expressed doubts to us that the consultation was anything other than a meaningless exercise because amongst his other statements of support for the scheme, Cllr Ashton had said “I think there will be a huge amount of support for what we are doing but if there are critics I will take them head-on."

And it's also difficult to expect a change of mind from someone who seems to have made his mind up a year before he started Lytham's 'consultation' when he said: - "I have heard the arguments but speeding in residential areas is totally unacceptable. By dropping the speed limit we will certainly save lives."

To us, this consultation looks very much like a sham, and it is a scheme that is going to be imposed on the residents of Lytham (and elsewhere) whether they want it or not, (and it's coming to St Annes very soon).

We wonder whether, if enough people object to the idea it would actually stop it's implementation.

As a reminder, comments on the proposed 20 mph scheme can be sent  by email to

Area:  Lytham North and South
Reference: LSG4/5.45354/SLO/5/10/MB
email for comments: 20mph-consultation@lancashire.gov.uk

Area:  Saltcoates
Reference: LSG4/5.46621/SLO/5/11/MB
email for comments: 20mph-consultation@lancashire.gov.uk

If the implementation continues like the steamroller it set out to be, the only way we can display our displeasure at Cllr Ashton's gross waste of our money is by the ballot box - perhaps using the ballot box at the Police Commissioner vote in November, but more importantly, using it in the County Council elections next year when we have the chance to unelect all the people who voted for this wholly unproven 20 mph waste of our money.

Dated:  4 October 2012


To be notified when a new article is published, please email