Government announces ‘crackdown on anti-driver road schemes and blanket 20-mph limits’

14.56 | 18 March 2024 | | | 1 comment

The DfT says motorists are set to benefit from a crackdown on ‘anti-driver road schemes, over-zealous traffic enforcement’ and strengthened guidance for councils on 20mph limits.

These are among the latest measures to be announced from the government’s Plan for Drivers, which is intended to result in smoother journeys and reduced congestion, with local people getting a stronger voice on road schemes that affect them.

The DfT has published draft statutory guidance for councils on low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), which says they must gain buy-in from local residents, businesses and emergency services when considering implementing new LTN schemes.

This could involve in-person events, online engagement and leaflet drops to ‘involve the whole community in the process’ and will mean that authorities must consider whether a LTN has local support before it is implemented.

The new guidance will come into force during summer 2024, with local authorities obliged to consider it when shaping new and existing schemes.

The DfT cites recent examples where councils have implemented LTNs without public support which ‘have been shown to cause disruption and have unintended negative consequences’.

If local authorities fail to deliver ‘sensible road schemes that work for local people’ they could see future funding withdrawn, and under powers from the Traffic Management Act, the government could ultimately take control of an authority’s roads if they are deemed to be widely mismanaged.

in s separate initiative, the DfT has published strengthened guidance on setting 20mph speed limits, which encourages them to reserve 20mph limits for ‘sensible and appropriate areas only’, including outside schools and with ‘safety and local support at the heart of the decision’.

The action on LTNs is supported by a wide-ranging review which found that only 13% of residents have responded to councils planning consultations on LTNs, and just 18% feel that their views have influenced council decisions.

The review also found that local authorities operating LTNs issue an average of 36,459 penalty charge notices per scheme, with the highest number of penalty charge notices issued for a single LTN scheme exceeding 170,000. The DfT says this is why the guidance ’embeds the need for local support and will ultimately save motorists money’.

The review also flagged concerns over the impact on disabled residents, the cost of LTN schemes, and concerns from emergency services that delays to crews caught up in LTNs could potentially risk lives.

The new guidance aims to prevent councils having to reverse poorly-implemented or locally unpopular schemes such as those at Jesmond in Newcastle and Streatham Wells in London.

Mark Harper, transport secretary, said: “We want local people to have their voices heard and any traffic schemes to have the consent of those they impact.

“Well thought out schemes, like 20mph limits outside schools, can make our roads safer, but we are raising the bar to help ensure all traffic schemes work for everyone in the community.

“We’re on the side of drivers and these latest measures show we’re getting on with delivering what we promised in our Plan for Drivers, making their lives better, fairer and cheaper and helping people travel in the way that works best for them.”

The government’s Plan for Drivers and revised guidance on setting speed limits have not been welcomed by the campaign group 20s Plenty for Us, who have published their own briefing in response to the new guidance.

Rod King, founder and campaign director for 20s Plenty for Us, said: “We note that the Government and DfT have not published a ‘Plan for pedestrians and cyclists’, a ‘Plan for child and elderly mobility’, a ‘Plan for place-making in communities’ or a ‘Plan for Public Health’.

“Whilst we could have hoped for any or all of these in the public interest, the current ‘Plan for Drivers’ seems to be a plan against all of these beneficial outcomes of lower speed limits.

“This plan fails to recognise that drivers have lives outside their cars. Lives in which their children, the elderly, the disabled, air pollution, noise and public health do matter to them. The Plan for Drivers and its consequences will discriminate against all of these people, many of whom have characteristics that are protected under the Equalities Act.

“From this flawed plan, the DfT has revised its guidance on setting local speed limits.”

The announcement also includes a comprehensive package of other measures ‘designed to put people back in the driving seat’. Traffic lights will be upgraded across the country, to include innovative technology that responds to live traffic conditions – with 80 highway authorities across England benefitting from funding to improve journey times and reduce congestion caused by red lights.

The DfT has also launched consultations on measures to prevent local councils from ‘turning drivers into cash cows’ by profiting from enforcing traffic restrictions, including fines for drivers going into yellow box junctions or parking restrictions. The eight-week call for evidence will seek views from residents and will also quiz local authorities on how money from fines is reinvested.



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    Our conclusion on the update to Setting Local Speed Limits is :-

    “This updated guidance misrepresents both established literature on the fatality risk of impact speeds and also the considerable benefits that authorities are gaining from a wide implementation of 20mph as a norm. Besides being less than credible, it is difficult to see the guidance within the context of the Government’s “Plan for Drivers” as anything other than the weaponising of road safety for political opportunism. The government keeps referencing a “war on the motorist” that has never existed, and it now appears that through its actions the government may be starting a “war on pedestrians and cyclists” who could be the unfortunate victims and casualties of the flawed guidance update. Sadly there will be people who will use this update and the media stories around it to justify their own speeding and increased potential to kill vulnerable road users.

    The UK once had a fine global reputation for road safety, but the absence of a Road Safety Strategy since 2019 and moves such as this politically motivated and erroneous update bring the DfT and government into disrepute. The update will do little to change community and local authority appetite for lower speed limits where they live, play, shop, work, learn, walk and cycle. We are confident that responsible local authorities will continue to roll out wide-area 20mph limits to the benefit of all their citizens and particularly their more vulnerable road users to create better places for all.”

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (2) | Disagree (5)

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