Controversial speed limits set to stay

CONTROVERSIAL temporary speed limits on the A140 in Suffolk look set to stay after road chiefs gave the green light for them to be made permanent despite heavy opposition to the plans.

CONTROVERSIAL temporary speed limits on the A140 in Suffolk look set to stay after road chiefs gave the green light for them to be made permanent despite heavy opposition to the plans.

A blanket 50mph speed limit has been in force since June 2004 in an attempt to reduce the number of accidents on the notorious road, which is the main route between Norwich and Ipswich.

The restrictions were due to finish at the end of December but yesterday at a meeting of Suffolk County Council's Rights of Way committee transport bosses recommended they should remain in force - despite the fact that 79% of people who took part in the consultation period wanted to see a return to the 60mph limit.

The committee also recommended a review of the existing 30mph, 40mph and some of the 50mph stretches in light of concerns from Suffolk police that the constant changing of speeds was unnecessary and led to confusion for drivers.

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The decision has led to disapproval from some villagers close to the A140 who believe the temporary limits do more harm than good, even though the number of injury accidents recorded on the road during the trial period was the lowest in six years.

Maggy Bateman, chairman of Mellis parish council, said last night: “I am not happy with the 50mph limit.

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“I know the reasoning behind it and fully understand Suffolk County Council has a duty of care but as a driver who uses the road everyday it's incredibly frustrating.

“You have a lot of lorries that use the road and quite often when they try to move up a hill the traffic will bunch up behind and slow right down because they are having to keep to the limit.

“The other night I don't think I did more than 35mph all the way home and the car behind me decided to overtake the next five cars in front. It leads to more risk taking because drivers are getting more frustrated.”

During the trial period 274 - 79% - of the 348 people that sent recommendations to the council did not want to see the 50mph limits made permanent.

The most popular reasons included increased confusion because of the constant changing of speed, lack of concentration on the road because drivers were always checking their speedometer, longer journey times and difficulty joining at junctions.

But Sian Bunbury, of Palgrave parish council, said although the village did have concerns at the start of the scheme their objections were tempered because of the reduction in accidents and saving of lives.

Meanwhile David Prior, of Brome and Oakley parish council, said the village had always supported the introduction of the speed limits and was pleased that the recommendation had been made.

Speaking at the meeting at Endeavour House yesterday David Chenery, Suffolk County Council group manager for road safety, said: “The number of accidents that have happened on the road since the temporary speed limit has been in force is the acid test to whether the experiment has been successful and there is compelling evidence to show that the trial period has worked.

“Traffic growth on the A140 has stopped but there is no evidence to suggest that vehicles are leaving the road to travel through local villages to avoid the restrictions.”

The committee also heard from Hartismere county councillor Charles Michell, whose constituents will be most affected by any changes in the speed limit.

“I have looked through the objections and it seems to me that the people who object are motorists who do not live close to the A140 and are not directly affected,” he said. “It is interesting that Brome and Oakley is one of the only parishes to support the changes and they straddle the road. The views of those that live nearer should be given precedence.

“By reducing the speed you reduce the accidents and the time it takes to clear up after an accident so I feel it should remain at 50mph.”

A final decision on the committees' recommendation will be made during a meeting of Suffolk County Council's cabinet on December 8.

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