Suffolk: Freeze on new speed restriction zones as council team disbanded

THE county’s highways boss has put a freeze on implementing new speed restriction zones in Suffolk, it has emerged.

The team that dealt with routine requests for speed limit extensions has been disbanded because Guy McGregor, cabinet member for roads and transport, feels Suffolk already has the required number of speed restrictions in place.

He said requests for speed limit extensions would be logged, but unless there were exceptional circumstances, they would not receive immediate attention.

But now residents in communities such as Sudbury and Bildeston, who are campaigning to see 20mph zones introduced, have expressed concern that their requests for safety improvements could be shelved.

Mr McGregor said: “Essent-ially I believe we have enough speed restrictions in place. We are a very active highways authority and we have already put speed limits through all the villages in Suffolk.

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“We have also introduced ‘20’s Plenty’ schemes outside village schools, so the vast bulk of motorists will be slowed down in those areas, and we are trialling 20-zones in Laxfield and Middleton to see if reducing speed limits in the centre of villages makes a difference.”

He added: “The central team we had at HQ has been disbanded as part of the council’s restructuring and we have delegated the issue to individual local area officers who can contribute to schemes in their area out of their quality of life budget if they need to.”

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Figures in Suffolk County Council’s Road Casualty Report for 2011, released earlier this year, showed that 326 people had been killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads during 2011, a 10% increase on the previous year.

Robert Lindsay, who is pushing for speed reduction measures in Bildeston, said many parents were frightened to walk their children to school down the narrow roads in case they were knocked down by a speeding vehicle.

He added: “It is the county council’s policy to encourage people to walk and cycle, so they should be doing something to enable this to happen safely. It is very disappointing to find out that Mr McGregor has disbanded the group that might actively have been able to do something to help us.”

Mr Lindsay said the parish council could now be forced to pay for road widening, or the installation of flashing warning signs, which could prove much more expensive than changing speed signs.

However, Mr McGregor said implementing any road safety measures would be costly, adding: “Any changes have to be advertised, it has to go before a committee and payment has to be produced, so it can’t be entered into lightly.

“We have to decide where to put the limited resources to make the best use of them.” He said he would only consider reviewing the situation if there was enough demand for new speed restrictions.

Sudbury’s deputy town clerk, Jacqui Howells, said the town should not give up their bid for 20mph limits. “We are still keen to get 20-zones on some of the town’s ‘rat run’ roads and we have carried out quite a lot of research on how similar schemes have worked in other areas,” she said.

“I would suggest that if the only way to get the council to change their mind on this is by volume of requests, then we ought to get together with other towns to present a united, strong case.”

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