Haslemere town councillors have voted to press Surrey County Council to address Haslemere’s “hostile” road layout and reconsider a 20mph speed limit in the town centre.
A majority of members voted in favour of a Lib Dem motion at last Thursday’s Haslemere Town Council meeting, to ask Surrey to reduce the speed limit on the “pedestrian heavy” High Street, Lower Street and Weyhill to 20mph.
The motion was proposed by Lib Dem Councillor Terry Weldon and seconded by fellow Lib Dem Cllr John Robini, and was passed after receiving the backing of the remainder of Haslemere’s Lib Dem group, as well as Green Party and independent councillors.
Just one councillor, Conservative member Simon Dear, voted against on the grounds that the speeds in these roads were low already.
And a counter motion by another Tory member, David Dulloway, to delay a vote evidence of average speeds on the roads in question is provided, never made it to a vote.
The debate followed a passionate plea by chair of the Haslemere Active Travel Group, Alastair Bayliss.
Mr Bayliss criticised the county’s transport chief Matt Furniss in January after a Lib Dem motion to make 20mph the default speed limit in town centres and residential areas county-wide was defeated.
Speaking at the time, Mr Bayliss said: “What Cllr Furniss says is ‘unworkable’ has already been successfully delivered to millions in the UK.”
But speaking again after Haslemere Town Council’s successful motion ensured the matter would not go away last Thursday, Mr Bayliss said the vote was “superb news for our town”.
He continued: “Our current batch of councillors clearly have their fingers on the pulse.
“Our roads are rated as ‘hostile’ to walking and cycling by the department for transport algorithms.
“If we lower the speed to 20mph we edge into the bracket ‘provision suitable for most people’.
“If we want kids to walk and cycle to school, if we want the elderly to remain active, we need safer roads.”
Haslemere Town Council was presented with evidence at its meeting last Thursday that lower speeds “contribute greatly” to fewer accidents, and reduced injuries when accidents do occur.
Councillors were also told changes to the Highway Code in February – one month after Surrey’s dismissal of county-wide 20-mph limits – giving greater priority to pedestrians and cyclists should override Surrey’s objections.
Cllr Terry Weldon, who proposed the successful motion, said he was “absolutely delighted my motion was comfortably approved”.
Reflecting on past “resistance” to a 20mph limit in the town, Cllr Weldon added the vote showed “the mood has changed – and the advocacy done by Active Haslemere has been a major factor driving that.”
The town council’s 20mph request will now go to Surrey’s highways department, following the steps set out in the county’s traffic speeds policy.
Mr Bayliss continued: “The next stage will be to work on the details and crucially, consult.
“County council highways officers will assess the proposal, there will be need for average speed monitoring and then they will say what needs to be done to implement. Funding would then need to be found.
“The current policy says that if average speeds are above 24mph then heavy infrastructure to slow traffic is needed. This is expensive.
“The hope will be that average speeds are below 24mph. However, 20’s Plenty Surrey have been campaigning for a review of this policy which all too often makes 20mph too expensive to implement.
“20’s Plenty promote wide-area, signed-only limits with minimal infrastructure. They are far more cost effective and are proven to be successful at lowering traffic speed.”
Mr Bayliss added: “I believe that when people are asked if they want the road where they live to have slower traffic, they will jump at it.
“If we can make this proposal a reality it will be a win for improved safety, lower pollution, the local economy and will give more people the choice to switch to active travel.
“Sceptics may say 20mph limits are not adhered to, but a vast evidence base contradicts that. Twenty-eight million people in the UK live in an area with or adopting 20mph. They can’t all be wrong.”
Clive Davidson, chair of Transition Haslemere, has also hailed the successful motion in a letter to the Herald (see Page 14 of this week’s paper), saying “with safer streets, more people are likely to walk and cycle, improving health and reducing pollution and carbon emissions”.
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