New petition calls for Wirral Council to reverse 20mph zone plans

The local authority is planning to reduce the speeds on nearly 1,000 roads.
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Opposition to Wirral’s new 20mph zones is growing louder as a new petition calls for Wirral Council to reverse its plans.

The local authority is planning to reduce the speeds on nearly 1,000 roads in what will be the second of four phases to roll out new zones across the Wirral, with more than 1,700 roads already moved over to the new limit.

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The first phase passed smoothly in January with full support from all political parties at an environment committee meeting. The rollout is part of a wider strategy aiming to get the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) on roads down to zero by 2040 across the Liverpool City Region.

It is being funded through the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and is money set aside for the purpose of rolling out new 20mph zones. Data from Merseyside Police found 100 people were involved in KSIs in 2021.

Opposition: However, anger has been growing louder with the council challenged on the issue regularly at meetings and a petition now calling for it to reconsider the scheme getting nearly 900 signatures. Some Conservative councillors have also publicly criticised the plans.

At a council meeting on July 24, several people compared the policy to that of former Soviet communist countries, a whitewash, and antidemocratic. The Liverpool City Region’s Vision Zero strategy to reduce collisions was also labelled as “extreme, alarmist, and totally unattainable” by some of those objecting to the 20mph schemes.

New 20mph zone on Claremount Road, Wallasey. Photo by Edward Barnes.New 20mph zone on Claremount Road, Wallasey. Photo by Edward Barnes.
New 20mph zone on Claremount Road, Wallasey. Photo by Edward Barnes.
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A consultation on the first phase found opposition to every proposed zone but only two received responses from more than 100 people. At the meeting, Wirral resident Anthony Pritchard called the consultation a “failure” arguing many were unaware of the plans succeeding in “creating public confusion and distrust.”

David Felton said: “What is the exact number of people needed to object or the exact proportion of respondents required to stop further 20mph zones from being introduced?”

About 20mph zones: Councils have had the power to introduce new 20mph zones since 1999 without applying to the government for permission. However, the Guardian recently reported government ministers are now considering placing restrictions on council’s abilities to roll out new zones.

According to Queen’s University Belfast, there is evidence that 20mph zones “were associated with a reduction in the number and severity of collisions and casualties” but evidence impacting air pollution and physical activity was insufficient.

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A study in Kingston Upon Hull found people walked and cycled more and 60% felt more children played outside as a result. An uncontrolled review of 20mph zones in Hull saw a 56% reduction in total collisions and a reduction of 90% in fatal and serious injuries with the biggest drop being child casualties falling by 74% over the seven year period.

In 1997, a trial of 27 councils in Scotland also found the number of reported accidents every year reduced by 13 with serious or fatal accidents reducing by 6%.

20mph zone on the Wirral.20mph zone on the Wirral.
20mph zone on the Wirral.

Following a rollout of 20mph zones on 94% of 30mph zones in Portsmouth, half of roads saw a decrease in average speed though 37% did see an increase.

A study looking at the Portsmouth scheme did find perceptions were mixed with 54% saying there had been no change in people’s speed but 40% said they had dropped. However, decreases in casualties on roads in Portsmouth was 8% more than the national average.

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The petition: However, those against the rollout argue “a blanket reduction in speed limits is not an effective solution for our community” and is “based on anecdotal evidence rather than comprehensive studies.”

Alan Jones, the man behind the new petition said: “We request that before implementing such significant changes, the council conducts thorough research and analysis on local accident data, road conditions, and traffic flow patterns.”

They have also argued the rollout is an inefficient use of resources, may result in more congestion, disrupt emergency services, and lead to longer journey times. There are also concerns it “may divert police resources from addressing more pressing issues such as anti-social behaviour or serious crimes within our community.”

He also said: “Studies have shown that simply reducing speed limits does not necessarily lead to a significant decrease in accidents or fatalities unless combined with other road safety measures like improved signage visibility, pedestrian crossings enhancements, or driver education campaigns.”

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This is echoed by a Transport Research Laboratory report that showed sign-only schemes only saw speeds reduced by 1km per hour compared to an average of 4km per hour in zones with traffic calming measures. Wirral Council has said such measures would only be considered after signs and lines were installed.

A report by the Department for Transport in 2018 said 20mph zones were most appropriate for quieter streets where people would likely comply with the new rules and police enforcement was key to ensure speeds reduced.

For journey times, most only increase by 1 minute when zones are rolled out according to the Welsh Government. Wirral Council has also said there would be little impact on buses and no anticipated impact on taxi fares.

Rollout: A January report on the first phase of the scheme said a feasibility study had been done with automatic traffic counts at 200 locations across the Wirral before the rollout began. The report said when planning the rollout, “consideration was given to the feel of the area, what amenities it contains, assessing the impact on surrounding roads and potential collision reduction.”

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Environment committee chair Cllr Liz Grey said the policy was agreed by the environment committee and at a full council meeting, adding: “It is accepted that 20mph saves lives and that any delays for drivers are likely to be around one minute per person per day.

“With car crashes being the main killer of children and young people as well as a significant cause of death and injury for adults, I would suggest that a minute’s delay is a small price to pay for saving lives.”

She said the consultation had been advertised on local press, social media, emails to residents and on our website, adding: “Results are not ignored. This was not a referendum and all objections were noted and responded to, and where appropriate informed further planning.

“However objections must be valid on the grounds of traffic movement and access and cannot simply be because people do not simply want something.”

A link to the petition can be found here. An explanation by Wirral Council on why it is rolling out the new zones can be found on its website.

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