Not so fast County Hall

Chairman of the Mereside Tenants and Residents Association John Raine is questioning the money spent on 20 mph signs around the estate when the speed limit is not enforceable. PIC BY ROB LOCK'28-12-11
Chairman of the Mereside Tenants and Residents Association John Raine is questioning the money spent on 20 mph signs around the estate when the speed limit is not enforceable. PIC BY ROB LOCK'28-12-11
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Twenty’s plenty, say road safety champions, but they face a rough ride in convincing the rest of us – by this time next year.

The campaign against blanket bans on driving at more than 20mph in residential areas is gaining pace on the Fylde, as zones extend their reach.

There are petitions against 20’s plenty limits, including in Fleetwood, where 665 locals have called on County Hall for a rethink on the issue.

Fleetwood Development Partnership has raised the petition calling for a fresh look at the limits.

FDP spokesman Bob Boal says: “Some of our streets are so choked with traffic, it’s difficult to do 20mph, but arterial roads along the Esplanade, which are access roads, need a higher limit.”

Fleetwood Town Council, which has drafted an alternative list of roads which should be retained at 30mph, wants the county council to go one better – and slap a 20mph limit on Poulton Road, one of the port’s busiest thoroughfares and an accident blackspot, with 18 collisions there in the past five years.

Coun Dave Shaw said: “If there is a road that needs to have 20mph, it’s Poulton Road because of the number of accidents.”

Some local campaigners are arguing against an all-or-nothing approach to the 20mph limit and calling for what Mr Boal calls a “common sense” policy.

Others say it doesn’t go far enough. And some, in areas which already have 20mph zones, say they’re they not enforceable.

Over Wyre in Preesall, there’s also a petition against the measures – and calls for motorists to rally to a 5mph go-slow in protest at the newly imposed limit.

Driving instructor Derek Ronson says the limit will affect his business.

“It just takes so long to get from A to B at this speed.”

For Jim Hill, 74, of Hambleton, it’s all relative.

His granddaughter Charlotte Rainford, now 19, spent months in hospital after being knocked down on the notorious A588 between Hambleton and Stalmine in 2007.

Jim has campaigned to reduce the limit from 60mph to 40mph there. Measures now in place, to reduce the limit there to 50mph, are “too little, too late” says Mr Hill.

He adds: “It’s felt like a losing battle. Where’s the logic in introducing 20mph speed limits in Preesall, Knott End and Stalmine, when the council has ignored the deadly section of the A588 for so many years?

“When I heard the county council was reducing the other, quieter roads, to 20mph, it was almost like bosses were laughing at us.”

Feelings are also running high in Cleveleys, where some say traffic congestion in the busy retail centre already dictates a slower flow to traffic.

Others claim side roads are used as rat runs – to escape congestion – which adds to the risks and supports the need for limits.

One resident Diane Greenwood, 47, of Cleveleys, says it’s the absolute limit, and threatens to sue Lancashire County Council if – as she fears – driving in lower gear for significantly longer damages her two-litre diesel BMW.

Diane sees red at proposals to impose the new limits on residential roads in and around Cleveleys, including several major routes such as North Drive (where the limit will be introduced in stretches), West Drive and Cumberland Avenue.

Diane adds: “Department of Transport figures show a drop in all fatalities except cyclists. There is no need for such action. Money should be spent to warn people about checking for cyclists.”

If Lancashire County Council has its way, virtually all residential roads will be down to 20mph or less this time next year, with only arterial routes retained at 30mph or more.

County Hall’s administration excludes go-it-alone (unitary) authority Blackpool, but resort road safety watchdogs have already blazed the 20’s plenty trail to target key trouble spots for speed – starting with Grange Park three years ago, and building on success there to extend zones and smaller schemes across parts of Blackpool.

Residents are now being canvassed for opinions on such a scheme for Marton.

But critics highlight a flaw – 30mph is a legally enforced limit but the 20mph zones are self-regulating.

John Raine, chairman of Mereside Tenants and Residents Association, says boy racers still speed through the estate.

“They know the 20mph is not enforceable so they just ignore it.”

At Fleetwood, the town council has been told police will take a “gradual approach to enforcement”.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has yet to agree a strategy. Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for highways and transport for Blackpool Council, says: “Evidence shows the vast majority respect the zones and, by and large, they work.”

Blackpool’s road safety manager Carol Bracegirdle warns: “We should all drive appropriately to conditions, and that’s generally under 30mph in such areas, where cars are parked, and children playing, or crossing.

“Motorists must also remember that the 30mph limit is just that – a limit, not a target.”