A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive saw a series of changes to the authority’s 20mph policy and agreement among all the leading councillors that a targeted approach to low speed zones be continued as a blanket approach could cost up to £12m to introduce, leading to a council tax hike.
The meeting heard from numerous pressure groups, parish councils and residents who claimed the authority was out of step with both a growing national and local desire to lower 30mph limits in towns and villages.
Ian Conlon, of the 20s Plenty campaign told the meeting some 59 parish councils in the county had voted for 20mph limits.
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He said: “Parish councils are your eyes and ears to the ground by reporting ongoing problems with.”
Mr Conlon said the authority’s policy was frustrating the key government policy of encouraging active travel, as well as affecting community cohesion.
He emphasised that perception of danger was importan, rather than just accident statistics which the council appeared to rely on.
The meeting heard Department for Transport figures highlighted that each fatality costed the public purse some £2m and serious injuries about £250,000.
Mick Johnston, of Thirsk and Malton Labour Party, said the council needed to undertake a “radical rethink” rather than looking at old government circulars and outdated reports, and end the “interminable process of application an assessment” for residents wanting 20mph zones introduced.
The authority’s opposition leader, Cllr Stuart Parsons, said police carried out no speed enforcement in the large area in Richmond that was covered by a 20mph zone and added: “On many an evening we have what seems like trial runs of the Monaco Grand Prix on the streets of Richmond.”
Cllr Parsons called on the county council to exert pressure on the police to enforce speed limits so 20mph in built-up areas could be introduced as a default.
However, the council’s executive member for access, Cllr Don Mackenzie said the county’s roads were becoming safer and safer, and 20mph zones should only be created on a case by case basis.
He said the available money for road safety should be focused on exceptions, such as young and older drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and drink and drug drivers.
He said: “One area where we see very few casualties and where we are very safe indeed, withourt being complacent, is in built-up areas and accidents caused by speed.
"This is an area of very very small amounts of incidents on our roads.”
It was recognised by the Executive that this was a matter on which the new single council for North Yorkshire, which will come into being in April 2023, might decide to conduct a further review of the policy.