‘Self enforced’ 20mph zone for St Albans city centre

PUBLISHED: 19:01 09 February 2012

Julian Daly.  20mph zone.

Julian Daly. 20mph zone.

Archant

AROUND 60 roads in St Albans city centre conservation area are set to have a new lower 20 mph speed limit imposed on them after councillors rejected objections to a reduced speed zone.

Signs showing the altered speed will be put up shortly after councillors on the St Albans joint highways panel agreed to implement the £50,000 Cathedral Area 20mph Zone scheme.

But the success of the project hinges on drivers obeying the new speed limit, as the zone is to be entirely self-enforced.

The zone is based on the city centre’s conservation area, bounded by Hemel Hempstead Road, St Michael’s Street, Fishpool Street, Abbey Mill Lane, St Peter’s and Catherine Streets and Verulam Road.

Chairman of the panel, St Albans and Herts county councillor, Rob Prowse, said: “It is a self-enforced scheme, that is the point of it, to remind people that it is not 30mph. It has been pretty successful elsewhere. If there are problems, we would ask the police to help but I don’t think that will be needed.”

Vice-chairman, Cllr Julian Daly, said the scheme was initiated several years ago after strong lobbying by residents concerned about traffic.

Following that request the panel, which includes representatives of St Albans district and Herts county councils, set about determining whether there was a need for the change.

A recent Herts Highways survey of about 2,350 businesses and residents in the area found that 51 per cent of the 553 respondents thought the speed of traffic in their street was acceptable compared to 33 per cent who felt it was too high.

Seventy-one per cent agreed with the proposed measure to slow traffic in the conservation area and improve the quality of life for residents. But there were objections to the project with one resident describing the survey as biased.

He said he was appalled at the proposal to introduce a 20mph limit across much of the old city and conservation area “by the back door.”

He was also concerned about the impact on emergency vehicles, in particular ambulances, fearing trips to hospital could be adversely affected. But a spokesman for the Ambulance Service confirmed that the lower limit would have no impact.

Other objectors were concerned about the cost of implementing the scheme, saying there had not been enough injuries to warrant it going ahead. They warned there could be an increase in casualties as a result.

Cllr Daly defended the decision as a “good move” by panel members who decided that the benefits outweighed objections. The project would cost about £50,000, including public consultation, he added.

Despite some residents’ fears that speed humps would be installed, Cllr Daly said such engineering work would be too expensive and there were only minor changes to be carried out including widening the pavement on Branch Road.

He added: “This is a conservation area so we don’t want it cluttered with signs or speed humps.

“If it works, it may be rolled out to other parts of the district.”

Speed camera expert Eric Bridgstock, of Evans Grove, slammed the panel for its “total disregard for objections”.

He warned that casualties could increase, as pedestrians and cyclists might be lulled into a false sense of security and take less care on roads in the city centre.

Mr Bridgstock said he would formally complain to the council about the 20mph zone as there was no documented rationale for the scheme which was a “disgraceful waste of public money.”

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