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20mph limit back on agenda for Watford
County politicians are set to re-examine the case for making Watford a 20mph town following a shift in government policy.
Liberal Democrat opposition councillors in favour of the initiative have instigated a hearing on Hertfordshire’s speeding policies after national guidance was changed earlier this year to make it easier to create blanket 20mph zones.
The hearing, which is due to be held next week, comes 18 months after parties at Watford Borough Council voted anonymously in favour of lowering the speed limit across the town.
But efforts soon ran into a roadblock as the Conservative administration at Hertfordshire County Council, which controls highways policy, resisted the measure.
Last year Phil Bibby, the county council’s deputy cabinet member for highways and transport, said only smaller 20mph zones would be considered, as a blanket speed cut was felt to be "not appropriate" for Watford.
Watford’s elected mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, welcomed news of the new review and said she had found widespread support for making Watford a 20mph area in the town.
She said: "I’m very pleased that at long last this important initiative is going to be given a proper hearing by Hertfordshire County Council.
"71 per cent of residents who responded to my annual questionnaire this year told me they support 20mph limits for residential areas, and we already know that slower speeds on our residential roads would be a major contributor to road safety, improved air quality and an improved quality of life for Watford residents.
"20mph limits for all of our residential areas would make a big contribution to this and I am encouraged that HCC are making moves in the right direction which hopefully will enable us to achieve the goal of Watford becoming a 20mph town."
Liberal Democrat politicians used the fact the Department for Transport issued revised guidance in January encouraging highways authorities to introduce more 20mph limits to reopen the Watford issue.
The new guidance relaxes the qualification criteria before roads can be considered for 20mph limits.
Lib Dem councillors are now arguing the new guidance effectively makes the current Speed Management Strategy for Hertfordshire obsolete.
Peter Jeffree, a Liberal Democrat for the park area of Watford, said: "20mph limits for residential areas is definitely a movement whose time has come. From the early pioneering schemes such as the city of Portsmouth just a few years ago, there are now more than 40 towns and cities across the UK which have adopted 20mph limits as the default for their residential areas.
"In recent months Islington has made all of their roads, not just residential ones, into 20mph limits. Watford is the most densely populated town in Hertfordshire and has more than its fair share of traffic on the roads as a result. "It is important to keep the impact of traffic under control and ensure our roads feel safe for all road users particularly pedestrians and cyclists."
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