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20mph limit costs for Watford 'ludicrous', says Conservative county councillor Tony Hunter
The costs involved in making Watford a 20mph town have been described as "absolutely ludicrous" by a Conservative county councillor.
Yesterday, councillors met with multiple consultees from organisations who have knowledge or experience in implementing 20mph limits on roads across the county.
The meeting comes 18 months after parties at Watford Borough Council voted in favour of lowering the speed limit across the town, before efforts 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.
During the meeting, members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee raised concerns over the prices proposed to develop the scheme throughout the county, which could run into millions.
Councillor Tony Hunter said: "I am trying to get my head around the actual costing. Previously we had heard that it would be done with just road signs, markings on the roads and consultation. The costings are absolutely ludicrous. Where will these costs come from?"
Representatives from the Cambridge 20mph Project presented their findings to the committee.
Andrew Preston, from the Cambridge project, said they had a capital budget of £400,000 but the costing of implementation, which is currently ongoing, is looking to be nearer £600,000. The scheme is a joint project with Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council working together to promote it.
Mr Preston suggested that a way of lowering costs would be to approach the NHS as they have previously part-funded a similar scheme in Liverpool.
The NHS offered money towards the project because of the health benefits that come with people driving slower.
Councillor Peter Jeffree, who represented Watford Borough Council, said after the meeting: "It was interesting to note that the forecast cost of the Cambridge scheme, which was £600k for a city with 50% larger population than Watford, would be potentially offset by achieving a reduction in the number of serious accidents of just four in a single year."
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.
Councillor Jeffree added: "I feel very encouraged by today and feel that the tide is definitely turning in favour of 20 as the default speed for residential roads. The fact that HCC are carrying out a parallel exercise of revising their Speed Management Policy reinforces this feeling of confidence that we can begin to see a positive way forward.
"One important aspect that many contributors emphasised is the need for wide consultation with residents to make sure the benefits of lower speeds are fully understood. One way residents can immediately engage with this is through the current HCC consultation on their speed strategy which continues into November."
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