20mph speed limits considered for Hitchin

A NUMBER of roads in Hitchin could become 20mph zones, as support gathers in the town.

District councillors across all parties are backing a move which would see the speed limit introduced across a network of roads in parts of the town.

Following concerns over safety, Hitchin councillors last year agreed to fund a study to see whether it would be possible to change the speed limits of 19 streets in the town from 30mph to 20mph.

That study is now complete, and a report presented at a North Herts District Council (NHDC) highways panel meeting on Monday shows that of those streets, 12 meet criteria.

They include York Road, Lancaster Avenue, Lancaster Road, Radcliffe Road and Brampton Park Road.

Cllr David Billing, NHDC’s Labour group leader, said that there were currently concerns over safety of the roads.

“It’s about safety, and also the fear of something happening,” he told the Comet.

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“People have a fear of letting children play anywhere near streets where there’s a 30mph limit, because we know an impact on a person is much less damaging if someone is travelling at 20mph rather than, say, 35.”

Seven of the roads studied do not meet the criteria for 20mph zones, because cars drive too quickly there at the moment. In order to meet criteria, the average speed of cars travelling must be below a certain level.

The only way those roads could have the speed limit reduced is if measures such as speed bumps were introduced, which would prove costly.

“It’s very odd,” said Cllr Billing, who added that councillors would be looking at those ineligible roads at a later date if speed limits were to be imposed elsewhere.

“It’s as if county are saying the roads that people are driving at 30mph can’t be changed because they’re driving too fast and that there’s no point in changing the others.”

Officers at Herts County Council had said in its report that because many of the roads were less than 400m long, the case for altering the speed limit would be weakened.

But councillors have argued that many of the roads form a network, and would therefore meet the criteria.

Both NHDC portfolio holder for transport, Tom Brindley, and county councillor Ray Shakespeare-Smith backed the 20mph proposals at the meeting on Monday.

“This clearly had all party support. We are getting the message from the general public and residents that they favour 20mph limits in residential areas,” said Cllr Brindley.

On the fact that limits could only be implemented on roads with cars already travelling under certain speeds, he added: “It’s a bit strange, I don’t quite understand that.”

Cllr Shakespeare-Smith, a district and county councillor, told the Comet: “I support these zones across the board for towns.

“Speeding and perception of speeding is the issue. Cars go too fast in a number of our roads. The public perception is that it’s dangerous and that’s a correct perception.

“It’s about safety, the environment and making the town a much nicer and safer place to live. If you go to Greece or Spain, many of the towns have those sorts of limits which seem to work well.”

Councillors will decide at Hitchin area committee at the end of next month whether to proceed with implementing the measures on certain roads. A report is being prepared detailing costs.