West Lothian councillors criticise 20mph survey

Monday May 1st 2023

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Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Sommerville

A Scotland-wide proposal to reduce thousands of speed limits from 30mph to 20mph has been branded a ‘political trade-off’ to maintain Holyrood coalition.

West Lothian Council’s Executive heard that more than 1,500 roads in the county had been identified as having the potential of being moved from 30mph to 20mph zones, at a cost of more than £6m.

A consultation had been carried out at the behest of Transport Scotland, the national transport agency to build the case for cutting speed limits in built up areas .

The 20mph zones are controversial following their seemingly random introduction as part of the Holyrood sponsored Spaces for People programme introduced during the pandemic.

And two local councillors said that constituents had criticised the council for the latest survey – despite it being a national agenda.

Depute council leader and depute Labour group leader Councillor Kirsteen Sullivan asked Road Networks manager Gordon Brown: “I have had many constituents contacting me about this.

“I just want to address a fundamental misunderstanding. Can you confirm this is not a council initiative and the council has been obliged to take part by Transport Scotland?

Mr Brown said: “This is a national strategy that Transport Scotland are leading on. Once the information is gathered from all 32 authorities it will shape the strategy as it goes forward.”

Councillor Andrew McGuire, Labour, added: “I’ve also had constituents asking me what they call the ‘clowncil’ are thinking about, introducing 20mph zones when we don’t even have a functioning bus service?

“This is from the Scottish Government so they can hold their coalition together with the Green Party. We should be under no illusion about where all this has come from, and what the purpose of it is.”

Councillor Robert De Bold, the SNP depute group leader raised concerns about the potential for cutting speed limits to 20 mph in rural areas such as Breich, on the A71, where speed limits drop from 60 mph outside settlements to 30 mph in built-up sections.

Mr Brown explained that buffer zones, also built into the survey plans, would cater for gradual speeds reduction in the zones from 60 down to 40 and then too 20 mph.

Almost 400 of the roads identified to have the new speed reduction are in Livingston.

The consultants Stantec were appointed by the council to carry out the assessment work on its behalf.

One of the stated aims of Transport Scotland’s National Transport Strategy is to ensure all appropriate roads in built up areas will have a safer speed limit of 20 mph by 2025.

If they go ahead, the estimated cost of speed reduction measures in West Lothian would be £6,702,000.

Stantec’s assessments will be submitted by the council to Transport Scotland.

Mr Brown told the Executive meeting: “The road network assessments for changing existing urban speed limits in West Lothian to 20mph speed limits were carried out based on the criteria set by Transport Scotland for all local authorities.

“It should be noted that the submission of the assessment does not commit the Council to any expenditure at this stage.

“The estimated costs are to give Transport Scotland a high-level overview of possible cost implications to implement a national 20mph speed limit strategy should it proceed in the future.”

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