No cash for Norwich 20mph zones

The lack of money in council coffers is scuppering moves to make Norwich's roads safer.

Councils have been urged to take advantage of moves to make 20mph speed limit zones easier to introduce by cutting red tape.

But after transport minister Norman Baker announced plans to streamline the expensive and time-consuming processes involved in introducing the safety zones, city councillors said there was still no money to introduce them.

Mr Baker's new measures mean that councils will be able to simply paint signs on the road and have fewer road bumps and chicanes. They will also be able to use 'common-sense measures' including variable speed limits outside schools without going to the government for approval.

But city council cabinet member for planning and transport Bert Bremner, left, queried where the money would come from in the light of government cuts.

He said: 'If we and the people of Norwich, or an area of Norwich, wanted 20mph on their streets, there is no money. We don't have enough money to maintain the roads and paths in Norwich as it is.'

He said that potholes were left unfilled, important road markings fading and roads unable to be resurfaced due to budget cuts.

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He added: 'We cannot even put in bus boxes on North Park Avenue to make room for the bus to get to the bus stop to allow disabled people to get on or off safely.'

A spokeswoman for Norwich city council added that they would continue to carefully assess when zones are introduced with Norfolk County Council.

Amy Lyall said: 'It is important to consider the best strategy for an area as 20mph limits are not always the best solution.'

Norwich City Council was one the first places in the country to introduce 20mph limits in the 1990s. A self-enforcing limit was introduced at North Earlham after a young boy died after being hit by a car driving at nearly 60mph. At the time there were calls from councillors to use the zones across the city.

Today there are 14 areas of Norwich which feature these limits, however Ms Lyall said recent sign-only 20mph limits have been less effective that those with traffic-calming measures, and that they were considering whether these needed to be 'reassessed'.

Norwich's Liberal Democrats first mooted a blanket 20mph idea more than four years ago and in 2009 three areas, Newmarket Street and Vauxhall Street area, Borrowdale Drive, and Marl Pit Lane, were picked for a trial. The results showed speeds in Borrowdale Drive reduced slightly, by one mph, but there was little impact on the traffic speeds around the other two pilot areas which were already generally compliant with 20mph.

Simon Wright MP for Norwich South said he would personally be in contact with the city council to ask them to look at the situation.

'The minister's announcement will allow councils like Norwich to be able to introduce 20 zones without need to unnecessary time and money to be spent on satisfying Whitehall civil servants,' he said.

He said he had supported the case for 20mph limits in side streets for many years and that he felt there was strong support for the public for these limits and wanted to see a change of culture in how people view side streets and neighbourhoods.

The Norwich Green Party has also been lobbying the city council to create more 20mph zones in the city.

Adrian Ramsay, deputy leader of the national Green Party and former city councillor, said: 'I welcome any efforts to make it easier for councils to bring in 20mph zones in side streets.'

He hoped that more enforcement work could be done but said more zones would lead to a culture where people expected this on side roads.

The issue of enforcement was highlighted by Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council.

'The message we get back from the police is that if we keep putting restrictions in how are we going to enforce it, because they haven't got the manpower,' he said. 'I love the idea, I think it's right in busy streets where there are lots of pedestrians and children that you should have speed limits, but how is it going to be enforced, who is going to enforce it?'

Living Streets, a national charity that campaigns for safe, attractive and enjoyable streets for pedestrians, welcomed the minister's announcement, and John Peacock, the group's Norfolk representative in Norwich, hoped persuasion rather than the 'draconian' speed bumps could help people slow down

He said: 'Motorists can feel as though they are being picked on. It is far better to get them to realise what they are doing and gently persuade them.'

The introduction of 20mph zones has caused some frustration to drivers, with Sue Prutton, chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich section of the advanced drivers group RoADAR, calling some 'very tedious'.

Mrs Prutton said: 'It is OK when people are in and out of school entrances, but they can be tedious to the driver if nothing else is about.'

Mrs Prutton particularly welcomed the idea that different limits could be used at different times, with flashing lights to enforce them.

The Traffic Signs Policy Review is due to publish its final report later this summer.

In addition, the Department for Transport plans to revise the guidance on speed limits with the aim of increasing flexibility for local authorities.

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