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Council does not have legal power to overturn 20mph speed limits

20mph sign - new picture (Pic: Elgan Hearn Local Democracy Reporting Service)

POWYS County Council does not have the power to overrule the Welsh Government’s 20mph speed limits in built up areas, a senior councillor has said.

This follows a call by Conservative Cllr Iain McIntosh to scrap the speed limit.

On September 17, the default speed limit in built up areas of Wales dropped to 20mph and has caused outrage to many.

Signs have been vandalised in many parts of Wales, there have been protest marches and over 444,000 people have signed a petition calling for the 20mph limit to be revoked.

Cllr McIntosh has asked for an urgent review of the implementation of the 20mph speed limit in the county.

He also wants Powys councillors to be allowed a vote on whether it should “continue” to be implemented in Powys.

Cllr McIntosh said: “It is imperative that as elected representatives we should be able to measure public opinion and, at times of public outrage over such a decision, and have the opportunity to vote about the future implementation of the 20mph speed limit accordingly.”

Cllr Iain McIntosh

Liberal Democrat portfolio holder for highways, transport and recycling, Cllr Jackie Charlton said: “Local authorities do not have the power to alter this national limit and therefore unable to rescind the made order.

“Welsh Government did accept that this lowered national limit may not be appropriate in all settings on the existing restricted roads, and published exception guidance for local authorities to apply.

“This guidance was issued to ensure there was a consistent approach across the whole of Wales when deciding which sections of restricted roads should be exempted.

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“Powys County Council, as well as the Welsh Government who are the highway authority for the trunk roads in Powys, have been consistent in applying the criteria for exceptions in line with the published guidance.

“As the highway authority for the county roads, the council will continue to monitor and review speed limits, using Welsh Government published guidance as appropriate.”

Cllr Jackie Charlton

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: “Our exceptions guidance states highway authorities continue to have flexibility to set local speed limits, which are right for individual roads, reflecting local circumstances.

“The guidance also states that where a decision deviates from the exceptions guidance, highway authorities should have a clear and reasoned case for doing so.”

Earlier this year the government asked each highway authority to consider if and where exceptions should be made and for these traffic orders to also be made on September 17 in conjunction with the default 20mph order.

A consultation took place from June 30 to July 21 which asked for Powys residents views on roads that will be the “exception” to the 20mph traffic orders.

Nearly 250 stretches of road in the county were included in the consultation.

In total 28 objections were made which allowed the council to tweak the speed limits for several roads.

The legislation for the new speed limit was passed by the Welsh Government in July 2022  and fulfilled a manifesto pledge from the 2021 Senedd elections.

The Welsh Government has said that having a 20mph default speed limit is expected to result in 40 per cent fewer road collisions.

This in turn would save up to 10 lives and stop up to 2,000 people being injured every year.