A PUBLIC consultation could garner opinion on which Conwy 20-mph roads should be returned to 30 mph, following a meeting this week where police officers attended to keep the peace.
Despite the torrential rain, protesters turned out in their droves last night (Wednesday) at Conwy’s Bodlondeb HQ to campaign against some 20-mph roads in the county.
Whilst the Welsh Government reduced the default speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph in September, some roads can be made exempt if they meet the right criteria.
At Conwy’s economy and place overview and scrutiny committee, Llandudno Conservative councillor Louise Emery tabled a residents’ petition, calling on Conwy to use its powers to consult the public over which roads should be exempt from the 20-mph speed limit.
The committee recommended that the cabinet consider a public consultation to decide which roads in the county – not exempt under Welsh Government legislation – can be put back to 30 mph.
But any future public consultation won’t happen until Welsh Government issue new guidance to local authorities later this month on which roads should be exempt.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Harry Saville accused Conwy of not following Welsh Government guidance and carrying out a public consultation before the new speed limit came into being.
“This council didn’t come forward with any exemptions and consult. They were told this is what was happening. This is what will go ahead, “ he said.
“I think it is concerning to hear people (some councillors) trying to suggest there was a public consultation and members could have said more when certainly, as far as I was told, these changes would be coming into force, and that was the end of the discussion. No room for public consultation.”
Cllr Gail Jones agreed that the 20-mph speed limit had been imposed. Cllr Jones said the criteria for exemptions was not made easily available to councillors or the public.
Cllr Simon Croft argued speed limits needed reviewing again across the whole county.
“I think we need to look at speed limits in context of the whole area,” he said.
“Particularly, as a cyclist and a motorist, I’ve got concerns about some of our existing speed limits outside of the 20-mph. We’ve got a recommended cycling route along a two-metre-wide road from Pabo Lane from (Llandudno) Junction to Mochdre where the speed limit is 60 mph.”
Cllr Croft then added cyclists took their life into their own hands.
Cllr Gareth Jones said any public consultation needed to be simple for people to engage.
The committee voted in favour of the petition for Cllr Louise Emery to work with the cabinet member for roads Cllr Goronwy Edwards, looking at the cost and effectiveness of a future public consultation.
Councillors were reminded that any consultation would only be on which roads could be ruled as exempt and not the 20-mph speed limit in general.
But the matter won’t return to cabinet for debate until the Welsh Government issue new advice to local authorities.
Perhaps referring to the crowds wielding picket signs and the police presence, chairman Cllr Mike Priestley thanked the public in the gallery for their good behaviour and joked he expected to have tomatoes thrown at him.
The committee voted in favour of the proposal with three councillor abstentions.
Resident Phil Ashe was in attendance at Bodlondeb and questioned why the police were there.
“The police being there was very odd,” he said.
“The public were very good. They came. They listened. They weren’t hostile. There wasn’t even a raised voice. It was ridiculous, a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.”
A Conwy County Council spokeswoman said the council didn’t ask the police to attend.
A spokesman for North Wales Police said, “We were made aware of a planned peaceful protest outside Bodlondeb at 4.45pm yesterday (Wednesday), about the 20 mph limits. A local officer attended and there were no issues.”
Speaking later Cllr Louise Emery, who tabled the residents’ petition, slammed Conwy for a lack of public consultation over exempt roads before the speed limit was introduced in September.
“I’m really pleased that elected members have listened to their residents and realised that this badly implemented policy by Welsh Government has been made even worse by the lack of engagement by Conwy Council,” she said.
“Conwy had guidance from Welsh Government to engage with the public before it came in last September, and they chose to ignore that guidance, and I think that’s what has made Conwy residents even more angry than other parts of North Wales.”
Cllr Emery also claimed that Welsh Government criteria was complex and difficult to obtain, in terms of defining which roads could be exempt from the 20-mph default speed limit.
“The criteria that Welsh Government define roads that can’t be changed, that have to be 20 mph, is really hard to find. It is hard to get that information.” she said.
“If it is near a school, it has to be a 20-mph road. From the Marine Road roundabout in Old Colwyn down to the prom, where you can get on and off the A55, and along the prom to the pier, I think that would be outside the exemptions. It is not what I think. It is what the exemptions allow. Based on my interpretations of the criteria – I’m not the expert – but from my interpretations, that bit of road could be made 30 mph, for example, and that was our point.
“In my ward, the majority of roads can’t be exempted, and to be honest when I’m in Llandudno town centre, you wouldn’t drive more than 20-25 mph anyway, but there are a lot of link roads, linking communities, where it is painful at 20 mph, and there is no need for it.
“In terms of road deaths, you have to look very carefully at the statistics where people die on roads, and it is not generally on 30-mph roads. If it is, often the driver is doing 40 or 50 mph. Most accidents happen on ‘A’ roads.”
“We were there last night to say we can’t change Welsh Government policy. That is not our duty in this chamber, but we can look at every road that can be exempted and put them back up to 30 mph, and there are plenty of them, and we can ask the public.
“The people who were there last night, who had come out on such a horrible night, were there because they wanted to be listened to. It is probably the most unpopular Welsh Government policy I’ve known in all my years of being under a Welsh Labour Government. They feel the 20-mph limit is restricting and having an effect on their daily lives. It is affecting people’s lives, like the bus service being cut in Penrhynside. It is slowing down delivery vans, slowing down carers going to see vulnerable residents. I heard from a pharmacy who were told by a company they are not going to do any more Welsh runs because they need to get around at a certain speed. It certainly adds more than a minute to your journey.”
Cllr Emery said she will now work with cabinet member for roads Cllr Goronwy Edwards on readying proposals to be put before cabinet, explaining any public consultation could be a simple interactive map so residents could easily engage.