Wirral Council is moving ahead with new 20mph limits on nearly 1,000 roads.
The new speed limits were given approval by a significant majority of councillors at a local authority environment and transport committee meeting on 5 December. The rollout is part of a wider strategy aimed to get the number of people killed and seriously injured on Wirral’s roads down to zero.
Despite large numbers of protestors turning up at the town hall opposing the roll-out of the new limits at previous meetings, there were only a total of 15 people in attendance at the meeting which included some in favour.
The latest step on 949 roads follows a rollout on 1,700 roads in the first stage of the scheme that has previously had unanimous support. Two more stages covering other parts of the borough are expected to come forward in 2024.
Wirral’s Labour, Green, and Liberal Democrat councillors supported the move arguing it would help save lives despite only 7% of 2,226 responses in a recent consultation endorsing it.
The committee’s three Conservative councillors voted against pointing to the strong opposition in the responses and called for a more targeted approach around schools, accident blackspots, and where people had asked for them.
A committee council report said pausing or not implementing any of phase 2 “would be contrary to typical practice” and schemes should be evaluated over six years using before and after data to measure success. It also said there was a risk the council may have to reallocate or give grant money back to the Liverpool City Region if it didn’t move ahead.
However going forward, the council will look at some main roads being included in the first phase as well as cul-de-sacs, which could potentially change back to 30mph. Council officers also acknowledged mistakes had been made in the first roll-out.
Cllr Steve Foulkes, speaking in favour of the policy, said his ward Claughton “would be devastated” if the roll-out didn’t progress, pointing to years of campaigning by people to have lower speed limits, adding, “This policy is about co-existence of all our road users.”
He added, “The campaign has been a bit dishonest on the part of some of the campaigners,” adding, “It’s not a blanket policy and please don’t lie to people. You will be proved in the long run that you tried to mislead people. I don’t think the Tories are doing themselves any favours by aligning themselves with those type of campaigns.”
Committee chair Liz Grey also in support, criticised proposals for 20mph limits only to be implemented outside schools as councillors pointed out children also play in the street, adding, “A reminder that children play out in all our urban areas, they don’t just hang out outside schools.”
However Conservative councillor Max Booth pointed to the public feedback responses and the council’s commitments to transparency and “to involving as many communities as possible.”
He added, “We are not opposed to 20mph zones but supporting the idea that retaining the trust in our democratic process for future public policy initiatives is also of the utmost importance.”