Oatlands Drive

Council plans to trial 20mph zones outside Harrogate schools could have little positive benefit

12 September 2023

North Yorkshire Council has said that they intend to extend 20mph zones outside many schools in Harrogate.

Although the proposals are being seen as positive by many, the changes would likely have little effect on road safety, but just be used as a step towards the fulfilling the agenda of the installation of many more cash-generating cameras.

The proposed area for the new zone includes a total of seven schools in Harrogate:

  • Harrogate Grammar School
  • Rossett Acre Primary School
  • Rossett School
  • Ashville College
  • St Aidan’s Church of England High School
  • Oatlands Junior School
  • Oatlands Infants School

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for highways and transport, Cllr Keane Duncan, has so far declined to be interviewed on the proposals. The Council have heralded this as a “landmark road safety package”.

Cllr Duncan will be balancing his need to maintain his public image, with a need to gain followers for his Mayoral campaign – Cllr Duncan is Conservative candidate for Mayor of North Yorkshire. That image took a big dent when the Gateway Project failed.

Although by many a switch to a lower speed limit will be seen as an obvious sensible move, it is not straightforward.

Looking at politics, Duncan, and the Area Committee are looking to establish essentially their reason for being – when really the Council Executive is the group making the decisions.

This decision is an apparent response to the work that has gone on in the the Harlow Area of the community. This isn’t a criticism of that work, as any group that works to make the area safer should be applauded. But why ask the public for the solution, surely this is something that needs to be managed based on facts, and by experts.

A 20mph zone is a solution, that is being put to the public as beneficial. Really the question that should have been put to the public is “what do you see as the problem” – from there it is North Yorkshire County Council Highways (as experts) to look at solutions, if they are directed to do so by the councillors. The Area Committee has no more understanding on this area than the public of course.

A collision with a slower moving car causes less damage to a pedestrian – that is well known, perhaps stating the obvious. A collision at  speed of 30–40 mph, poses a risks of pedestrian fatalities at 3.5–5.5 times greater than at speeds of 20–30 mph.

But here’s the problem:

  • Data has shown that 20mph means cars operate in a less efficient way, so this will increase pollution in the short-term, but there is a move to electric, albeit a move that is slowing down.
  • Data shows that just introducing a 20mph zone has little impact on road safety*
  • The council is looking at applying for powers to install cameras to fine for moving traffic offences in other areas.
  • Those powers could open the door to the cash generating cameras in these 20mph areas too.
  • The council hasn’t given any decisioning powers to your elected local councillor for this decision.
  • These changes are a stick, rather than a carrot. There is no educational element to this, helping people understand why they should drive in a certain way.

*Queen’s University Belfast, Edinburgh University, and the University of Cambridge has found that reducing speed limits from 30mph to 20mph has had ‘little impact’ on road safety – that was due to vehicles not observing the new speed limit.

See https://www.qub.ac.uk/News/Allnews/featured-research/20-mph-speed-limits-little-impact-crashes.html

The Council has a current proposal for a trial in Selby for Automatic Number Plate Recognition Cameras (ANPR), County Council is looking to apply for additional powers for traffic enforcement.

The plans will then be considered for approval by Cllr Duncan, with the aim of implementing the measures early next year.

Keith Tordoff MBE as an Independent Candidate in the 2024 election for Mayor of York and North Yorkshire said :

In response to the article in the Harrogate Informer in relation to the  ‘trial introduction of 20mph speed limits around certain schools in the Harrogate area and the proposal for the introduction of ANPR cameras in Selby.

Firstly I welcome any initiative that will make roads in North Yorkshire safer, particularly around schools, although I do have concerns over the proposed introduction of ANPR cameras in Selby. I am sure no one would argue against the introduction of safety measures around schools but are the wider electorate of North Yorkshire being informed and consulted ?

We have very recently witnessed the debacle over the Harrogate Station Gateway project where a failure to consult and follow due process resulted in a huge financial loss through haphazard and disjointed decision making by North Yorkshire Council. This must not be repeated and decision making on projects affecting the wider community must be open, transparent and with an opportunity for scrutiny by the public and press.

As chief of Highways for North Yorkshire Council, the Conservative candidate for Mayor of York and North Yorkshire in 2024  I am sure Councillor Keane Duncan will be keen to reassure the people of North Yorkshire his decisions over the next few months will be not politically expedient.

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