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20's Plenty Questions to Executive Members at October Herts County Council Meeting

At the full Hertfordshire County Council Meeting on 19 October 2021, members of 20's Plenty for Hertfordshire asked 3 public questions relating to 20mph speed limits to Executive Members of the Environment and Highways and Transport Cabinet Panels.

Sue Nicholls (Campaign Leader 20's Plenty for Buntingford, Joint co-ordinator 20's Plenty for Hertfordshire) asked E H Buckmaster, Executive Member for the Environment, the following question: -

“New research from engineering consultants, Skyrad(1), modelling the impact of capping speeds at 20mph versus 30mph shows significant and substantial reductions in Carbon (26%) and Nitrogen Oxide (28%). Using “real life” modelling, the impact of repeated acceleration and braking are shown to be the dominant factors in overall journey emissions and these are significantly reduced when speeds are reduced to 20mph. According to DfT figures(2), transport is responsible for 27% of all emissions in the UK, with cars and taxis alone making up 61% of the emissions from road transport.

In light of the Skyrad research and the move towards default 20mph speed limits being adopted in so many other local authorities, and in Wales and Scotland, surely, it’s time that the County Council placed a default 20mph speed limit in Hertfordshire at the heart of its Environment Policy as a matter of urgency in order to reduce carbon, NOx and PM103 and PM2.5 emissions(3)? The adoption of a default 20mph speed limit would also have other far-reaching benefits such as a significant effect on public health through improvements in air quality and the subsequent reduction in road danger which would enable a big increase in the uptake of Active Travel and a significant modal shift away from motor vehicles in favour of walking and cycling, most significantly for local journeys

Can I ask what steps the County Council are taking now and are planning to take in the near future to reduce vehicle emissions in Hertfordshire and whether a default 20mph speed limit is part of those plans?”

3. shown to be reduced at 20mph due to decreases in acceleration and braking

E H Buckmaster, Executive Member for the Environment, replied:-

“Thank you, Ms Nicholls, for the question. Members won’t be surprised to

hear that Hertfordshire County Council has no plans to introduce default

20mph areas; however,we are investing £7m over the current 4-year

Integrated Plan period for the implementation of additional 20mph speed

limits over wider areas.

We have a Speed Management Strategy which recognises the

importance of encouraging active travel (walking and cycling), as you

mentioned, in our towns and villages and that’s in line with the

Hertfordshire Local Transport Plan, and we do recognise there’sa strong

public desire for implementation of 20mph speed limits over wider areas.

In line with the Department for Transport guidance,it provides a means of

identifying areas suitable for 20mph speed limits, and using the place and

movement approach, and this is a consideration of the local road

environment, and existing speed measurements. The Strategy

acknowledges that we do not expect significant behaviour change or

compliance by simply changing speed limit signs. We do know from

experience,in other places in Hertfordshire where the wrong limits were

applied to a road, that they may be ignored.20mph areas should,

therefore,be effectively ‘self-enforcing’, where a mean speed of24mph or

less, signing and lining should be sufficient to ensure self-compliance,

and where mean speeds are over this threshold,it’s likely that further

measures,including traffic calming,will be required to reduce and control

speeds to appropriate levels, hence the investment that I mentioned


The evidence for air quality being reduced as a result of 20mph is variable

and depends on the study,and I notice from the one that you mentioned,

it was basing its evidence on large cities such as London.

While there is evidence from 20mph implementation within the UK which

finds a significant reduction in casualties where pedestrians mix with

vehicles,compared to background levels, that clearly doesn’t mean a

blanket limit. What matters is driving down speedsoverall.20mph limits

can do that in some areas but there are other measures which can do that

and the County Council’s Strategy takes that into account. Other studies,

for example, one in Toronto published in 2020, found no real difference in

casualties between the 30kph zone and comparable streets without limits.

The Strategy is consistent with the evidence.

And the core principles of this approach is in the Speed Management

Strategy, covered in sections 4 and 5, which was agreed by Cabinet in

December 2020, having been considered by the Highways and

Environment Panel in November 2020; and HCC’s approach to the

adoption of the wider 20mph areas is specifically covered in Section 6 of

the Speed Management Strategy.”

Supplementary question: “Bearing in mind the new research from Skyrad, the World Health Organisation has recently updated its air quality guidelines, based on a marked increase in scientific evidence that shows that air pollution damages human health at even lower concentration that previously thought. The World Health Organisation has declared that clean air should be a fundamental human right and are warning that exceeding the new air quality guidelines levels is associated with significant risk to health. There are many urban and rural communities across Hertfordshire that are seeing worrying increases in traffic, including large numbers of HGVs on residential roads, particularly those with a 30mph speed limit. These increases are having a major impact on local air pollution levels. This, combined with the inevitable rise in noise pollution and road danger, pose a serious threat to residents’ physical and mental health. In light of this new evidence on the harm that pollution does, can I ask why there are so few roadside emission testing sites in residential areas in Hertfordshire at the moment and whether there are any plans to increase the number of them and types of site where monitoring is taking place in order to identify problem areas and take appropriate action to improve air quality?”

E H Buckmaster, Executive Member for the Environment, replied: -

“I think I can partially answer the question as the monitoring of air quality is a district council matter. However, I can assure you that we’re about to embark on some studies using a consultant with special software that will manage hotspots in the way that you’re describing, and then the idea with that is then to undertake specific actions in those areas and it could be working with local communities, encouraging more active travel, in order then address those air quality issues. So, that’s the kind of thing we’re doing at county level and then of course there will be initiatives at district and borough level as well. Thank you.”

Nathan Pask, 20's Plenty for Hitchin asked Phil Bibby, Executive

Member for Highways and Transport, the following question: -

“My question also relates to default 20mph speed limits.

In the Council meeting on 23 February, you said “if you don’t actually

provide measures, whether it be natural changes to the road

environments up toengineering measures in extremis, the speeds of cars

do not actually reduce, andpedestrians and cyclists have the perception

that the speeds should be lower but,in practice, they’re not so it makes

them less safe.

The first part of this statement is incorrect; we know that speeds reduce

based on the evidence of town wide, sign only schemes. There are lots of

examples that prove this, Bristol(with research backed up from the

University of the West of England), in Edinburgh(monitored by a

consortium of universities) and in Faversham.

But setting that aside and focusing on the second part of that statement,

please provide the research that 20mph limits can be more dangerous

than 30 mph limits for cyclists and pedestrians,specifically because of

their changed perceptions?”

Phil Bibby, Executive Member for Highways and Transport, replied:-

“Thank you, Mr Pask for your question. Strictlyspeaking, you are correct,

of course,in that speeds do reduce if we designate a street or area as

20mph, but only by a marginal amount. My speech on the 23 February

was designed to stress a fundamental point about the dangers of reliance

of sign only measures, and I stand by what I said, and the way I said it.

Professional research, including the Atkins report, looked at the effect of

20mph limits, and I will quote a relevant paragraph:

‘Following the introduction of 20 mph limits (signed only), the median

speed has fallen by just under 1mph, with faster drivers reducing their

speed more. The evidence suggests that this is partly due to the

implementation of 20mph limits, but also reflectsbackground trends in

speed on urban roads.

In residential case study areas, the introduction of 20mph limits is

estimated to have resulted in a 0.8mph reduction in median speeds

and a 1.1mph reduction in 85thpercentile speeds on important

local roads. Ishould explain for the public that the 85thpercentile

speed is the speed that 85% of vehicles do not exceed.

In city centre case study areas, the analysis shows a 0.6mph

reduction in median speeds, and a 1.0mph reduction in 85th

percentile speeds.’

You mention Bristol, and I know their blanket scheme has undergone a

post implementation review. The police felt the need to give their standard

response: ‘Speed limits are only one element of speed management, and local

speed limits should not be set in isolation. They should be part of a

package with other measures to manage speeds, which include

engineering, visible interventions and landscaping standards that respect

the needs of all road users and raise the driver’s awareness of the


This is exactly how we intend introducing speed limits. 17 selected roads in Bristol were reviewed, and 8 (almost half) were highlighted as requiring speed reduction interventions. The highest speed reduction from signs only was just 2.4mph but, on one road, speeds increased by 7mph, as the introduction of a parking zone provided more

space, encouraging higher speeds.

National speed limit compliance data revealed recentlythat under free

flow conditions, 87% of cars exceed the 20mph limit, and 20% exceed by

more than 10mph. 45% of these say it is because the limit is inappropriate, so, this is clear evidence that to ensure compliance, limits need to be appropriate for the environment, with calming measures in place, where necessary.

I have no research to hand supporting our contention that if signs don’t

actually reduce speeds, walkers and cyclists are at greater risk. Frankly,

we do not need such research to work out that a vehicle travelling at

30mph in a 20mph area is a greater risk thanone travelling at 20mph,

which is what the residents expectto see. Also, we listen to residents that

have been placed in that position through poorly implemented schemes

and, to be honest with you, I do not want to be the Executive Member that

puts residents at that greater risk, and to become accident statistics or

future research.”

Supplementary Question

“So, let’s say we have a default 20mph limit where people live, work and

play. Do you agree that if a proportion of people drive at 20mph, those

people behind them are also driving at 20mph? And, therefore, to a

degree, 20mphis self-enforcing? This is my experience of driving and

cycling in the London Boroughs. Thank you.”

Phil Bibby, Executive Member for Highways and Transport, replied:

“That relies on drivers in front driving at 20mph which, unfortunately,

we’ve found we can’t rely on.”

Colin Hodges, 20' Plenty for St Albans & Joint Co-ordinator, 20's Plenty for Hertfordshire asked Phil Bibby, Executive Member for Highways and Transport, the following question:

“The Highways Department of HCC conducted a consultation in 2020 in

relation to an update to the Council’s Speed Management Strategy.

Following a freedom of information request 20sPlenty for Hertfordshire

have been able to obtain details of the 500 or so responses submitted by

members of the public to this consultation. An analysis of these

responses has revealed very serious flaws in the work performed by the

Highways Officers in the design and execution of thisconsultation and,

most concerningly,in the analysis of public’s responses. The SMS in relation to 20mph, as many members will be aware, is to restrict its roll out to streets where existing traffic speeds are not greater than 24mph –or to require that a road is engineered (e.g. by constructing speed bumps) in order that it can adopt a lower speed limit. This policy –

at odds with many parts of the country -has meant that Hertfordshire is

significantly behind many other authorities in providing safer streets to our

towns, villages and communities. Not only is the HCC policy restrictive, it

also is very complicated. As a result,members of public who took time to

provide their feedback to the consultation –many of whom did so

because they wanted safer streets where they lived –did not know how

best to use the Council’s website to provide this feedback.

Here are three statements from the responses in relation to the Council’s proposed

20mph policy:

  • All urban roadways with adjacent pavements and housing need to be reduced to 20mph

  • 20mph needs to be the default not 30mph

  • To have a modal shift to active travel, speeds need to reduce to 20mph in all towns.

One of these respondents ticked a box to say that they agreed with the

Council’s proposed policy, one ticked a box to say they disagreed, and

one indicated that they were not sure. These inconsistencies are

widespread throughout the consultation and its feedback but

unfortunately havebeen completely ignored by Officers in the report they

submitted to Cabinet. Instead,they superficially reported that 52% of the

public agreed with their proposed policy. This demonstrably is not

accurate, and it was on the basis of this information that the SMS was

approved and has been adopted.

On behalf of all of the people who took time to reply to the consultation

and whose considered comments have been largely ignored by your

Officers I would like to ask the following question which comes in three


a) How much has the Council already spent on converting less than

5% of its 30mph streets to 20mph streets –and based on these

costs, how many of the remaining 30mph residential streets in our

county are planned to be converted to 20mph using the £6m budget

that has been set aside for this purpose?

b) Based on this answer,what message would you like to send to the

70% of the respondents to the consultation who stated that they

wanted more 20mph restrictions –and whose town or village will not

be converted to 20mph as a result of the backward-looking Speed

Management Strategy adopted by this council?

c)And finally –what measures do you/ your department plan to take to

make good the consequences of the materially misleading report

prepared by Officers in relation to the consultation?The adoption of

the SMS on the basis of this report renders this adoption unsound.”

Phil Bibby, Executive Member for Highways and Transport, replied:-

“Firstly, I would like to put consultations into context -the process of

developing a policy will usually draw on a range of sources of information,

including seeking the views of members of the public or interested bodies

and stakeholders. Consultations are not referenda which will bind the

Council to follow the majority view. The Council must have regard to the

information yielded by the consultation, but it is not bound to follow the

preponderance of opinion expressed via consultation. It may also choose

a different approach on the basis of other relevant and material considerations. This is not to say we did not fully consider the feedback from this consultation. You have previously written to me, the Leader of the Council and its Chief

Executive, questioning our consultation process, calling for an

independent review –this is considered unnecessary, as our own review

confirmed the findings in the report mentioned, and we do not believe the

Speed Management Strategy is unsound, based on thorough

consideration of the following:

  • DfT Guidelines

  • Professional research

  • Speed Management Partnership’s views

  • Police speed enforcement guidelines

  • Consultation feedback

  • 20's Plenty’s representations

  • Cross party Members Advisory Group

  • Local and national practical experience

Now to answer your specific questions: -

a) There are 953 roads in Hertfordshire with 20mph limits, but the

information requested is not held in an easily accessible format;

scrutinising schemes and their funding, cannot be done without a

disproportionate use of resources. Also,it is too soon to say how

many future schemes there will be. We have now starting the

sifting and prioritisation process and the costs of some quick wins

we hope to install will help guide us on how far our £7million will


b) To the 70% of respondents you mention, who stated they wanted

more 20mph restrictions, that is what we are committed to

providing, and to suggest otherwise is misleading. What we are not

going to do is impose unsafe, unenforceable blanket schemes,

preferring a considered, effective approach based on actual local

need and desire.

c) As already stated, I do not consider the Speed Management

Strategy, as democratically agreed, to be unsound, or officer

reports, or any advice during the review to be misleading.

Therefore, the only action we will be taking is to implement the

strategy as approved by Cabinet.”

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