Newport Council leader dismisses 20mph limit review

By Nicholas Thomas

Newport’s council leader has dismissed a call to review the city’s switch to 20mph default speed limits.

Jane Mudd said the Welsh Government policy would improve road safety and noted several other European nations had already “extensively” lowered speed limits in built-up areas.

On September 17 a new law came into effect, cutting the default speed limit on so-called restricted roads from 30mph to 20mph.

Restricted roads are typically routes in built-up areas with streetlights.

At a full council meeting on Tuesday, opposition leader Matthew Evans called the policy a “fiasco” which had caused “anger and confusion” for drivers.

He noted tens of thousands of people from Newport had signed a Senedd petition urging the Welsh Government to reverse its 20mph decision.

Cllr Evans, who formerly led the council, said his administration had taken a “pragmatic” approach to cutting speeds to 20mph around “schools and accident blackspots”.

But Cllr Mudd said she was concerned with “contemporary” policy, and 120 countries had signed a declaration in 2020 committing to lower speed limits in built-up areas.

She attacked “misinformation” in Wales and said there was “no such thing” as a “blanket” speed limit.

Councils were given powers to make some roads exempt from the 20mph default if they could argue roads were suitable to remain at 30mph.

But Cllr Evans said some roads – such as Risca Road – would “not ever meet the strict criteria to amend”.

His request for Newport City Council to “carry out a review to see how effective this policy has been in a few months’ time” was not accepted by the leader.

Meanwhile, a senior Gwent Police officer present at the meeting said the force would stop speeders but would focus on educating drivers in the first few months of the new law.

“It is business as normal, whether it’s 30mph or 20mph, we will look to enforce,” Superintendent Jason White said, while acknowledging the Welsh Government’s new law “was only introduced… last week”.

“I think it’s fair in saying there is going to be a fair deal of discretion that’s going to be used, I would suggest in the next six to 12 months, mainly focusing, largely speaking around education [and] raising awareness – not necessarily enforcement to begin with,” he explained.

“I think there needs to be a balanced approach to something that’s just landed on our laps.

“I think we need to be pragmatic and sensible in the way that we deal with that.”

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