Hated 20mph speed limits are already in England – and your town could be next

Amid protests in Cardiff and an online petition that has broken the signature record for the Senedd (Welsh Parliament), it turns out Wales’s new policy of 20mph speed limits in built-up areas isn’t quite so original. 

For a long time now, the Conservative-run Cornwall Council has been implementing 20mph speed limits, down from the original 30mph, in certain residential and built-up areas – with plans to roll out the policy to more of its urban areas over the coming years. 

Reasons given for the new rules included aims to “reduce casualties… increase activity levels… tackle climate change through lowering emissions… and create liveable streets for all”.

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Local Tory councillor and Cornwall Transport Minister Connor Donnithorne referred to a “really successful” pilot scheme which took place in Falmouth, Penryn and Camelford in 2022, with the second phase of the rollout taking place this year, in areas including Camborne and Truro. 

Phases three, four and five are scheduled for 2024, 2025 and 2026 respectively, by which stage all urban areas, including Newquay, Bude and Padstow will be kitted out with 20mph signs. 

Cornwall Live reported that Conservative cabinet members for the county were keen to roll out the scheme, which had been a key manifesto pledge in their victorious 2021 local election. 

The local outlet also interviewed Penryn residents, who were generally positive – “[my young daughter] is going to be crossing these roads and it would make me much more comfortable if people abided by the 20mph limit” – although many remained sceptical that drivers would actually stick to the right speed.

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Local police have said they will make efforts to enforce the rules and prosecute if necessary though. 

Just recently, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak watered down some of his net zero policies in an attempt to wedge a dividing line between the Conservatives and Labour. He told Nick Robinson he had “absolute confidence and belief” that the UK would still hit its environmental targets. 

But the reaction in Tory Cornwall seems to be remarkably different from that in Labour Wales, where furious protestors took to the streets with slogans like “don’t comply, don’t pay” and “defy the travel lockdown”. One poster even depicted the Welsh First Minister as a certain 1930s German political leader. 

A Welsh Tory transport spokesperson confirmed they would table a vote of no confidence in Welsh deputy climate minister, Lee Waters, who was a key driver of the policy change: “His position is untenable, it’s time for him to go.”

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