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Hampshire County Council accused of ducking responsibilities over new 20mph zones

HAMPSHIRE County Council has been accused of passing the buck over its responsibilities to investigate and roll out potential new 20mph zones.

The council has approved an updated 20mph policy so parish and town councils can now apply for a £10,000 traffic order to cut speed limits in their area.

Councils interested in applying for the scheme will need to submit an application form and make an initial non-refundable payment of £175. This fee covers the cost of the initial assessments conducted by HCC.

HCC has approved an updated 20mph policy
HCC has approved an updated 20mph policy

During the debate, councillors hit out that the new measures pass responsibility to towns and parish councils despite not being highways authorities.

Councillors also pointed out that the process, with a high cost for the smaller councils, is “disappointing” since applying for the 20mph zone scheme does not guarantee the communities it will happen.

Cllr Kim Taylor said: “It is quite disappointing for residents. There are so many difficulties. The technical requirements to fill out the application and the cost of applying are really tough for parish and town councils. There are issues that we need to address.”

Cllr Tim Groves said: “For me, Hampshire County Council is passing the responsibility to parish, town, districts and borough councils on what Hampshire should be doing. Hampshire is the highways authority. Parishes and districts have no responsibility on highways at all.

“I think Hampshire is not doing the right thing here.”

However, executive lead member for universal services, Cllr Nick Adams-King, said the measure accommodates all the wishes of communities which favour a 20mph zone, and those which do not.

In response to Cllr Grovers, Cllr Adams-King said: “I don’t think that at all.

“I see it as allowing communities to come forward and propose for their area should they need it. And that, for me, is an important part of this. We come across quite a number of areas that are really keen to see this come forward. I equally see various communities in which people would be quite opposed to this.”

He also said “speed limits don’t necessarily change people’s speed”.

After the non-refundable payment of £175 is made and once the assessments have taken place and are positive, a £10,000 fee to progress a traffic order must be made by councils.

This includes the statutory consultation process to make any speed limit changes legal and enforceable.

Hampshire County Council said it would pay for successful applications but, due to limited resources, it would only be those to help reduce injuries on the roads. For other schemes, grant funding or Section 106 money from developers could be used.

Councillor Kim Taylor suggested the introduction of a “self-assessment” form in which the community would assess whether a 20mph zone is an opportunity for them. Cllr Adams-King said during his decision day that such a form would be included in the updated policy paper.

In six areas identified by the county council where there is no representation of parish or town councils, the districts and boroughs will take the role of this authority to implement the scheme if the community wishes.

The policy will be reviewed in 12 months to assess the effectiveness of procedures and applications.

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