The town website is open to all local residents to submit articles and the number of ‘Contributors’ is growing.
The following has been submitted by a very welcome new contributor who gives their views on the recently introduced 20mph scheme.
20mph PILOT BRINGS MIXED RESIDENT OPINION
Since the introduction of the 20mph pilot in recent weeks it has been one of the most talked about topics in the town. Previous news articles concerning the 20mph pilot have been very pro-20mph, and clearly written by those who support and campaigned for it. I hope this piece will restore some balance and pick up on some of the ‘issues’ that are being raised by the community as a result.
After the scheme was implemented, the majority of noise seemed to be coming from discontent residents who feel that the pilot has been almost imposed upon them. Others believe that it has been done very poorly with hideous large painted roundels appearing all over Whitchurch’s roads (one small 30m stretch of residential road has 6 roundels!). Then there are other residents that are happy and believe there has been a noticeable improvement in the town since its arrival.
One question that has been asked repeatedly by its supporters is “Why do you want drive faster?”. It’s a frustrating question as people don’t want to drive ‘faster’, they want the speed limit returned to what it was, the nationally agreed and established speed limit of 30mph.
Was the 20mph pilot supported by the Residents?
There can be no argument that a consultation was carried out by Hampshire County Council, but questionnaires were only distributed to households within the pilot area. At the same time HCC also made it clear that “they only want responses from those in the pilot area”. Surely something that effects the whole town should include ALL residents during ALL parts of the consultation?
One of the main points that keeps being echoed by the pro-20mph campaigners is that “68% of residents were in favour of it”. However, this is only a percentage of the small number of households that responded during the consultation.
Some other important statistics have not been reported, until now. The consultation was sent to 1696 Whitchurch households (only those included in the pilot areas). Of this only 485 responses were received. A response rate of just 29%.
71% of households polled didn’t respond to the questionnaire.
Maybe this had something to do with the plain white envelopes that were used resembling junk mail with “To the owner/occupier” written on it?!
330 households did respond saying that they were in favour of a 20mph pilot. This means that
Only 19% of the households that were polled in the pilot area actually supported it.
Not a figure that is being shouted loudly about by its supporters!
Source: HCC decision notice ref 5007 (23 July 2013).
If only 19% of households supported it, why has it been introduced?
Unfortunately it seems that with the dedicated campaigners, the backing of the Town Council* and a seemingly disinterest from the residents of the town at the time, little opposition to it was met.
* Whitchurch Town Council unanimously agreed to ask asked Hampshire County Council to include the town in a 20mph pilot study.
What are the real benefits of the scheme?
One benefit that cannot be argued is that motorists driving at 20mph instead of 30mph increases road safety by reducing stopping distances. Supporters are putting across some valid points saying it will create a better, safer and more pleasant environment for everyone which will increase footfall. An increase in footfall is being reported by some but that is just as likely to be from the recent warmer sunnier weather.
Some other benefits being put forward by supporters of the scheme are less than convincing and in some cases absurd:
– Increased property values
– Lowering obesity, heart disease and stress placing less pressure on the health service
– Reduced fear for pedestrians
– Reducing congestion and improving traffic flow
Picking up on the last two, the real issue here is the towns notorious on-road parking. The benefits of smooth traffic-flow, by reducing stop-start driving, will not be achieved whilst the row after row of parked vehicles remain on the highways.
Parked vehicles cause poor lines of sight for both motorists and pedestrians. Motorists also tend to speed up to get around them with common instances of vehicles mounting town centre pavements. The Town Council have recognised the issue but no action has yet been taken.
The volume of traffic is set to increase with the opening of the Gin Distillery Visitor Centre at Laverstoke, which is planned to attract 100,000 visitors a year, many in excursion coaches, putting more strain on our roads. The recent approval of more housing to be built along Bloswood Lane will add yet more traffic to the towns roads.
Is it here to stay?
As a resident of the town for 33 years, I don’t believe having 20mph zones in the town is a bad thing but changes to it need to be made as it is unacceptable in its current format. By introducing the 20mph scheme over such a wide area of the town it has reduced its impact within the areas that it is needed the most. A community speed watch is being setup, but with a lack of enforcement by the Police force, those who previously drove faster than 30mph through the town will continue to drive faster than the new 20mph limit.
Hopefully, once the pilot nears its end, a greater number of the town’s residents will contribute and provide feedback to Hampshire County Council with their views. The result of which will ultimately determine whether or not it has a future in the town.