Following the council Scrutiny meeting on Monday night where plans to introduce a borough wide 20 mph speed limit were reviewed, the Leader of the Opposition, Conservative Group Leader Cllr Paul Hodgins, expressed his concerns that the Council had promised that it was up to residents to decide, but so far the Liberal Democrat administration have not listened to those areas of the borough that were overwhelmingly against the proposal.
He argues that some residents, especially those of Whitton, Heathfield, Hampton North, Hampton, and Hampton Wick, have clearly not bought into the proposal, and should not be included in the wider 20 mph zone until the benefits can be proven elsewhere in the borough and more support for 20 mph is gained.
Cllr Hodgins said, "Support for a borough wide 20 mph speed limit was in our manifesto at the last election. As I have stated numerous times before, I support it. In addition to being convinced of the benefits, one of the key reasons I gave for a borough wide approach is that the patchwork of 20 mph zones is very confusing for drivers. Whether 20 mph or 30 mph, I think it is important to have larger contiguous zones that reduce the confusion.
"However, even though that is my own view, during the consultation I signed a letter together with Liberal Democrat Cabinet Member Alexander Ehmann, Vince Cable, Zac Goldsmith, and others promoting the benefits but stating, '...this is a consultation, nothing has been decided. We want to hear from you and we want you to know you are being listened to.' Moreover, it stated, 'Ultimately though, you will decide on whether a 20mph limit is good for you, your family, your community and this borough.'
"The consultation was not designed to be a referendum, and I think could have been much better constructed to bring out the views on different options. However, we now know that more people voted against a borough wide limit than for, and there were general trends of support and opposition. Generally, support was greater in the eastern part of the borough and declined as we move west. This isn't at all surprising, since as we move away from Central London access to public transport lessens and more residents rely on their cars.
"In particular, there were five nearly contiguous wards, on the border of the borough that were overwhelmingly against the proposals: Whitton, Heathfield, Hampton North, Hampton, and Hampton Wick. Some other wards, including West Twickenham which sits in between, also voted against.
"When I expressed concerns about the size of vote against in those areas, the Liberal Democrats gave three reasons for dismissing those concerns. One is that the question in the consultation was only about a borough wide 20 mph zone, and therefore we could draw no conclusions about how those residents felt about 20 mph in their own area. The second is that residents of St Margarets and Kew, where there was strong support for 20 mph, have a say in what the speed limit is in Whitton and Heathfield, for example. The third was that there was a commitment to improving public transport links in those area.
"Aside from the fact that more residents voted against than in favour borough wide, I think those reasons will be unconvincing to residents of those wards. It would also take years and huge investment to significantly improve public transport in those areas, which ultimately is up to TfL, not the Council.
"While I support 20 mph, I appreciate that I live in Barnes, at the very east boundary of the borough. I am concerned about legitimacy, residents acceptance, and ultimately adherence to the limits. We need resident buy-in for it to work. I also promised to listen to residents. I don't think holding one road back, the A308, and doing a detailed corridor study on two others, the A310 and A305, which may then be limited to 20 mph in any case, goes far enough to address the objections, especially since they do nothing for Whitton and Heathfield.
"Since there is a largely contiguous block on the western and southwestern edge of the borough that is overwhelmingly against, I think it would be more constructive, and true to our promise to listen, to not force the limit on those residents as a result of this consultation. Show how it works in a large contiguous block starting from the east, prove the impact, and then see if views change."