The Department for Transport issues guidelines on village speed limits for local authorities in England. It defines a village as a settlement with a minimum of 20 properties with a frontage on a 600m length of road. If it doesn’t meet those criteria it isn’t a village. Their guidelines also say that speed checks should be done and the speed limit should be set at or above the mean average speed.
The guidelines are, unusually for a British government department, quite sensible. They are the product of the distilled wisdom of experts from the DfT, motorist groups and the police. There’s no point classifying a settlement with 20 houses spread out over a 2 mile radius as a village because it clearly isn’t. And there is no point putting in a speed limit that tens of thousands of drivers think is too slow because it will be ignored and the police won’t be able to enforce it.
But this doesn’t seem to have occurred to the highways people at Shropshire Council who have gold plated the DfT’s guidelines and define a village as 20 houses in a settlement, regardless of whether they front onto the road or not and have a policy of applying a speed limit at or below the mean average speed. They also ignore completely the guidance put in on behalf of the police that says if the speed limit is being dropped below the mean average speed that engineering solutions must be put in place to force drivers to reduce their speed because the police won’t be able to police it.
Now all this is well and good as long as the council are honest about it but they aren’t. When objections are made to these spurious speed limit reductions, they are considered by the parish council for the “village” in question. A traffic officer for the council submits a report to councillors countering the objections but the traffic officers in Shropshire Council are lying to the councillors in their reports to cover up the fact that the “village” they are talking about isn’t actually a village – a pretty fundamental consideration when they are debating a proposal under the Village Speed Limit initiative.
Rather than repeat myself, here is the complaint I have sent tonight to one of the traffic officers who has been lying to councillors:
I am writing to you as the responsible officer on a number of reports that have been given to councils in Shropshire considering objections to proposals to reduce speed limits in villages in the county.
In these reports you incorrectly assert that Shropshire Council’s definition of a village is the same as the Department for Transport’s definition of a village and in doing so you are misleading the councillors considering the objections and influencing their decision by providing a false statement.
The wording used is:
The Shropshire Council Village Speed Limits Policy and the Department for Transport Circular both share this same village definition of the number of houses on one or both sides of the road.
This is not correct. The DfT defines a village as a 600m stretch of road with 20 or more properties with a frontage on the road whereas Shropshire Council’s policy requires only 20 properties in the settlement. In the cases of Brockton, Leighton, Farley and Wall Under Haywood, for example, there are less than 20 properties with a frontage on the roads in question. There are 20 or more properties in the settlement with frontages on other roads that may or may not feed into the road which is being considered for a reduced speed limit but this does not comply with the DfT’s definition of a village.
Whether or not a settlement qualifies as a village is pretty fundamental when considering a speed limit reduction under the Village Speed Limit initiative. None of these settlements meet the DfT criteria of a village and should not be considered under the Village Speed Limit initiative. Because of your false statement, the objections relating to the proposals have not been considered fairly.
Please advise what procedures are in place for the reconsideration of objections made to the proposed speed limit reductions in light of the false information given to the councils involved and what steps will be taken to ensure that councillors are not lied to in this respect in future.