Last Month Bridgwater Town Council voted to back the long suffering residents of Polden Street and Wellington Road in Eastover in their campaign to get 20MPH speed limits on their school approach roads by supporting a policy of ‘20’s Plenty’ on all Bridgwater school neighbourhoods. Town,District and County Councillor Dave Loveridge (Lab,Eastover) brought the matter to Town Council.
Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Lab Westover) accordingly did a survey of all school signage in the town, presented a check list to the Town’s Transport Forum and then submitted the request to County Council Transport Supremo Cllr David Fothergill (Con, Monkton & North Curry). Fothergill’s reply was presented to this week’s Town Council and went down like a lead balloon.
Town Council Leader’s formal request to County
Cllr Smedley had written to the County Leader “Dear Cllr Fothergill You will be aware of the ongoing quest for the introduction of 20MPH signage in the Polden Street/ Wellington Road area of Bridgwater.As Leader of Bridgwater Town Council I undertook a survey of schools in the Town with and without 20MPH covering , put these results to Town Council last Thursday and was unanimously backed in launching a campaign to get ALL of our schools covered.”
Cllr Smedley continued “I include a web story on the subject below including the results of my survey. I suspect you are not able to do anything about this until after the May election-however, if you have a mind to we would very much appreciate the immediate introduction of 20 MPH signs in the Eastover area as they have been calling for this for 2 years and the area is currently being very adversely affected by the EDF roadworks which impinges upon these streets.I look forward to you endorsing our campaign and advising us how we can work together to achieve a successful outcome for our residents and our children”
County Portfolio Holder responds
On Behalf of Cllr Fothergill, Harriet Farmer from Somerset County Council responded saying that they “..have to go through a statutory consultation process to change the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO)” , that they “have to justify the proposed changes” which is “ a lengthy and costly exercise” and that there is “Department for Transport guidance on the introduction of 20mph speed limits “ which would “ require speed readings to be carried out in the areas where the community would like a 20mph limit to be introduced” and that “It is therefore very important that every site is considered on its own merits …….”
The County statement also carried several other warnings including “….councils have had their budgets significantly reduced and this trend is set to continue” . Somerset Highways .. has to very carefully prioritise works in line with the available budgets “ and admitting that “..when the opportunity arises we would look at reviewing some of the speed limits in line with the guidance but this is not a priority for us at the moment.” Addressing the specific issue in Eastover the SCC spokesperson continued “officers have carried out speed readings and the mean speeds were 23MPH- well within the current speed limit” and pointing out that “…… the only mechanism Somerset County Council has to fund any type of improvement scheme is through the Small Improvement Scheme (SiS) process promoted by the (local) County Councillor…(who) is invited to submit two schemes for consideration under this process which are then prioritised against all other requests. However, the window for SIS submissions is currently closed and at this stage we are unsure when the next opportunity for submissions will be. At this stage, I would recommend that as a Town Council reviews each of the school sites and considers how they might like to take this forward.”
Town says ‘Get on with it’
Cllr Smedley responded saying “We know all this. They’re simply admitting that they’ve run down their budgets and won’t even look at them until after the County Council elections on May 4th. Residents have already done what they said and established that the area is in need of signage and Town Council has carried out a survey saying which other areas of the town need this signage. We have prioritised this list and we have presented it to them. The local County Councillor Dave Loveridge , if re-elected, will present this again immediately after May 4th and all Labour candidates in the Bridgwater area have given a commitment to support Town Council policy and present our request for implementation. This council is committed to a 20’s Plenty policy in neighbourhoods around our schools and we will campaign for this alongside residents.”
Council Candidates rally to support residents
Following the Town Councils united support for the Eastover residents many candidates in the forthcoming elections have showed their solidarity by having photos taken in their own wards holding the Eastover 20 sign.
Tony Heywood, who is standing for Labour in the Eastover Town Council by-election, also to be held on May 4th said “The residents have established all the factors needed to prioritise this area for a reduced speed limit scheme ;-history of collisions, road geometry, engineering,road function, compositions of road users,existing traffic speeds and road environment. The streets have a 3t limit on them yet car traffic has increased as a cut through and also being a one–way system the speeding cars have increased and the driving more erratic slamming on breaks at the end of Polden Street at the traffic lights. The case has been made, action needs to be taken”
Chelsea Chadwick, Labours candidate for Eastover for the District Council By -Election also offered her support saying. “Residents have told us that the speed of vehicles coming from Monmouth street into Polden Street; is at dangerous levels, especially at peak times with the Polden Street corner easily over 25mph and more like close to 30mph on regular occasions. These narrow terraced streets are not suitable for speeding traffic and the environment is such that it holds the gases from the cars in the street longer and they are not able to disperse causing serious long term damage to the body putting residents at risk because of these on-going issues. Residents have to live with this and they want action now”
Eastover County Councillor Dave Loveridge (Bridgwater North & Central) has thanked councillors and candidates for their support and residents for their persistence and says that after May 4th he will put this item at the top of the in-tray for the incoming Transport Portfolio holder