Councils start to scrap 20mph limits

Councils are starting to scrap 20mph limits as the schemes face a backlash amid revelations drivers are facing a record number of fines for offences in the zones.

Local authorities in Highland and Flintshire have reverted some roads to 30mph in recent months with 300 applications to the latter to restore more to the higher level.

More than 216,000 fines for travelling between 20mph and 30mph were handed out by forces across the UK in 2023 - quadruple the number issued compared to 2018.

Enforcement varied greatly across the UK, with two forces - Avon and Somerset and the Metropolitan Police - issuing 97 per cent of the 700,000 tickets since 2018.

As public opposition to 20mph zones continues to grow, leading road traffic lawyer Mr Loophole told Mail Online that they 'actually make our roads more dangerous' as he called for a 'dynamic' 20mph limit in certain areas at certain times of day.

Meanwhile driving instructors in a part of North Wales that has had the 20mph limits for two years said they have had very little effect on slowing down motorists.

And Mail Online readers have got in touch this week to reveal how they have been fined for breaking the 20mph speed limit by as little as 2mph in some cases.

The aggressive approach to enforcement in some areas in recent months has seen motorists in Britain face a record number of fines for 20mph offences last year.

But six forces with 20mph limits have not issued a single fine for 20mph offences - Lancashire, West Mercia, Cleveland, Humberside, Warwickshire and Lincolnshire.

Last September, Wales became the first nation to impose 20mph as the default on all restricted roads in a hugely controversial move.

But by November, Flintshire Council returned ten of its roads back to 30mph – including the A549 Mold Road, A549 Chester Road and A541 Denbigh Road.

The authority added at the time that the public would get the chance to suggest other routes that should be reverted.

And last week the council's transport manager Anthony Stanford confirmed it had received 300 applications to change roads back to 30mph – a number which he said 'continues to grow'.

Mike Peers, a councillor in the Buckley area which was one of the regions that first had the 20mph trial in February 2022, has been at the forefront of encouraging residents to raise their concerns.

He told The Leader: 'There is a push to get the 30mph back and we've said this since the pilot was put on us. We were opposed to the 20mph on key, arterial roads; the A549 being one of those.

'Everyone knows that people are happy with 20mph on estate roads, outside health and community centres and schools.

'But when you get mile after mile of 20mph... the convoy of cars makes it difficult for people pulling out of side roads. If it's applied in the right place people will abide by it.'

Councillor Carol Ellis added that people are 'confused about where it's 20 and 30' and said this was making some drivers overly cautious and driving at 15mph which 'causes others a lot of anger'.

Driving instructors in Buckley also told The Leader that the 20mph limits have done little to reduce the speed of drivers.

One of them, Carol Flavell, said: 'Because people can see no logic to the speed limits on so many of our roads, they have lost all respect for all speed limits, especially 30mph roads, where so many more cars are now travelling up to, and in excess of, 40mph.'

Martin Bannister-Kelly, another instructor, added: 'From the driving I've observed in Buckley, and other areas, I can see in most cases it hasn't slowed drivers down, if anything some people are driving faster now.'

Over in the Scottish Highlands, council officials started a review of 20mph limits introduced to its roads in a trial last year, and said several routes were returning to their original 30mph limit this year.

Highland Council had been involved in a Transport Scotland pilot ahead of a national roll-out of 20mph limits expected in the nation in 2025.

The lower limits are already in place in Glasgow and the Scottish Borders – with the latter saying in January last year that the zones would be made permanent in most places. Glasgow is also set to make the change permanent across the city.

Officials in the Highlands said last November that they had always intended to restore some areas to 30mph during the trial, with professional assessments and public feedback forming the basis for decisions on which roads would revert.

With public opposition continuing to grow, leading criminal defence and road traffic lawyer Nick Freeman, known as 'Mr Loophole', spoke to Mail Online about various issues he has with 20mph limits.

He said: 'There are two arguments in favour of 20mph limits - safety and the environment - and neither hold up. Blanket 20 mph speed limits have seemingly little impact on crashes, casualties, driver speed.

'They actually make our roads more dangerous – you're obsessed with watching the speedometer and you're also constantly alert for cyclists who go faster – by undertaking or overtaking.'

Mr Freeman said a blanket 20mph limit 'serves no useful purpose', adding that it is 'counter-intuitive' because it 'makes no sense for cars to be overtaken by bicycles and it causes huge frustration for motorists on our already appalling roads'.

He continued: 'Modern cars do not want to sit at 20mph – the driver is constantly on their brakes - any slight decline and you are dabbing the brakes. As a result there is more congestion – not less.

'What we need is a dynamic 20mph limit in certain areas at certain times of day.'

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year pledged to slam 'the brakes on the war on motorists' by blocking blanket 20mph speed limits introduced by councils without local consent.

But Mr Freeman said: 'As for Sunak, we need action not words. At the moment the 20mph are increasing exponentially on our roads and his lame words just suggest he is looking to court the motorist.

'Meanwhile these blanket 20mph limits are up there with having smart motorways without a permanent hard shoulder. They make no sense at all.'

He spoke out as Mail Online readers contacted the website to reveal their frustrations at receiving fines for speeding in 20mph zones.

One, Evelyn Mary, said she was caught on a Sunday morning in Central London doing 22mph, and subsequently had to do a speed awareness course.

Another, 68-year-old Norma Park, said that until last September, she had never received a speeding fine, parking fine or been found guilty of any driving offence in 57 years of driving.

She told Mail Online: 'The road outside our local college was changed from 30mph to 20mph some time ago. It's a road that my husband, age 78, and I cannot avoid when we leave home.

'I was fined last September for doing 24mph on that road and had to pay £100. I find now that I am concentrating so much on keeping my speed below 20mph that my driving is more dangerous due to me looking at my speedometer rather than the road.'

Mrs Park said she had and her husband were both receiving a pension and 'can ill afford to pay for any more fines'.

She continued: 'I understand that lowering the speed limit is designed to reduce accidents, but I personally don't think it works.

'I think speed bumps would be far more effective and would certainly require more concentration on the road instead of looking at your speed all the time.