Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Large majority in favour of 20mph limit in high street

A PROPOSED 20mph speed limit in Watlington high street has been welcomed by residents and businesses.

Around three-quarters said it would be an improvement in a survey carried out by the parish council in July.

The questionnaire was part of a drive by the council to “reclaim” the street for residents and visitors using funding from the Government’s Active Travel initiative.

It said the social distancing measures brought in as a result of the coronavirus pandemic had highlighted the deficiencies of the pavements in the town centre.

The survey also asked people’s views on a temporary lower speed limit in High Street, restricting its use to residents and businesses and widening pavements.

A total of 141 responded of which 42 were from people with an interest as they lived or had a business in the street.

More than 73 per cent of those with an interest agreed a 20mph speed limit would be an improvement with just 2.4 per cent saying it would be harmful. More than half said that improvement to the road was “essential” with just under 10 per cent saying it was not needed.

More than 76 per cent of those not connected to the high street said the lower speed limit would be an improvement with none saying it would be harmful.

More than 36 per cent agreed that improvement was essential with just 10 per cent disagreeing.

The council said there were comments both for and against the proposals.

Objections ranged from people feeling the measures were a “bit over the top” and a “waste of money and time” to concerns about enforcement.

There were also worries about the impact that restricting High Street parking —  both illegal and short-term  — would have on businesses.

The council has submitted plans based on the survey findings to Steve Harrod, the town’s representative on Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, and he will discuss it with officials.

The parish council said the pavement in High Street was narrow in places and down to just 0.7m at the Barley Mow pinch point on the south side.

The pavement on that side of the road was also partially obstructed by planters and by steps up to the houses facing the road.

The north side was wider, more level and less interrupted by steps but still had a few pinch points.

Queuing outside some shops at certain times had proved a problem with social distancing during the pandemic and some traders had complained that access to their businesses was obstructed.

The council said there was little that could be done in Couching Street and Shirburn Street to provide safer pavements due to the narrowness of the roads and the volume of passing traffic.

It said: “We want to reclaim High Street for residents and visitors to the town and to make it an even more attractive place to visit. Several more or less ambitious schemes have been considered but we are starting at the less ambitious end of the scale with the hope that we can get this in place quickly.”

The council hopes to have its proposals approved under the covid-19 guidance added to the Traffic Management Act by the Department for Transport to allow councils to change road layouts.

A single temporary traffic order can be in place for up to 18 months.

The 20mph speed limit would be signposted at the two entrances to High Street at the eastern end.

The council added: “Traffic cones in the road will be used to provide additional footpath space on the northern side of the road in front of the shops where queuing is most frequent and the width of the road permits.

“The three short-term parking bays on the south side outside the butcher’s shop will be designated as ‘loading bays — delivery and collection only’.”

The changes would have to be approved by the county council.

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