Ely 20mph speed limit final decision taken in secret

The decision about Ely’s blanket 20mph speed limit, being implemented across the whole city from 4th March, was taken behind closed doors in a meeting the public could not attend. This cannot be right.

The decision about Ely’s blanket 20mph speed limit, being implemented across the whole city from 4th March, was taken behind closed doors in a meeting the public could not attend.  This cannot be right.

I am receiving a lot of emails and messages from people that are angry about the blanket 20mph speed limit being introduced in Ely, with many understandably saying they are upset that they were not asked what they thought about the idea in advance. 

The Liberal Democrat, Labour, Independent administration at Cambridgeshire County Council created a special budget for 20mph speed limits across the county and last year invited Parish Councils that were interested to come forward. The City of Ely Council put in an expression of interest but wasn’t able to debate it at a public meeting because the County Council deadline did not allow enough time.  It is important to say that the City of Ely Council has recently restated its support for the scheme.

The County Council held a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) consultation last summer.  I managed to get this consultation extended, but even so, the County Council did almost nothing to promote it beyond the statutory minimum; only 195 people responded out of a population of just under 20,000. The Parish Councils around Ely were not specifically consulted at all and neither was the District Council. 

Nevertheless, East Cambs District Council responded to the consultation, recognising the benefits that 20mph speed limits can bring, but calling for a more evidence-based street by street approach.  The District Council explicitly requested that the Parish Councils in the north of the district be formally consulted and asked the County Council to actively seek responses from them; the request fell on deaf ears.  The District Council stated its concerns about the blanket approach and asked the County Council what evidence it had to demonstrate the need for the 20mph speed limit across the city; no evidence has been forthcoming beyond a blanket mantra that 20mph speed limits are safer. 

In fact, I have had people contacting me that believe the opposite is true, the reason cited being unforeseen consequences of slower traffic.  Pedestrians, they say, are encouraged to feel safer and can wander into the road without looking, frustrated drivers carry out risky and dangerous overtaking.  It is true, that hitting people at slower speeds kills fewer people, but of course the aim should always be to avoid contact.  What is for sure, is that the County Council has provided no actual evidence showing that 20mph speed limits reduce collisions or casualties.  

Shockingly, the decision to go ahead with the proposal was taken behind closed doors in a meeting just before Christmas that the public could not attend, and was made by a County Council Officer in consultation with the two local County Councillors for Ely, Cllrs Alison Whelan and Piers Coutts.  

A sweeping decision like this should be properly consulted and taken in full view of the public with the scrutiny and accountability that such a meeting brings.  In view of the snap poll on social media (of 1,368 responses, 80% said No to the 20mph speed limit) the County Council should urgently rethink this plan, save the money, and repair Ely’s potholes and poorly maintained roads instead. 

Anna Bailey, Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council