Welwyn Hatfield residents see opportunity to tackle road safety in 20’s Plenty campaign

20 is Plenty's Heidi Conroy, Sue Nicholls from the Buntingford group and Debra Tyler. Picture: Charl

20 is Plenty's Heidi Conroy, Sue Nicholls from the Buntingford group and Debra Tyler. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin - Credit: Archant

Welwyn Hatfield residents are increasingly worried about road safety and people driving at excess speeds post-lockdown, when many are still working from home and using more sustainable transport.

Hertford Road, Digswell

Hertford Road, Digswell - Credit: Archant

To combat this issue, 20’s Plenty for Hertfordshire is calling on county councillors to make 20mph the normal speed limit where people live, work, shop, learn and play.

The new groups adds: “Speed limit setting should be value-driven based on the needs of people to be safe to move around their communities, not on an out-of-date rulebook.”

Debra Tyler from 20’s Plenty for Digswell, who has also “witnessed the physical and emotional carnage of road traffic accidents” as an emergency nurse at Lister Hospital in Stevenage, said: “I feel it is vital that we take a proactive rather than reactive approach to protect our communities and loved ones.”

But the group thinks that HCC’s current and proposed policy – of introducing some 20mph roads under the Speed Management Strategy – is “wildly out of date, unfair and rejected as totally unfit for the third decade of the 21st Century”.

The Digswell Viaduct. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin

The Digswell Viaduct. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin - Credit: Charlotte McLaughlin

Debra sees Digswell on the precipice with drivers regular exceeding speed limits and many near misses on Hertford and Station Road – which has only increased since the lockdown eased.

Heidi Conroy, a 20’s Plenty for Digswell activist at the newly set up group, agreed – and added: “The drivers have no awareness and if was not for our parked cars they would wizz down like they do on a Sunday.”

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Debra and Heidi also have seen lots of dust from lorries and HGVs in their homes as a result of these issues, and worry about walking the dog in an environment where people regular exceed the limit of 30 by 10 and 20mph.

Schools in the area also create a further issue during peak times.

St John's school in Digswell. Picture: Google Street View

St John's school in Digswell. Picture: Google Street View - Credit: Archant

“You think you’re all safe in your 4x4 but you might hit a pedestrian or cyclist,” Debra added.

Richard Smith, county councillor for the Welwyn division, agrees that “20mph areas play a very important part in keeping speeds low and driver behaviour under control especially with pedestrians including children around.”

But Cllr Smith explains that supporting a Disgwell scheme would need funding to be allocated to it. “We can create a 20mph area if maximum average speeds are 25mph or less prior to implementation. If not, we then have to introduce physical measures to achieve the speed reduction required. This can be very expensive so we need to be very selective as to which areas are selected.

“Such expenditure is likely to come from HCC Members’ Highway Locality Budgets in many cases so it will be important to make careful assessments in choosing the optimum areas for such schemes. In some cases it may be possible to obtain other sources of funding such as grants from borough, district and parish councils as well as police and crime commissioner road safety fund. Speed enforcement in the roads approaching 20mph areas is vitally important.”

South Hatfield county councillor Paul Zukowskyj, also believes that more needs to be done and has spent a great deal of his Highways Locality Budget already implementing zones in the ward.

Cllr Zukowskyj added: “I only wish the commitment to delivering them more coherently by the service had happened sooner. I think I’m onto my sixth ‘area’, and have been frustrated by the inability to zone ‘feeder’ roads as 20mph in the previous system.

“In my view, 20mph zones signify an area as being residential, being a community, wanting a safer environment. I’m all for them and only wish the [Speed Management Strategy] went further and led to systematic re-zoning of residential streets as 20mph, as we’ve seen in other areas of the country.”

As part of the Speed Management Strategy anything installed will also become to property of HCC. And Cllr Zukowskyj thinks this makes sense “If a sign has been ‘gifted’ for a specific location [as has been done on Hawkshead Lane] then HCC would be foolish to relocate it, even if they legally could. I can’t see, other than an emerging safety issue, why they would”,

Hatfield residents have also raised the issue of Travellers Lane and cars speeding, which has hit cars and pets in the area.

Jasmine Coxsey, who set up a petition, wants to end the racing before it gets worse and make this street safer for all of us, especially children.

20’s Plenty is part of a global movement supported by the UK Government, along with 129 other countries, and endorsed by the General Assembly of the UN in August of this year following the Stockholm Declaration signed in February 2020.

This limit is also the subject of a petition here you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/20s-plenty-for-hertfordshire.

You can sign the Hatfield petition here.