Sunak launches fight for motorists...but with little ammo


The Government has announced plans to discourage English local authorities from bringing in 20mph and traffic reduction measures, billed by the prime minister as ‘slamming the brakes on anti-car measures’.

The Department for Transport has announced a ‘new long-term plan to back drivers', which it said would address drivers’ everyday concerns.

This included a review of 20mph limits ‘to ensure local support, ending blanket imposition of anti-driver policies’ running alongside the existing review of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in England.

Acknowledging that a review of LTNS is already taking place, the DfT said the Government ‘will also consider measures for existing anti-driver policies that did not secure local consent’.

The DfT said it would launch a call for evidence on options to restrict councils' ability to generate revenue surpluses from 'over-zealous traffic enforcement', and strengthen guidance to make sure bus lanes only operate when necessary'.

It also announced that the national parking platform pilot will be rolled out nationwide and that the Government will support councils to introduce more lane rental schemes, with at least half of the extra money raised 'going directly towards repairing road surfaces'.

The DfT described ‘so called 15-minute cities’ – a planning policy that seeks to provide amenities locally – as an example of ‘schemes which aggressively restrict where people can drive’ and said the Government aimed to stop councils implementing them.

However, it offered no evidence as to where this was happening, how any local restrictions relate to the general concept of nearby amenities or what specific actions the Government's plans would prevent.

At the Conservative Party conference on Monday, transport secretary Mark Harper told delegates that ‘what we shouldn’t tolerate is the idea that local councils can decide how often you go to the shops’.

He added that the Government ‘will investigate what options we have in our toolbox to restrict overzealous use of traffic management measures including cutting off councils from the DVLA database if they don’t follow the rules’.

Although most of the policies announced involve reviews rather than bans, Mr Sunak told the Sun at the weekend: ‘What we want to do now is make sure that all these hare-brained schemes forced on local communities, whether it's low traffic neighbourhoods, whether it's in blanket 20 mile an hour speed limits, all of that… need to stop.’

He also mischaracterised the recent introduction of 20mph as the default urban speed limit in Wales, where local authorities have exempted many routes, as 'local communities…having these things imposed upon them, forced on them’.

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford responded: ‘Disappointing to see the prime minister misleading people on 20mph, whether intentionally or inadvertently. This isn’t a blanket restriction.

‘Speed limits on a large number of Welsh roads are unchanged, with journey times taking up to a minute longer. This will save lives.’

Among other critics of ministers’ rhetoric, Cycling UK chief executive Sarah Mitchell said: ‘No.10 seems intent on undermining some of the government’s most successful transport policies of recent years.

‘Ministers should be proud of their achievements on walking and cycling rather than ditching them in an ill-fated attempt to win support in advance of the general election.’

The RAC’s head of policy, Simon Williams, said: 'Being clearer with councils on important issues that affect drivers around traffic management, whether that’s the use of 20mph limits, implementing low traffic neighbourhoods or the enforcement of yellow boxes is positive, as after all eight in 10 say they would struggle to get by without a car.

'These measures will hopefully bring some much-needed consistency to how drivers are treated as well as avoiding situations where potholes get left unattended for months.'

Local Government Association transport spokesperson Cllr Darren Rodwell said: 'Councils want to work with the Government to make our roads safe and attractive for everyone who uses them. However, it is councils - who know their communities best - that should be trusted to make local transport decisions with their local residents, not Whitehall.

'Removing the ability of all councils to enforce moving traffic violations would be a backwards step that will risk creating a two tier transport system between London and the rest of the country.'

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