Driving along the A31 from Winchester to Alton, you pass through the village of Four Marks. It made me chuckle one day when someone had added 'out of 10' at the bottom of the sign. The A31 is an old coaching and trunk road. It used to be three lanes wide for much of its length, and in Four Marks, even wider.
For obvious safety reasons, in the built-up area, the main road was restricted to 40 miles per hour. Until recently. It's now a 30 mph limit all the way through the village (it feels like two miles), even at those parts where there's a separate service road so that local traffic and pedestrians can be kept away from through traffic.
This is one of the fruits of the Village 30 initiative. Hampshire County Council quotes revised Government guidance on setting speed limits states that "villages should have comparable speed limits to similar roads in urban areas" meaning that a 30mph limit should be the norm in villages. ("Setting Local Speed Limits", Department for Transport Circular 01/2006).
Since people like to build houses, for convenience, within easy reach of main roads, many parts of the main road network in Hampshire will meet the criterion of 20 houses within 600 metres.
Yes, there are places that need 30 mph limits. In the past, these have been set in built-up areas, which have street lighting, narrower roads, pavements, etc. The safety reasons are clear and compelling. Indeed, in residential areas, the 20 mph sign is becoming a common sight.
Now the 30 limit can be anywhere that has just enough houses, 24 x 7, 365 days a year. Journey times will increase by a third (or even more where a 50 mph is reduced to a 30). 39 villages had this change in the last quarter of 2008, another 79 in 2009. For heaven's sake. Is this another attempt by Brown's nanny state to kill the countryside?
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