Yes, it's true. Whilst across the North West councils are implementing mandatory and enforceable 20mph limits on community roads, including around schools, in Cheshire East (Macclesfield, Knutsford, Crewe, Wilmslow, Nantwich, Congleton, Holmes, Chapel, Middlewich..) the council is using expensive part-time signs that say slowing down to 20mph is advisory.
The council's press release makes much of the fact that they are listening to community concerns and that the local rate for children killed and seriously injured is 50% higher than the national average, when in fact they will be keeping the mandatory speed limit on these roads unchanged at 30mph.
What we do know is that 80% of child road injuries are actually not when they are travelling to or from school. They occur when playing out, visiting shops, friends or relatives. So exactly what effect advisory, part-time 20mph requests around schools is going to have is very debatable. In fact whilst the Cheshire East report notes that 5,000 children suffer minor injuries on roads occurring between 7:30 and 8:59am and 3:00: to 4:59 pm, they fail to put this into perspective by mentioning that this is out of a total of 16,700 child injuries at all times, in 2014. See our briefing on school zones for a further analysis of the negative effects of such isolated interventions.
We also note that the report makes no mention of how such a move to endorse 30mph speeds will effect those with "protected characteristics" under its public sector equality duty.
In Scotland the 2002 guidance allowed local authorities tio implement advisory 20mph limits. After 10 years experience of this, in 2015 Transport Scotland issued new guidance which said that advisory limits should no longer be used and instead limits should be mandatory.
The council did consider mandatory 20mph limits, but baulked at these because they would require a Traffic Regulation Order to officially change the speed limit. Something which other councils have found well worth the cost and effort. In fact £15m people in the UK live in places where mandatory 20mph limits are the norm for most community roads.
This misplaced initiative shows that Cheshire East Council can't find it in themselves to do the right thing for its children, elderly, disabled and community at large. It sends a strong signal to drivers that 30mph speeds are acceptable on community roads and even in front of schools for most of the time. Even then there is no compulsion, simply a "pretty please" request to go slower.
The Cheshire East press release notes :-
Cllr Rachel Bailey, Cabinet member in charge of children and families, added: “As a council we put a high priority on people’s safety and especially on protecting Cheshire East’s children." To us, it sounds very much that the priority is half-hearted, only in some places and only for some of the time. It also talks about "changing the culture and behaviour of motorists". To us it seems like its the "culture and behaviour of the council" that needs to change.
Note that in the neighbouring Cheshire West and Chester, the council recently announced an £800,000 program to deliver mandatory 20mph speed limits to residential streets and outside schools. An initiative that we wholeheartedly support. Warrington, which is a separate unitary authority within the county of Cheshire, completed their roll-out of 20mph limits for all residential roads in 2014.