Anger at speed signs removal

A decision to remove speed limit signs in villages across East Anglia was branded “extraordinary” and “completely obscene”.

A decision to remove speed limit signs in villages across East Anglia was branded “extraordinary” and “completely obscene” last night.

And there were warnings that the government decision could lead to an “Alice in Wonderland” situation where speeding drivers could escape prosecution - because there were signs that shouldn't be there telling them what the speed limit was.

New government rules mean that it is against the law to have extra 30mph signs, known as repeater signs, in areas where there is street lighting. There must be one set of signs where the limit starts, but there can be no further signs to act as reminders. It means that county councils, including Norfolk and Suffolk, must take down their signs.

Suffolk County Council, which is carrying out a speed pilot project for the government in mid-Suffolk, says that the government has also widened the definition of street lighting so it can even include someone's private lighting.

Guy McGregor, Suffolk county councillor for transport, said: “It is extraordinary. It does seem absolute madness to me. I wonder what the Department for Transport is all about and whether they understand what is going on outside London.

“Ridiculous though it may be, if there were repeater signs and someone got prosecuted, they could get off because of it. It is an Alice in Wonderland situation.”

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Adrian Gunson, Norfolk county councillor for transport, said: “A lot of our villages have repeater speed limits and this will cause some problems for us. The public and residents set quite a lot of store on speed limits. I think it is likely that drivers will go faster as a result of the lack of repeater signs.”

The issue will be discussed at Suffolk county council's cabinet meeting on Tuesday. A report from road safety group manager David Chenery said: “A much broader definition of what can be considered street lighting has now been adopted and the implications of this are far- reaching. The new definition of a street lighting system would result in a number of parishes losing repeater signs throughout their village 30mph speed limits and this is unlikely to prove popular. However, there is no element of choice in this matter, it is quite simply a legal requirement…Failure to comply with this would invalidate the speed limit.”

Liz Voysey, East Anglian spokesman for RoadPeace, said: “It is absurd. We need extra speed limit signs, not fewer. It is completely obscene.”

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “It has always been the department's view that 30mph signs are not required in street-lit areas that have 30mph limits. Recently we have clarified the regulations to make sure there is no way local authorities can avoid doing this.

“The thinking behind it is that by having 30 signs in street-lit areas you end up with inconsistencies, for example if Suffolk has them and Norfolk doesn't, it creates an inconsistency that could confuse drivers and could mean that there was a way of evading speeding prosecutions.

“There was a way of interpreting the regulations that meant that authorities could get around having to comply with them, but now that is no longer the case.”