Proposals to increase A12 speed limits

PUBLISHED: 09:44 08 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:58 22 October 2010

Thousands of motorists could soon be allowed to drive faster along the A12, it emerged yesterday. But proposals to raise speed limits on crucial approaches to small villages have met fierce opposition.

Thousands of motorists could soon be allowed to drive faster along the A12, it emerged yesterday.

But proposals to raise speed limits on crucial approaches to small villages have met fierce opposition.

With 23 people having died on the road since January 1996, residents in Wrentham and Blythburgh are particularly worried about the prospect of raised speed limits in the 'buffer zones' at either end of each village.

Concern centres on junctions where fatal crashes have happened that “won't mean anything to Joe Bloggs driving through on his holiday”.

Several sections of the A12 will have speed limits raised if the recommendations of a working party win support from Suffolk County Council.

But parish council chairmen at Blythburgh and Wrentham said they wanted the buffer zones kept in place as they made the 30mph limits through the village centres more effective.

Councillors on the group were driven up and down the Lowestoft to Martlesham stretch of the road last month with a view to revising speed limits.

The road provides a direct link between Waveney and the rest of Suffolk but is single carriageway along most of its length, with just three short stretches of dual carriageway, totalling two miles, in the first 30 miles south of Lowestoft.

Last year, roads minister Stephen Ladyman described the road as a “hotch potch…with single carriageways, bits of dualling and strange locations for speed limits”.

As a result of the site visit by members of the road safety and speed limit policy group, changes could be made around Yoxford, Darsham, Blythburgh and Wrentham.

t At Wrentham the changes could see 40mph buffer zones at either end of the village abolished in favour of 60mph approaches.

t At Blythburgh, similar buffer zone restrictions either side of the village could also raised from 40mph to 50mph, although the group said they would want to hear about accident rates in the area before making a recommendation.

t At Yoxford, traffic approaching from the south could see the speed limit raised from 40mph to 50mph.

t At Darsham, motorists travelling towards Lowestoft could see the 40mph limit raised to 50mph after the filling station, subject to a safety review, with the support of police.

Henrietta Maslen, who chairs Blythburgh Parish Council, said the difficulty was in persuading motorists who were not local that lower speed limits are in place for a good reason.

“For us, to the south of the village at Toby's Walks, you've got a picnic site on one side and a motocross track on the other and it looks like you are in the countryside,” she said. “So the 40mph speed limit, which was put there because we had a fatality at the junction, won't mean anything to Joe Bloggs driving through on his holiday.

“But the 40mph limits are still important and they are there for a reason.

“I think the main problem is that there is no consistency on the villages up and down the A12,” added Mrs Maslen. “Some have 50mph and then 30mph, some have 40mph and then 30mph and others just go straight into a 30mph.”

She said there could be some advantages in adding signs telling motorists that a fatality had taken place at the junction, but added: “You have to think about how many signs the A12 can take.”

David Reeves, chairman of Wrentham Parish Council, said he would be unhappy at seeing buffer zones removed.

“It helps motorists prepare to slow down to 30mph even if they don't come right down to 40mph in the buffer zones,” he said. “And taking away the buffer would encourage people to speed up more as they exit the village.”

But Bob Blizzard, MP for Waveney, said he supported the proposals.

“I welcome this move by the county council,” he said. “I believe that a number of the speed limits on the A12 are ridiculous.

“They frustrate and dumb down motorists and can actually lead to more accidents,” he added. “I advised the county council against them at the time.”

In order for the recommendations to become reality, they would have to win support from the council's transport scrutiny committee and cabinet before going out to public consultation.

Guy McGregor, the county council's portfolio holder for roads and transport, said he was grateful for the views of the working group and looked forward to hearing the conclusions of the scrutiny committee, which will meet next week to discuss the recommendations.

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