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Protestor told to leave, and meeting suspended as Ramsey town council caught off guard by 20mph revolt

Town council at the time voted 8 in favour and 5 against 20mph

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It was her first meeting as the newly elected town mayor and for Cllr Val Fendley it turned out to be a baptism of fire as residents packed a meeting of Ramsey Town Council to protest over the introduction of a blanket 20mph speed limit. One angry protestor was told to leave, and the meeting was suspended to allow order to be restored.

Mayor Fendley described it as a “challenging meeting, with extremely high resident attendance due to some frustration and high emotion around Cambridgeshire County Council’s introduction of a 20mph zone in Ramsey”.

The town council itself has taken the unusual step of issuing a public statement following the meeting on May 9 pointing out that “strength of feeling does not mean that a full council meeting can turn into a public debate about a single issue, in this case 20mph.

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“The chair has to steer the meeting according to the agenda which is made public 3 working days prior.

“It was good to see so many people at the meeting, and as those attending witnessed, we reached capacity within the building under our fire regulations.

“We apologise to those who couldn’t get inside, however there seemed to be a misconception that the monthly full council meeting, also our AGM, was in fact a public meeting about 20mph regulations”.

The statement added that one member of the public failed to heed a warning about “disorderly conduct, speaking over and not allowing the councillor to finish what they were saying.

“Despite the warning the gentleman continued; he was asked to leave the meeting.

“When he continued to vocalise, the chair temporarily suspended the meeting.”

The 20mph row has prompted one resident, James Moore, to set up a petition challenging the 20mph limit. It has, as of today, attracted 392 signatures.

“The UK is no longer a democracy,” he says. “Take 20mph speed limits for example, the main contender in the news is Wales, we all know this however in quiet rural Cambridgeshire as well as many other places we are fighting the same battles

“Changes are being pushed through with no real public consultation and we can no longer trust those in charge (from any political party regardless of who is in power) to act in the public favour.”

Cllr Fendley said after the meeting: “I did listen carefully to all points raised and would like to share some information, which I didn’t get the opportunity to share verbally last Thursday as the meeting needed to be closed temporarily due to disorderly conduct.

“Over the weekend I have looked at this information again, and reviewed Facebook insights to see how well social media posts, which were used to share information, were picked up.”

She added: “This was around our own informal 20mph poll, so councillors got a feeling as to how the community felt in March 2023, as well as the formal consultation that Cambridgeshire County Council highways advertised in July 2023.

“I also thought about the many people in favour of 20mph, some of whom have spoken to me personally, rather than advertise themselves on public platforms for fear of intimidation. That’s sad to hear.”

 

She added: “There are lessons to be learnt around the poll, which we have since found out allowed individuals to vote more than once (either way). This should have been more robust.

“Cambridgeshire County Council were responsible for the formal consultation and the clerk is organising a meeting so that I can understand more about the implementation process.”

Mayor Cllr Fendley said: “I am in no way promising any change to what has been implemented, that is most definitely not within my gift.”

Cambridgeshire County Council has reduced the speed limit on roads throughout Ramsey to 20mph (areas marked green on map)

Cambridgeshire County Council has reduced the speed limit on roads throughout Ramsey to 20mph (areas marked green on map)

In a separate report Cllr Fendley explained the background to 20mph including a reminder that the town council at the time voted 8 in favour and 5 against it. That vote formed part of the county council’s consultation process.

The town council, meanwhile, in their public statement, reminded its residents that “at no point had we advertised this meeting as a public meeting relating to 20mph zoning.

“This is something councillors may now consider.”

The council also issued a reminder that their meetings “must be conducted following legislation and the procedures (standing orders) set out for councillors and the clerk by local government.

“That being said councillors are also local residents and of course they saw the emotion and frustration felt by many of the people who attended the meeting on 9th May 2024 to speak about the 20mph traffic zone”.

The county council has previously explained its resolve to introduce 20mph speed limits across Cambridgeshire and Ramsey forms part of that initiative.

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“20mph speed limits improve road safety and can have quality of life and community benefits, including encouraging healthier and more sustainable transport modes such as walking and cycling,” says the county council

“There may also be environmental benefits as driving more slowly at a steady pace can save fuel and reduce pollution.”

A public notice about the 20mph scheme for Ramsey was published in the Hunts Post on the 19th of July 2023 and the statutory consultation period ran until the 9th of August 2023.

Notices were displayed at various locations in Ramsey and Bury.

Cambridgeshire Police submitted a formal response. They were lukewarm about part of the proposals but were overruled.

The background is explained in a county council report summarising the proposals ahead of the decision being taken.

“Whilst the rationale behind these speed limit proposals is understood the police do not agree that the speed limit on all the roads will be self-enforcing,” noted the report.

“And there may well be an expectations from road users and residents that police resources should be called upon to enforce the speed limit. 20mph speed limits should be relatively self-enforcing and should not rely on a high level of police enforcement.

“The arterial and feeder roads within Ramsey and Bury are not suited to a 20mph limit and a 30mph limit would be more appropriate. On some lengths there is development on only one side of the road, which does not meet the criteria for a 20mph limit.

“In summary the police understand and support the overall strategy of implementing a 20mph speed limit on roads in Ramsey and Bury and do not object as a whole to the proposal but request a review of some of the roads as to their suitability for a 20mph speed limit.”

However, the county council discarded police objections.

“The council officer response to the police’s comments is that the concerns about noncompliance on the arterial and feeder roads in Ramsey and Bury are noted,” said the council report.

“However, in the interests of consistency, inclusivity, and clarity it is recommended that the 20mph applies to all roads, also, if some roads were excluded, it would mean that a large number of 20/30 changeover signs would be needed, thus increasing cost and street clutter.

“It was noted that main roads such as Upwood Road, Hollow Lane, Biggin Lane and the B1040 have a high density of housing on both sides of the roads up to the termination of the proposed 20mph speed limits.”

In the meantime, Mr Moore is hopeful his petition will go some way to re thinking the 20mph restrictions.

“No one is following the 20mph limit, and they’re not going to,” he says. “Since the signs have gone up there’s already been a crash and I have had people overtake me and multiple cars doing over 40mph

“We do not want this to continue to become a nanny state.”

The county council decision, taken on November 9 last year, points out that it agreed by their traffic manager, Sonia Hansen, in conjunction with county councillor Adella Costello.

Their joint assessment pointed out that both Ramsey town council and Bury parish council supported it.

And in the case of Ramsey and Bury “most of the roads are well suited to a 20mph speed limit because the width and alignment of those roads, plus the presence of parked vehicles, naturally moderate traffic speeds.

“Those factors should ensure reasonable compliance with the 20mph limit.”

Their report added: “In the interests of consistency, inclusivity and clarity was it was recommended that the 20mph applies to all roads.

“If some roads were excluded from the 20mph speed limit a large number of 20/30 changeover signs would be needed, thus increasing cost and street clutter.”

Funding has been provided by the Department of Transport – and had to spent within the last financial year.

 

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