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Open Letter: Ilkley Road Safety Action Group


Parish Meeting held October 2023

The Ilkley Road Safety Action Group has issued this final letter as installation of the 20mph traffic calming begins around Ilkley.


Ilkley Road Safety Action Group (IRSAG) is a non-political group formed by local residents when it emerged that Bradford and Ilkley Councils had agreed to implement a town-wide scheme of a 20mph zone, covering residential areas including the village of Ben Rhydding (roughly 2.5 miles east to west and 1.5 miles north to south) with 178 individual speed tables and cushions at 120 locations. IRSAG was concerned to discover that in October 2022, Ilkley Town Council (ITC) and the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council (BMDC) entered into an agreement to co-fund the scheme.

 

IRSAG’s investigations revealed that BMDC had initially rejected ITC’s request to create a town-wide 20mph zone on the grounds of cost and because road safety was of low priority in Ilkley compared to other parts of the wider Bradford district. However, ITC then offered to pay half of the scheme’s costs, up to a maximum of £87,500, making use of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) monies. CIL monies are raised from new housing developments and are usually intended to assist with additional school places and health facilities. ITC’s offer of co-funding led to BDMC deciding to back the town-wide plans.

 

After initial investigations, IRSAG arranged a Public Meeting in July 2023 to share information and gauge support; around 200 residents attended, overwhelmingly objecting to the town-wide scheme. This led to ITC holding an Extraordinary Meeting attended by even more residents, with very many locked out. Proposals at this meeting to engage in more public consultation on the traffic scheme were all rejected by virtue of the Mayor’s casting vote.

 

A Parish Meeting, called by residents, was held in early October 2023 with around 500 attending. The Mayor and other councillors supporting the town-wide plans refused to attend this meeting. Votes at this meeting showed again that an overwhelming majority of residents objected to the town-wide scheme and were in favour of holding a Parish Poll on the matter.

 

Shortly before the Parish Meeting or subsequent Parish Poll took place, an official Speed Limit Order was signed relating to the town-wide scheme as had been agreed at ITC meetings. It is felt by IRSAG that this signing of the Order might have been deliberately hurried through to prevent the traffic scheme being reversed due to public opposition.

 

The Parish Poll showed overwhelming opposition to the town-wide plans, with over 3,900 objecting (89%).

 

All decisions regarding the scheme have now been made by BMDC and residents have been informed that all objections are overruled.

 

The legal costs for advice referred to in this letter were supported by a crowdfunding scheme arranged by IRSAG and it is thanks to those who contributed that we are able to write this letter with confidence.


IRSAG has spoken to independent legal advisers who are experts in highways and public law (Counsel) to assess non-compliance by BMDC in its decision-making and particular concerns raised by IRSAG lawyers on the pre-determined nature of the decisions made.

 

This letter shares the areas considered by Counsel as points of concern, based on information in the public domain and information provided by IRSAG following freedom of information requests.

 

Residents and IRSAG hoped that ITC and BMDC would reconsider the town-wide plans and use public funds in a targeted way instead, to improve road safety in known areas of concern, such as outside schools and in the town centre, rather than applying disproportionate measures across a large area of the town, including residential and conservation areas. This specific point was made very clearly in the Parish Poll held in October 2023.

 

The high risk locations that IRSAG and residents would prefer funds to be allocated to include places where traffic speed is already low, but its density and specific issues near junctions is a problem for pedestrians. None of these locations will be improved in any way whatsoever by the town-wide 20mph zone, which instead, involves costly road humps and signage across areas that will mostly make no difference to road safety. This leaves no funds to address the known problem areas.

 

The number of speed cushions and tables set out in the initial scheme has been reduced, but IRSAG and thousands of residents who voted in the Parish Poll still consider the scale and expense of this to be pre-determined, despite some consultation; the town-wide scheme is disproportionate to the need. Moreover, the extensive signage required to support the scheme compromises the areas of natural beauty across the town and village of Ben Rhydding.

 

Counsel has questioned ITC’s role in pushing the scheme through, despite minimal initial public consultation and questioned why they ignored residents’ subsequent objections: only 69 people attended a Town Meeting in early March 2020, of which just 33 said they supported a town-wide scheme. Yet, in the Parish Poll in October 2023, over 3,900 people (89%) voted against it. The vote for the Ilkley Neighbourhood Plan has been misused as a vote for a 20mph Zone and humps, which it was not.

 

It was acknowledged that the speed and accident data does not support the need for this scheme, so it is questionable that it is evidence-based as BMDC assert. It is accepted that there will be different views on the scheme depending on many factors, but this is a matter of fact, based on the analysis of the available data. BMDC admit that it has not been guided by historical accident figures which are amongst the lowest in the Bradford district. Counsel noted that the scheme itself appears to be one of political design rather than one of road safety.

 

BMDC’s defence that the town-wide scheme is evidence-based is further undermined by the withdrawal of 16 locations for road humps (due to incorrectly advertised dimensions); also, because no supporting traffic speed data was provided for 5 roads intended to have road humps; and also the fact that supposedly necessary humps were removed to avoid hindering the route of the annual cycle race.

 

Counsel also observed that the statutory requirements for (i) the 20 mph zone and (ii) the road humps, were out of step with each other and BMDC appears to make its decision in


September 2023 but then had to backfill the process to comply with its statutory obligations.

 

Counsel noted that the public consultation and BMDC correspondence does not headline road humps or a town-wide zone, but rather “20 mph zones” which may account for the media referring to 20 mph zones rather than a town-wide zone with a large number of road humps throughout. This may also explain the initial low public interest, but which grew to over 1,000 objections being raised at the public consultation held in Dec 2022/Jan 2023 and how this has continued to increase over time. Counsel can see that delaying the results of the public consultation to the summer months and delaying the responses to the objections in the Decision Sheet falls below a reasonable standard expected of BMDC.

 

The co-funding agreement between BMDC and ITC also came into scrutiny by Counsel, who described it as a document of public interest, in particular noting that it was signed before any public consultation started and at that stage contained road-specific detail on the scheme. BMDC had acknowledged that, without the funding from ITC, this scheme would not be considered a priority. The agreement called for BMDC to consult with ITC about any changes post its signing…but it never did and due to the Mayor’s casting vote ITC never asked for the agreement to be followed in this respect.

 

The fact that the co-funding agreement between ITC and BMDC was signed before any public consultation started and that within the agreement, BMDC agreed to receive an initial payment from ITC to promote the scheme, when BMDC’s statutory obligations are to hold a public consultation, created a conflict of interest for BMDC.

 

Following the objections in the public consultation, BMDC reduced the number of road humps, but changing from a full town-wide scheme could never be an option, as it had committed itself in contract to promoting a town-wide scheme. This contract prejudiced BMDC’s impartiality and compromised its ability to oversee a fair process, respond to the objections and acknowledge the overwhelming opposition to the scheme as illustrated by the Parish Poll.

 

Counsel advises that a legal challenge for a breach of statutory process and maladministration is not a viable remedy to pursue due to the risk of high costs. However, for an infrastructure project of this size across a town of natural beauty and including conservation areas, it is important for those supporting IRSAG and other residents to know that legal action has been considered.

 

Residents may wish to make their own complaint based on the above points using BMDC’s complaints process and/or with ITC and the wider media.

 

 Ilkley Road Safety Action Group

February 2024

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