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Seven Ilkley councillors release 20mph statement

Ilkley's proposed 20mph scheme is on the agenda for Monday's meeting of the Town Council, with councillors set to discuss holding a community consultation and further public meeting requested by local residents.

Ahead of the meeting a group of seven Ilkley Town Councillors - made up of Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent members - who support the Bradford Council plans to introduce a town-wide 20mph speed limit have released a detailed statement setting out their position (see below for the statement in full).

In it, they say that strong feeling on all sides of the debate may have generated 'misunderstandings and misrepresentations' and that they support an 'inclusive' rather than 'selective' approach to introducing 20mph limits across much of the town. However, they say they are in favour of reducing the number of speed tables and speed cushions still further from the latest proposals for the project.

The fourteen councillors on Ilkley Town Council are currently split on their views regarding the 20mph scheme, with the seven Conservative councillors calling for Bradford Council to look again and target specific areas such as schools, rather than a whole town approach.

Here's the statement in full from the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent members:

"We are writing as seven Ilkley town councillors, in order to give our perspective on recent developments regarding the plan to introduce 20mph speed limits across much of Ilkley, the process followed to reach a decision and the enforcement measures required to support the plan’s implementation.

"We do so because there is clearly strong feeling on all sides regarding this issue, and we believe this may be generating misunderstandings and misrepresentations of what has happened.

"We were elected in May 2023 on platforms that in nearly all cases explicitly supported extensive 20mph limits (the exception was a Green councillor who would obviously support such measures). We represent four different parties and since our election, we have been seeking to work together for the benefit of Ilkley.

"Only one of us served on the previous Town Council, which developed the measures to introduce extensive 20mph limits following years of campaigning by local people. Nevertheless, we all support an inclusive rather than selective 20mph speed limits across most of Ilkley.

"We do so because our view is there is abundant evidence for the benefits of extensive 20mph zones. Those benefits include not only road safety, but also quality of life (cleaner air), health (encouraging walking and cycling) and climate change (lower carbon emissions). That’s why local government across much of the world is moving in the direction of this policy. The website of the campaign group, Twenty’s Plenty, is just one place where scientific evidence can be found.

"In our opinion, arguments that 20mph limits should be targeted at areas near schools and medical facilities are dubious. The evidence suggests that children are most at risk away from their school gates. Targeting measures at schools does help remind motorists of their legal responsibilities but it diminishes the wider health, environmental and wellbeing benefits of a 20mph.

"It seems that even opponents of the plan support 20mph on streets where there are schools and medical facilities. But we concur with the view expressed throughout this process by Ilkley’s schools who, along with most other schools across the UK, support inclusive speed reductions to 20mph across residential towns. Children want to walk and cycle on other streets besides those where schools are located and we want that to become the norm.

"We would also like to comment on recent criticisms of the way the zone has been mandated and implemented.

"After the previous Town Council voted for an inclusive 20mph speed limit, this intention was included in the Neighbourhood Plan that was put to Ilkley residents in the 2022 Referendum. The referendum was carried by an overwhelming majority.

"Ilkley Town Council and Bradford District Council therefore signed a legally binding agreement and Bradford’s Traffic Engineering department were instructed to develop a 20mph scheme. They followed a tried and tested methodology which has been adopted as best practice by public bodies across government for many years. This included a public consultation on the scheme, which took place from December 2022 to January 2023 and was followed by a public meeting in Ilkley in March.

"Public consultations are not referenda. The quality of evidence needs to be weighed. Nevertheless, Bradford’s numerical summary suggests a striking number of concerns.

"Views on the extensive nature of the 20mph zone were close to 50-50 – but it should be remembered that objections tend to dominate in public consultations.

"Views on the number of locations for hard engineering traffic calming measures such as tables and cushions (somewhat misleadingly labelled “speed humps”) were more conclusive. In response to the consultations, Bradford Council agreed to implement a 20mph throughout town and to reduce the number of traffic calming measures from 120 locations to 73, mainly near schools.

"We agreed with the need for 20mph throughout Ilkley but still felt there were too many table and cushions. For this reason, each of us voted at the recent Extraordinary Town Council meeting held at the Clarke Foley Centre to support the principle of a 20mph zone and to write to Bradford Council to demand a further reduction. While this measure did not pass, because Conservative town councillors voted against writing in this way, we have worked behind the scenes to try to ensure further reductions. We should know soon whether we were successful.

"We are also sympathetic to some of the criticisms made of the way in which Bradford Council managed the process of consultation. Like all public consultations carried out by governments, this was flawed – and forces local authority officers to follow official guidelines issued by Government to ensure the process are defensible in court rather than encouraging more local flexibility to explore innovative alternatives to hard engineering. As members of the new council, we will be doing all we can to ensure that any future consultations are carried out in a much more effective and inclusive way.

"But we were by no means convinced that the extensive consultation undertaken by Bradford Council was sufficiently flawed to justify abandoning the agreement that Ilkley Town Council signed with them.

"Nor could we accept the sometimes rather technical arguments made by Conservative councillors that the agreement itself was legally deficient and/or that public money should be spent on what seemed to us to be a doomed effort at legal challenge.

"It was hard not to feel that some objections to the process were being put forward because critics did not like the outcome of previous decisions made by the previous Council. We were asked at the Extraordinary Town Council meeting to support amendments that advocated yet more public consultation, but without any detail about that process and how it would sit within a legally defensible process. We refused.

"Some argued, at the meeting and beyond, that because many people felt very strongly against “speed humps” (again, these seemed often to be conflated with 20mph zones) the votes taken by the previous council should be abandoned, and we should simply start all over again. But we represent people who feel very strongly that 20mph zones would be good for Ilkley - and many of whom voted for us at least in part on that basis.

"Lastly, there have been objections to the commitment made by the previous Town Council, as part of their agreement with Bradford, to make a financial contribution to the costs of introducing a 20mph zone across much of Ilkley. The amount is a relatively small proportion of the total costs of introducing the zone; Bradford Council will cover most of the costs.

"Ilkley's share comes from set-aside from previous council provisions and a significant portion is from the increase in Community Infrastructure Levy, directly linked to the supported Neighbourhood Plan referendum.

"The previous Town Council believed spending this money would benefit the town. While some might disagree, we share this view. The money has strict usage limits - it can't support services, events, or elections; it's earmarked for local infrastructure improvements such as the 20mph plan, and will be lost to the town if it is not used in time.

"People often complain about Bradford Council's limited spending in our town. This contribution ensures that Bradford allocates funds to a scheme that, while imperfect, will enhance safety and quality of life in Ilkley."

Signed by, in alphabetical order:

Pauline Allon (Liberal Democrat), Linda Brown (Labour), Jane Gibson (Labour), David Hesmondhalgh (Green), Damian Kearns (Independent Community Alliance), Karl Milner (Labour), Amanda Simmonds (Labour)

The agenda for the meeting of Ilkley Town Council being held on Monday 4th September at 7.30pm in the Council Chamber is available HERE. Members of the public and press are invited to attend the meeting as observers.


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