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Wales to reduce speed limit to 20mph in built-up areas from Sunday

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WALES will introduce a new default speed limit of 20mph (32km/h) for residential roads from Sunday, making it the first UK nation to make such a change. This follows Spain, which has already adjusted its national speed limits in 2019. However, drivers are being urged not to rely solely on their satellite navigation systems for the speed limit updates, as some GPS firms have indicated that immediate updates might not be possible.

What This Means for Drivers

The new law will affect around 35% of Welsh roads with lamp-posts no more than 200 yards (183m) apart. Notably, since this will be the national speed limit, 20mph signs will be unnecessary on those roads unless the limit changes. But while police have noted that enforcing the new speed will be a “last resort” in the early stages, fixed speed cameras will not show such leniency.

Simon Williams, of the RAC, advised drivers to stay updated. “Until sat-nav systems have been fully updated, they shouldn’t rely on them to know what the speed limit is on any particular stretch of Welsh road,” he stated.

Political Reactions

The speed limit change has spurred varied responses from politicians. House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt criticised the move, terming it “insane”. Mordaunt suggested that the Labour party was punishing motorists. However, Lee Waters, the deputy climate change minister for Wales, described Mordaunt’s comments as a “pantomime”.

Economic and Safety Implications

First Minister Mark Drakeford highlighted the safety benefits, stating that while it may take an extra minute for journeys, the change could save ten lives in Wales each year. However, the Welsh Conservatives have drawn attention to Welsh government documents which estimate that the speed change could cost the Welsh economy between £2.7b and £8.9b due to increased journey times. Yet, Mr Drakeford counters that the NHS could see savings of £92m annually.

Historically, more people were severely injured or killed in 30mph zones in Wales than in any other zones. Safety campaigners, Brake, have emphasised that the risk of fatality is five times higher at 30mph compared to 20mph.

Which Roads Will Change?

Of the 22,000 miles of road in Wales, an estimated 7,700 miles will change from 30mph to 20mph. About 30,000 road signs are set to be replaced.

However, not all 30mph roads will experience this reduction. Local authorities have the discretion to maintain the 30mph speed limit where they can provide evidence that such speeds are safe and won’t endanger pedestrians and cyclists.

Controversial Change?

The speed limit adjustment has seen its share of controversy. A majority of respondents to a Welsh government-commissioned consultation were against the change. Furthermore, the Welsh Conservatives have voiced strong opposition.

Mark Drakeford admitted the change would require adjustment, likening it to the introduction of the breathalyser. He expressed hope that, over time, the community would see the benefits of the reduced speed in terms of safety.

As Wales moves forward with this landmark change, it remains to be seen how smoothly the transition will be and what the long-term impacts, both positive and negative, will be.

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Pembrokeshire man accused of ‘sexual activity’ with stepdaughter

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A PEMBROKESHIRE man has appeared before magistrates charged with committing sexual acts against his step-daughter.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is accused of engaging in ‘adult sexual activity’ with the girl between January 1, and June 4, 2021.

The acts included sexually touching the child, who was 16 or over at the time of the alleged offences, with his finger.

He faces a total of four charges of engaging in sexual activity with his family member.

No pleas were entered by the defendant when he appeared before Haverfordwest magistrates on Tuesday morning.

Following a request by the Crown Prosecution Service, magistrates declined jurisdiction in the matter, which will now be heard at Swansea Crown Court. Proceedings will commence on March 28.

The defendant was released on unconditional bail.

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Senedd Member Paul Davies visits Dale Fort Field Centre

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PRESELI Pembrokeshire Senedd Member has recently visited Dale Fort Field Centre, a residential centre in the south of the County that hosts school and university trips. Mr Davies met with Tom Stamp, the Residential Centre’s manager to learn more about its operations and to discuss the proposed Outdoor Education (Wales) Bill, which has been introduced by fellow Senedd Member Sam Rowlands MS.

Mr Davies said, “Dale Fort Field Centre is an impressive site that caters for school and university groups and provides an opportunity for children and young people to experience an outdoor residential as part of their educational journey. The facilities at the site are first-class and the staff are passionate about ensuring children have the opportunity to take a residential trip.”

He added “We also discussed the proposed Outdoor Education (Wales) Bill, which my colleague Sam Rowlands has been advocating at the Senedd. The Bill seeks to make it a statutory obligation for local authority-run and grant aided schools in Wales to be provided funding to ensure the opportunity for at least one week of residential outdoor education for young people at some stage during their school years.”

Mr Stamp said, “We were really pleased Paul could come to Dale Fort to see first-hand what we offer the c.3000 visiting students we host in Pembrokeshire each year and hope to welcome him back soon.”

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Petition to rescind 20mph law in Wales fast approaching 50,000 signatures

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A SENEDD petition, calling for the Welsh Government to rescind and remove the 20mph law, is fast approaching 50,000 signatures. The petition had been signed by 555 people in Preseli Pembrokeshire and 521 people in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire had signed.

Dropping the speed limit from 30 is unpopular, polls show, but the Welsh Government claims 10 lives per year will be saved.

However carers, emergency service personnel and delivery drivers have all said that it will make their jobs harder.

The Conservatives argue it will cost the Welsh economy billions of pounds with the Welsh shadow transport minister, Natasha Asghar, calling the rollout “madcap, ludicrous” and Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, attacking it as “absolutely insane”.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister Natasha Asghar, MS said: “The new blanket 20mph speed limit has been in place for just one day and already people have had enough of it. For more than 45,000 people to sign a petition within 24 hours shows the extent of public outrage towards Labour’s madcap policy.

“This highlights that there has been little to no consultation with the general public, the Labour Government have clearly avoided all public scrutiny in a bid to get their socialist agenda pushed through.

“Labour and Plaid Cymru have refused to listen to public opinion and are continuing to wage their anti-worker, anti-road and anti-motorist agenda. With this ludicrous policy forced on the people of Wales, Labour can still U-turn on this disastrous rollout and deliver what Wales wants by scrapping blanket 20mph zones across Wales.”

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “The findings of this study are surprising, as they appear to suggest that drivers on 20mph roads in Belfast hardly slowed down at all, despite the lower speed limit, which is at odds with other reports.

“It seems there is a serious problem with compliance, as we would expect that – even without enforcement – average speeds would drop. Consequently, the study may demonstrate a need for councils to find other ways to get drivers to slow down, whether that’s through enforcement or modifying road design with traffic islands, well designed speed humps or chicanes.

“It’s also important that 20mph limits are used in places where they stand to make the biggest positive impact, such as in built-up areas and in locations where there are large volumes of motorised traffic, cyclists and pedestrians – but clearly that depends on a meaningful drop in overall vehicle speeds. Equally, our research shows drivers are less likely to comply with a lower limit if they don’t believe it’s appropriate for the type of road.”

The link to the petition can be found here.

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