20mph all over Worthing – who wants it?

I am getting seriously concerned about the costs of the proposed 20’s Plenty scheme. We really are talking a lot of money – not just the advertised costs, it’s the hidden costs which make you gulp:

  • £16,000 – the cost of preliminary speed surveys across Worthing (spent)
  • £50,000 – the cost of a consultation to ask residents whether they want a 20mph scheme or not (given the green light to go ahead)
  • £300,000 – the estimated implementation cost of the lesser of the two Options, a partial 20mph scheme in Worthing (ring fenced if consultation is positive)
  • £850,000-£1.2m – the potential extra funding needed if complaints are received (who’s going to pay this?)

But there’s more. If the consultation proves an overwhelming success for the campaign (which admittedly doesn’t look likely right now following recent Worthing Herald report) and the smaller of the schemes referred to as ‘Option 2’ is implemented (report here – 2.1.2 details the options) then we get some shiny new 20mph signs on all streets in Worthing that the speed surveys show have an average speed of 24mph or below.

All well and good you might say – safer streets for all. But, the Police have said publically they have no intention of enforcing these speeds. So, whilst the rest of us all pootle along at 20mph, those that drive like maniacs know they still can, and will continue to drive like nutters.

The 20’s Plenty lobby is quite vocal, relatively well organised and pretty good at complaining. It is therefore not much of a leap of faith to assume that vigilantes will be out writing down number plates and complaining about problem drivers to the Police. The problem with this approach is it will not force the Police to get out on patrol and enforce the new speeds in this area, it will just feed the bureaucracy.

The Police, you see, have the power to require (lots of power imbued in that word) West Sussex County Council (WSCC) to act in lowering speeds on problem roads where there is a high number of complaints. This means WSCC will have to put in physical traffic calming measures wherever there’s a problem, and yes that does mean speed bumps. The Police really like these in 20mph areas as it means they can avoid putting actual policemen and women on the street which costs a lot, and with recent guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)  suggesting a toughening up on 20mph limits, they will want to do everything possible to avoid having to physically man the streets with officers which all leads to speed bumps being all but guaranteed.

Quite aside from the bone-rattling thought that most of Worthing’s residential roads could have speed bumps (my gran wouldn’t approve, not after her hip replacement), this will come at an unavoidable and quite astronomical cost. The figure is likely to be £850-000 to £1.2m (2.1.4 in the above agenda) – which is just a tad more than the figures out there at the moment.

At a time when WSCC is cutting jobs and services due to lack of funds, this seems an awful lot of money to spend on something most people don’t seem to want.

Let’s look at the recent Worthing Herald survey: fairly conducted, it generated 170 responses with 83% of respondents saying they actively do not want a 20mph scheme in Worthing. Even taking the 1,302 supporting signatures collected by the 20’s Plenty for Worthing group as valid*, this paints a fairly clear picture of what Worthing residents think of the plans.

And what do they think? Well, for starters it shows that most people in Worthing couldn’t give a monkeys about a 20mph scheme.

If only 170 of some 100,000 residents felt strongly enough to respond then that doesn’t say much about the strength of support 20’s Plenty has in Worthing. What happened to the 1,302 supporters of the original petition – have they all moved away? Even taking 20’s Plenty for Worthing’s not-loaded-at-all petition (the question: ‘do you support safer streets in Worthing’?) we have a representation of something less than 1% of residents actively supporting the scheme.

And for all this support, lobbyists for the 20’s Plenty for Worthing group are asking Worthing taxpayers to fund nearly £400,000 for some shiny new signs on roads where speeds are less than 24pmh, whilst in the background lurks the very real possibility of a bill landing on Worthing’s doorstep for £1.2m.

So I ask again, who really wants it?

*Details given by 20’s Plenty for Worthing show 1,302 signatures have been collected in support of a blanket 20mph scheme in Worthing since 2010. Of these, their website says 355 signed online, with the rest collected in person. Of the signatures, 89% lived in Worthing at the time they signed with postcodes BN11-14.


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