- Council backtracks on promise to reduce speed limit on deathtrap road.
- Only one out of six local councillors turned up to Executive meeting.
- Leech: "People's lives are at risk, what more reason does this council need to reduce the speed limit?!"
Yesterday, Manchester Council backtracked on its promise to reduce the speed limit on Princess Road following a number of tragic deaths.
Despite promising local residents in West Didsbury and Chorlton that the speed limit on Princess Road would be reduced from 40mph to 30mph, the Council's Executive yesterday went back on their promise, and have only approved a temporary reduction in the speed limit, while an evaluation of effectiveness is carried out over the next 12 months.
John Leech, who won MP of the Year for Road Safety when he represented the south Manchester area and ran a high-profile campaign to reduce Princess Road's speed limit, has hit out at the backtrack as an "enormous betrayal of local people."
John Leech, who now stands as the sole opposition on Manchester Council, has condemned the decision to only implement a temporary reduction, saying: "For years the Council ignored my calls to tackle the safety on this road and refused to reduce the speed limit, claiming it was not appropriate on this stretch of road.
"When two local residents were tragically killed at the end of 2015, the Council finally saw sense and agreed to reduce the speed limit.
"I am not surprised that local people are furious that they have gone back on their promise, with no guarantee that this temporary order will be made permanent.
"People's lives are at risk, what more reason does this council need to reduce the speed limit?!"
The Council's dramatic change of heart came about after receiving 1,365 objections during the consultation process - nearly half of respondents to the consultation opposed the changes. However, Highways bosses admitted that they did not know how many of the objections were from people who live outside of Manchester.
Cllr. John Leech added: "One thing is certain, the majority of local people want a permanent reduction in the speed limit. Most local people know someone who has been killed or injured on this treacherous road, or have had a lucky escape on one of the numerous near misses.
"I'm not sure what the council expected when they encouraged motorists to take part in the consultation, and it is not surprising that commuters do not want to see the speed limit reduced. I am not blaming the motorists - they will not know just how dangerous the road is for pedestrians - but it is pretty obvious that erecting signs asking motorists to comment on the plans was going to result in lots of objections from commuters outside of Manchester, yet the Council failed to ensure that they knew where the objections were coming from.
"Too many lives have been destroyed by a lack of safety on our roads and now local people will have local issues essentially dictated by commuters from outside our community. I will continue to fight to see a permanent reduction in the speed limit, there's simply no other option in my mind."
At the Executive John Leech urged Labour councillors to reject the temporary speed restriction and make a permanent order to reduce the speed limit. None of the five Labour Councillors from either of the two main affected wards (Didsbury West and Chorlton Park) turned up.
Labour Councillors on the Executive and advisory board, who represent wards closer to the city centre along Princess Road, supported the temporary reduction in the speed limit.
John Leech said: "I'm shocked, but also just confused, that none of the local Labour councillors even turned up to discuss something of such importance in south Manchester. But it was even more concerning to hear from the Executive that the local Labour councillors supported the temporary reduction rather than a permanent cut in the speed limit."
Cllr. Leech also questioned whether 12 months was long enough to evaluate the effectiveness of a temporary reduction in the speed limit, saying: "Highways staff evauate traffic stats over a 3 year period, but are planning to make a decision on what happens in 12 months. There is a real danger that 12 months will not be long enough to show that the reduced speed limit is making a positive difference."
At the Executive Meeting, the Highways chief claimed that the additional cost would only be £1,000-£2,000 extra by using a temporary order. However, this fails to take into consideration the considerable cost of officer time to evaluate the scheme, and the extra cost of swapping the speed limit signs, if the council were to choose not to make the order permanent.