A COUNTY councillor has questioned whether 20mph speed limits are a “waste of time” in a Northumberland town centre.

Data collected by Northumberland County Council on the Corbridge Road in Hexham looked at the average speed of vehicles travelling both east and west on the route. The Corbridge Road is 20mph up until its junction with Monks Terrace, where the speed limit is 30mph.

The speed survey found that the average speed in the 30mph zone was 29.1mph, while in the 20mph zone it was 25.1mph. The 85th percentile – the speed at or below which 85 per cent of the drivers travel – was 33.05mph and 29.36mph respectively.

The figures were presented to members of the Tynedale Local Area Committee at a meeting in Prudhoe on Tuesday (November 21).

Speaking at the meeting, Haltwhistle councillor Ian Hutchinson questioned whether the figures showed 20mph limits were a “waste of time”.

He said: “Does this not prove that the 20mph zones don’t work? Are they not a waste of time?”

The council’s highways manager, Neil Snowdon, said there were “all sorts of arguments” for and against 20mph zones, and pointed to the example of Wales, where the Welsh Government has recently introduced a blanket 20mph limit in built-up areas. However, he did acknowledge that he personally felt the zone in question in Hexham was “too big”.

He added: “The thought was if we’re getting people to drive slower, that is a win.”

Cllr Trevor Cessford, who represents Hexham Central with Acomb ward, defended the 20mph zone.

He said:” Speed has reduced by four or five miles an hour. It is better to get by a car going 5mph slower, although it is better not to get hit at all.”

According to data from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, at traffic speeds of 30-40mph, the risk of pedestrian death as a result of a collision with a vehicle is 5.5 times more likely than at speeds between 20-30mph.

Data collected by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast following a study in Northern Ireland found small reductions in road traffic collisions and casualty rates.

Collisions fell by three per cent one year after a 20mph zone was introduced, and 15 per cent after three years, while casualty rates fell by 16 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.

However, despite this, the researchers deemed the reductions “weren’t statistically significant”, and pointed out average speed fell by only 0.2 mph after one year, and by 0.8 mph three years after roll-out.

The speed survey in Hexham was carried out in response to a petition calling for traffic calming measures on the Woodlands section of the Corbridge Road to slow down speeding drivers. The petition was signed by 80 people, with claims the speed limit is “rarely adhered to”.

Mr Snowdon said the speed limits reached in the 20mph zone did mean it would qualify for further enforcement by the police – but added that the council would be “extremely reluctant” to install traffic calming measures as it is a “strategic A class road”.

The council has had issues doing so elsewhere in the past, including in Stakeford where measures have been, according to Mr Snowdon, a “nightmare”.