Rishi Sunak to block new 20mph zones

20mph limits
20mph limits

Rishi Sunak is expected to block councils from introducing new 20mph zones as part of a “plan for motorists”.

The Prime Minister will use his party’s conference in Manchester at the weekend to announce that he will scale back low-traffic neighbourhoods and make it easier for drivers to challenge parking fines.

He is set to unveil plans to curb the powers of councils to introduce new 20mph speed limits on main roads.

The policies come in the wake of the Tories’ shock victory in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election amid anger at Labour policy towards motorists.

The package of measures is also expected to include limits on councils’ abilities to levy fines from traffic cameras and restrictions on enforcing box junction infringements.

A cap on the number of hours a day that car traffic is banned from bus lanes could also be announced.

It comes after Mr Sunak pledged in July to crack down on “anti-motorist policies” after the Conservatives’ unexpected victory in Uxbridge.

The win was widely attributed to concerns among voters about the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez).

The policy would be the second major announcement by the Prime Minister in just over a week as part of a reset intended to woo voters ahead of an election next year.

Last Wednesday, Mr Sunak watered down major net zero policies, including delaying the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.

Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday, Mr Sunak argued that prioritising driving was the best policy, as “the vast majority” of journeys made are in cars.

He also suggested that he wanted to focus on fixing potholes, saying that they were “probably priority number one that people raise with me”.

He told Radio York: “When I speak to people when I’m at home or anywhere else around, what everyone tells me is that you’ve got to make it easier to get around all our Northern towns and cities – whether it’s Hull, York, Leeds, Sheffield, all the way over to Liverpool.

“Connecting all those cities up is really important and we’re doing that.

“But also investing in the local transport that people use every day, making sure that our potholes are filled, making sure that our bus services are running – particularly important in rural areas like mine.”

Earlier this month, the Labour Government in Wales implemented new 20mph speed limits on nearly all roads that were previously 30mph.

After a backlash from drivers and politicians, a review of the policy has been announced.

It has also emerged that parking fines issued by private firms had jumped by more than a quarter in a year, despite previous pledges to crack down on the companies.

On Thursday, both Downing Street and the Department for Transport described the policies as “speculation”.

However, the plans would deflect attention from the expected scrapping of the Birmingham to Manchester leg of the HS2 rail line amid concerns over spiralling costs.

On Thursday, Mr Sunak also said it would not be a betrayal to scrap HS2 north of Birmingham as he refused to confirm his plans for the project.

He said the Government was “investing record sums in transport infrastructure”.

A decision on the scrapping of HS2 north of Birmingham had been expected this week, but was apparently delayed so as not to overshadow next week’s Tory conference in Manchester.

On Wednesday, Lucy Frazer, the Culture Secretary, said Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, was “considering” its future.

After the Uxbridge by-election, Downing Street said Mr Sunak had no plans to restrict the use of 20mph speed limits, which evidence shows can significantly reduce the numbers of road deaths and injuries. The new measures are not expected to ban new 20mph zones entirely.

But the Prime Minister did order a review of LTNs, which seek to increase active travel by restricting through traffic on smaller residential streets.

The transport charity Sustrans told The Guardian, which first reported the plans, that the proposals would mean Mr Sunak was failing those people who did not drive or own a car.

A spokesman said: “Why is the Prime Minister going out of his way to clog our roads with cars – what kind of legacy is this supposed to leave? What about the 45 per cent of people on low incomes who don’t own a car?

“Prioritising cars in this way serves no one – not pedestrians, not cyclists, not users of public transport. It doesn’t even benefit drivers, who will face more congestion.”