20mph speed limits on Welsh roads may return to 30mph by end of the year

Speed limits of 20mph on residential roads in Wales could start going back up to 30mph by the end of this year, the country's government has said.

Ministers have urged the public to have their say on which roads should be returned to the higher limit.

The default limit in Wales's built-up areas was lowered in September last year to 20mph - a pledge that was part of the Labour Party's manifesto for the 2021 Senedd [parliament] election.

The policy proved controversial after a call for the limit to be scrapped broke Senedd records for the most-signed petition on its website.

Former deputy climate change minister Lee Waters, who spearheaded the rollout, announced last month he would quit the role and delete his X account after receiving abuse.

Now, newly-appointed transport secretary Ken Skates has announced the government in Cardiff Bay will be revising its guidance to councils on which roads can be exempted from the new lower 20mph speed limit.

The move could see councils able to return limits to their previous speeds by the end of the year.

Mr Skates said the government will "listen to the people of Wales" on the default 20mph limit.

Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday, Mr Skates outlined a three-point plan to implement targeted changes to the policy.

He said the government would embark on a "genuine programme of listening to people" between now and July.

The government will work with councils to revise the exceptions guidance and is urging the public to get in touch with their local authorities to tell them which roads they think should be targeted with 20mph limits.

Once the new guidance is finalised, the government expects highway authorities will begin adjusting the speed limits on relevant roads.

The government says it expects that process to begin in September - exactly a year since the rollout.

The Welsh Conservatives - the largest opposition group in the Senedd - have said they believe the announcement is "another example of Labour ministers paying lip service".

"Ministers might be making all of the right noises on 20mph, but if the cabinet secretary is serious about listening to the people of Wales, then he will accept that this law was a terrible mistake and repeal it," added shadow transport secretary Natasha Asghar.

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said he supported the "principle of widespread 20mph zones" but that it had been implemented "very poorly and inconsistently".

"Welsh government must push ahead now and sort it out, working with local authorities and communities to ensure that limits are properly reviewed, and unreasonable 20mphs are removed," he added.

Campaign group 20's Plenty for Us said a review should aim to make guidance "clearer" rather than "diluting" it.

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Despite the changes, transport secretary Ken Skates said the government continues to believe 20mph is "the right speed limit" in places such as near schools, hospitals, nurseries, community centres, play areas and residential areas.

"What I am doing now is listening to what people want for the roads in their communities, and pressing ahead with refining the policy and getting the right speed on the right roads," he said.

Mr Skates added that the degree of speed limit changes in each of Wales's 22 local authority areas will be determined by the public and by individual councils.

As recently as February, the Welsh government was saying that behaviour and attitudes towards 20mph were "beginning to change".

Former first minister Mark Drakeford, who stepped down last month after five years, had said the reduced limits would "save lives".

Yet his successor Vaughan Gething, as well as the other leadership contender Jeremy Miles, had both committed to a review.