Tue, 21 Jan 2020
THATCHAM town councillors clashed over a motion to lower the speed limit on the A4.
During the debate, Conservative councillors accused the Liberal Democrats of playing politics and responding to “hearsay” surrounding traffic accidents.
Councillors met on Tuesday, January 7 to discuss proposals for orcas – black and white ‘fins’ used to separate cycle lanes from the rest of the road to improve safety – along the A4.
But councillors felt they did not have enough information about the orcas and deferred the item.
Simon Pike (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) then introduced a motion asking councillors to support Lib Dem district councillor Jeff Brooks’ bid to lower the speed limit between Henwick Lane and Tull Way from 40mph to 30mph.
Mr Brooks presented the motion to West Berkshire Council on Thursday, January 9.
But it was branded “political” by Conservative councillors Richard and Ellen Crumly (both Thatcham Central).
Mr Crumly, who was re-elected to the town council in last month’s by-election, said: “Why? This is a busy road much used by traffic. Why would we want to lower the speed limit?”
Last year the Newbury Weekly News reported that a girl had her foot run over as she went to cross the A4 in front of the Henwick playing fields.
Referring to the accident, Mr Pike added: “This is the only section in Thatcham with a 40mph speed limit.
“The reason for orcas is to slow traffic down, but I would propose it’s better to slow the speed anyway.”
John Boyd (Lib Dem, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) added that a man had died along the stretch of road in 2012.
But Mr Crumly argued: “Whose fault was it? That’s the real issue. We have to examine these accidents.
“I had no idea this was coming up. I thought there would be some notice.
“I have had no notice to go against it. I am utterly against it.”
Mr Crumly said that the “anti-car brigade” was “trying to slow down traffic to a walking speed and then get rid of it altogether”.
He added: “Road traffic has to go at a reasonable speed.
“I see no reason for it just because there have been one or two accidents over a long period of time.
“I thought we were here to discuss orcas.
“This seems primarily to be hitching the bandwagon to supporting Jeff Brooks’ motion.”
Mrs Crumly said she objected to the way the motion had been brought to the committee.
“I don’t think it’s been properly introduced as an item on the agenda” she said.
“I think it’s trying to get approval by the back door so Jeff Brooks has support before it goes to full council.”
Mrs Crumly also accused the Lib Dems of discussing the motion among themselves ahead of the meeting
Mr Boyd explained that emails had been exchanged between ward members and that the idea was that if the speed limit was reduced, the orcas might not be needed.
Mrs Crumly said: “Yes, but I am a member of this committee.
“I think I’m entitled to know what’s on the agenda.”
Mr Boyd added: “I don’t think that supporting a measure to have the speed limit reduced is something that we shouldn’t be supporting.
“It’s one thing to support a motion, but then its up to West Berkshire Council to actually say whether it should go ahead.
“As to lending our support, is it really going to sway things one way or the other?”
Mr Pike said: “I asked whether this was related to the agenda item as this is a measure to reduce speed.
“There’s very little space between an HGV and the cycle lane.
“I can certainly understand why the speed limit needs to be reduced.”
But Mr Crumly remained adamant.
“This is clearly a political motion so it can be pleaded by Jeff Brooks when he puts forward his motion,” he said.
Mr Boyd replied: “I don’t want to get into the political side, but if it’s for public safety it’s for public safety.”
Mrs Crumly asked Green councillor Paul Field (Thatcham Central) if he knew about the motion to reduce the speed limit.
“I didn’t know about it,” Mr Field replied. “I don’t take issue with it.
“In the content and principle of it I don’t find a huge issue.
“I think there’s some gameplaying on both sides.”
Addressing Mr Crumly, he said: “I was struggling to see what your objection was.
“I thought you were having a bit of fun to spice the evening up a little bit.”
But Mr Crumly set out his position again, saying that he didn’t see why the limit should be changed on the basis of “hearsay” surrounding two accidents within six years.
He said: “This is a serious application that’s not in the agenda pack.
“I don’t see any problem with the traffic.
“The issue of the orcas is a separate issue that has been parked aside for this debate.
“Plenty of vehicles use the A4 and they are entitled to travel at a reasonable speed.
“I drive up there all the time, I don’t see people queuing up to cross over.”
Town clerk Mel Taylor closed the debate saying that Mr Pike’s motion was not appropriate for the agenda item.