Mon, 18 Jan 2021
A BID to lower the speed limit between Thatcham and Newbury has passed the first hurdle.
West Berkshire Council will be consulting on plans to lower the speed limit from 40mph to 30mph between Henwick Lane and the Lower Way junction at Benham Hill.
Last January, town and district councillor Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) urged West Berkshire Council to drop the speed limit to 30mph as the road was “too fast and too dangerous”.
In his motion to the council, Mr Brooks said: “It is urgent that we do something about this. It is anomalous. You have people attending the sports field crossing that busy stretch... you have children crossing that busy stretch to go to Trinity School.”
The bid was passed to the council’s speed limit review group, which met last month, and is backed by a 400-strong petition.
Mr Brooks said: “There’s been a lot of progress. I was very pleased that from the Henwick traffic lights through to Lower Way and down to Benham Hill past the hospital will be 30mph if this all goes through.”
The council redesigned the Hambridge Road junction last year to increase capacity, upgrade the traffic lights and make the route safer for cyclists.
Rubber blocks separating cycle lanes from the carriageway, known as orcas, were installed in Thatcham last year.
This, combined with the council being awarded Government funding to provide active travel measures – ways to improve walking and cycling – pushed the decision.
Mr Brooks said: “We were getting pushback from the chairman and Jeff Beck (Con, Newbury Clay Hill) until the officer said ‘we have built these cycle lanes now and for people who don’t normally cycle to feel comfortable, this is the sort of measure we ought to take’ – and that swung it.”
But he added that “until the signs go up it’s not a done deal”.
Mr Brooks said lowering the limit would make the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists, who would not feel protected if lorries were “thundering past them”.
“If you stand on the pavement and there’s a lot of lorries coming that way, they will shake you with the slipstream. You don’t feel that safe on the pavement,” he said.
“There have been quite a few accidents along that stretch.
“The other one is the pinch point [near Lower Way] – the road narrows from two lanes to one and people race through to get ahead and there have been some nasty accidents there.
“People will get used to it. It’s 30mph all through Thatcham, and for the extra 10mph, it saves them no time at all.”
The news was met with disbelief by town councillor Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) at a recent Thatcham Town Council.
Mr Crumly said that through feedback of the meeting, the evidence presented was against the motion and there had been no history of accidents and speeding that would justify the measure.
“But an officer came along with the travel plan proposal and said that we would get money for the cycle improvements,” he said.
“It was that and that only that brought about this result.
“This is not an open and shut case. It’s not a done deal and only on a technicality.”
Paul Field (Green, Thatcham Central) said: “While I don’t necessarily agree with councillor Crumly, I do defend his democratic right to defend driving three seconds slower along that stretch of road.”