'Terrible idea' to increase speed limit on a Heath and Reach road rejected

A plan to increase the speed limit on a main road through a Bedfordshire village, branded “a terrible idea” by a local councillor, has been omitted from a package of highways improvements.

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 2:22 pm

A traffic regulation order proposed for Woburn Road in Heath and Reach included raising the limit from 30mph to 40mph on a 120m stretch close to the junction with Brickhill Road.

But strong opposition to this measure prompted its exclusion from the recommendations presented to a Central Bedfordshire Council traffic management meeting.

Principal highways officer Charlotte Dunham explained: “The proposal was an element of a wider scheme to upgrade local bus stops and to improve access to these by widening footpaths and put in tactile crossing points.

Woburn Road, Heath and Reach

“The intention was to increase the speed limit between the Brickhill Road junction and the nearby veterinary surgery.

Data on this section showed the area isn’t compliant with the current 30mph limit, and drivers aren’t adhering to it. It’s felt the limit on this length isn’t appropriate.

“Based on the 33 responses, all objecting to the increased limit, the recommendation is to progress with widening the walking routes to the bus stops and the executive member decides how to proceed on the speed increase.”

Local resident and former parish and South Bedfordshire district councillor Bob Reeve suggested extending the 30mph limit 120m north-east to pass the entrance to the northern quarry, and providing a mini-roundabout at the Brickhill Road junction using the £45,000 allocated.

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Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion referred to “how much grief this has caused me and local residents”, saying: “I’ve been working on a holistic traffic calming scheme for the whole village with the parish council.

“I had a site visit with officers on this section of road in January and this was never mentioned. You can imagine my surprise when it suddenly appeared in the Leighton Buzzard Observer as a traffic regulation order.

“Five officers who accompanied me on the site visit didn’t mention it. There was a complete lack of visibility of this idea to the ward member and residents.

“It’s a terrible idea. Given the pressure council officers are under we’re wondering why this would see the light of day when there are so many more important issues which need their attention.

“The 33 responses cover all the reasons why this is a bad idea. I would implore you to reject this today.”

Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno, who chairs the meeting, noted the people who live there would prefer the speed limit remains at 30mph.

“There are a number of different things being put forward with this proposal,” he said. “The footway widening is important to give people that confidence, as is the tactile paving at the junction of Brickhill Road.

“The concern I have is the speed limit. We’ll implement the engineering solutions, but not the speed limit increase.

“I will ask the highways officer what we can do in terms of signage to enforce and educate that 30mph speed limit, so we bring down the mean average speeds there.”