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20mph speed limits may be 'reversed' in some Highland roads, council report confirms

By Philip Murray

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20mph signs are being installed in communities across the Highlands.
20mph signs are being installed in communities across the Highlands.

New 20mph limits on some Highland roads could be reversed in the new year, Highland Council has confirmed.

The local authority has been working to introduce new 20mph limits in communities across the Highlands as part of a Scottish pilot project aimed at improving pedestrian safety while also cutting carbon emissions and pollution.

The work is part of a wider "National Strategy" for 20mph speed limits in Scotland which aims to ensure "all appropriate roads in built-up areas have a safer speed limit of 20mph by 2025".

Highland Council, as Transport Scotland's chosen pilot authority, has been rolling out 20mph limits earlier than the national roll-out of 2025. To date the measures have been introduced in 125 separate communities.

The move has resulted, in some cases, in entire Highland communities seeing their 30mph limit reduced to 20mph.

But, in an update set to go before councillors next week, the local authority will confirm that the measures introduced so far have been done under Temporary Road Traffic Regulation Orders (TTROs) owing to the pilot nature of the Highland scheme.

Related: More 20mph speed zones for Highlands

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These temporary orders only run for up to 18 months, meaning that formal Road Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) will then need to be adopted to make the changes permanent.

And, in a report councillors will be asked to note at next week's economy and infrastructure committee, the council has confirmed that this will mean some roads returning to their original 30mph limit.

In her report Lisa MacKellaich, road safety manager, said: "In accordance with the initial briefings on this programme and following the initial roll out of the temporary 20mph speed limits in Highland communities, there has been feedback regarding the suitability of some roads for this new limit.

The roll-out of 20mph speed limit zones across the Highlands continues.
The roll-out of 20mph speed limit zones across the Highlands continues.

"As the new limit is under a TTRO there has always been a recognition that several roads will return to their original 30mph speed limit. The assessment and decision-making process for this is ongoing and it is anticipated that this will happen from the start of 2024 onwards. Local communities will be informed as changes are moved forward."

But while the report reveals that some roads may revert to 30mph as the pilot assessments continue, Ms MacKellaich also said that the roll-out may also be extended in some areas depending on local feedback.

She added: "This assessment process is under constant review and there have been requests from certain communities for the scheme to be extended in their areas. This will be assessed during the period of the TTRO in order to establish criteria and suitability for inclusion in the final permanent Road Traffic Regulation Order (TRO)."

Elsewhere, the report reveals that the roll-out has so far proven "challenging", with signs taking longer to install than originally anticipated owing to the "significant number" of them required.

Lisa MacKellaich added: "The timescales and the volume of work required to deliver the Highland wide 20mph speed limit programme by summer 2023 has been challenging and the roll out of signage has taken longer than originally anticipated due to the significant number of signage changes required. Work is ongoing at pace to complete the roll out."

But her report also stated: "Reduced traffic speed has a positive effect on the street environment which in turn can lead to a reduction in emissions. Reduced speed limits also support a modal shift from cars to walking, cycling and wheeling which has a positive contribution to reducing emissions."

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