Amendment 240

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Committee (10th Day) – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 20 April 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 12:30, 20 April 2023

My Lords, I guess I should rise at this point to follow with pleasure the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, who made a point that I was going to make. I note that in Scotland, they are going for 2025. This is a case where England urgently needs to catch up. I will primarily speak to Amendment 482. It is very simple:

“for “30” substitute “20”.

This is a “20 is plenty” amendment. I am going chiefly to speak to that, but I note that this is a very neat and fit group of amendments.

We express Green support for Amendment 240. We obviously need to get active transport joined up to make preparation to make sure that it happens. Also, we support Amendment 486 from the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Randerson, on disability access in railway stations. Of course, we broadly agree with electric vehicle charging points. However, on the interaction between these two issues, we have to make sure that where vehicle charging points are installed on roads, they do not make the pavements less accessible, particularly for people with disabilities, with strollers and other issues. The space should be taken from the road and cars and not from pedestrians.

Returning to my Amendment 482, this would make the default general speed limit for restricted roads 20 miles per hour. Among the many organisations recommending this is TRL, formerly the Government’s Transport Research Laboratory. Going from the local to the international, there was of course the Stockholm Declaration, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2020, which recommends 20 miles per hour speed limits where people walk, live and play. That is the global standard that the world is heading towards, and we really need to catch up on this. I can see much nodding around your Lordships’ House. I am sure many noble Lords know that pedestrians are seven times more likely to die if they are hit by a vehicle travelling at 30 miles per hour compared with 20 miles per hour. If they are aged 60 or over, they are 10 times more likely to die when hit by a vehicle at 30 rather than 20.

Noble Lords might say this is the levelling-up Bill rather than general provision, but to draw on just one of many reports that reflect on this issue, Fair Society, Healthy Lives: the Marmot Review says that targeting 20 miles per hour zones

“in deprived residential areas would … lead to reductions in health inequalities”.

However, there is, of course a problem. The Marmot report was looking within the current legal framework for travel, but it is extremely expensive to bring in local areas of 20 miles per hour speed limits. There needs to be local signage and individual traffic regulation orders, and then presumably, if there is to be some hope of compliance, there needs to be an education campaign. All of those things cost money, and councils in some of the poorest areas of the country will find it most difficult to find those funds.

If we think about some of the other impacts, as well as road safety, 20 miles per hour speed limits where people live, work and shop reduce air pollution and noise pollution. These are things that particularly tend to be problems in the most deprived areas. The wonderful 20’s Plenty for Us campaign that has been working on this for so long, and increasingly effectively, notes that there is a 30% reduction in fuel use with “20’s plenty”, so it saves people money as well—something of particular interest to the most deprived areas of the country.

This is a very simple measure, by which we could catch up with other nations on these islands and really make an improvement to people’s lives, health and well-being. I have focused on the practical health impacts, but the reason this group of amendments fits together so well is that, if you want to encourage walking and cycling, then ensuring that the vehicles on the road travel more slowly is a great way to open up the entire road network to cyclists and walkers. Of course, it could also build communities: the reduction in noise pollution gives neighbours more of a chance to chat over the garden fence and build those communities that we desperately need.