At this rate, I might reach question 20.
Roads Service uses established criteria to determine and prioritise locations for the provision of all traffic-calming measures. The assessment procedure considers various factors in order to prioritise the many requests that it receives. Such factors include personal injury statistics; the volume and speed of vehicles on the road; environmental factors, such as the presence of schools, playgrounds, hospitals, clinics, shops and public buildings; and whether the road is used as a through route.
The ultimate dependent factor for schemes is the availability of funding. Given that the demand for road safety measures exceeds Roads Service’s capacity to deliver such schemes, the predetermined criteria enable the establishment of a priority list of traffic-calming schemes. That list helps to ensure that our limited resources are directed to the areas of greatest need; that value for money is obtained; that no discrimination is made between areas, for example, council areas and towns; and that equality issues are managed. Therefore, there are no plans to introduce a scheme for small-scale traffic-calming projects.
As I said, the difficulty is that the demand for traffic-calming schemes far exceeds Roads Service’s ability and resource capacity to supply them. It has established criteria that it will weigh to establish which areas are most in need and where traffic dangers exist.
Other Members and other parties have argued for wholesale traffic calming in every built-up area. Such a measure would have substantial implications for Roads Service’s budget and the Executive’s Budget. The established criteria allow Roads Service to deal with priority cases by establishing a weighing mechanism that will ensure that such cases are dealt with as quickly as possible. The number of cases that can be undertaken in one year depends on the resources. If the demand still exceeds the ability to supply, it is difficult to introduce new criteria.
The Minister is aware of the demand, particularly from schools in built-up areas, for traffic calming in their immediate vicinities. Traffic calming exists to remove dangers and enhance safety. Therefore, although a full-scale programme of traffic calming in an area may not be necessary, traffic-calming measures may be required in the immediate vicinity of a school where large numbers of pupils gather.
That is essentially how traffic-calming criteria are used. As I said, the criteria take into account all those factors, such as whether a road is a through road, as that implies a greater volume and speed of traffic, and the facilities on the road. Although the Member is particularly interested in urban areas in his own constituency, the Department has piloted a couple of schemes for temporary 20 mph zones outside schools in rural areas. That is a safety feature for schools when pupils go to school in the morning or leave in the afternoon. Early indications show that the pilot appears to be successful, and I anticipate that the scheme will be rolled out across the region. The conditions that the Member describes, such as the number of schools in an area and the volume and speed of traffic, are part of the criteria that are used to assess the need for traffic calming.
In many areas, although the priority for traffic calming is high, some residents — often a small number — object to such proposals. If those objections cannot be overcome, when would Roads Service decide to override them? In what circumstances would it decide to abandon the scheme? That is a contentious issue.
It is hard to apply an overall rule in those situations, because every circumstance is different. People are increasingly objecting to traffic humps, in particular. Sometimes they can cause greater noise outside someone’s door. People will argue that they cause a blight through noise pollution or traffic slowing down and changing gear outside their property. Although there is a strong desire for traffic calming and for a safer environment for pedestrians and schoolkids, objections are sometimes raised to the nature of those calming measures. Roads Service has to take those objections seriously and, in each circumstance, tries to deal with them as reasonably as possible to secure the overall aim of a traffic-calming project.
In some cases, Roads Service will amend the project to try to deal with objections. It is hard to say where to draw a line beyond which they will say yes, because each circumstance is different. Roads Service will deal with each situation as sensibly as it can, but there will come a time when certain individuals cannot be satisfied and, at that stage, Roads Service has to decide whether to go ahead. It is a much better circumstance if everyone involved can agree, otherwise the process can be delayed or can end up in court, which would lead to greater public resources having to be expended on a particular traffic-calming scheme. I am afraid that there is no fixed template for dealing with those situations, because each set of circumstances is different.