IW Council: Conservatives push for road safety funding

Conservatives are calling for a £100,000, ring-fenced fund for road safety measures to lower the risks of deaths and injuries on Island roads.

Conservative Group Leader Cllr Dave Stewart, said: “We need to start planning to prioritise road safety now. We understand that the Council is struggling to make ends meet, but spending cuts should not come at the price of road safety. Our approach to the Budget is to prioritise keeping Islanders healthy & safe, and promote growth in our economy.”

The plans, outlined in a letter to Council Leader Ian Stephens, have been announced two weeks before councillors vote on the Island’s budget.

In the letter Cllr Bob Seely said: “We are not asking for millions – because it’s not feasible in the current climate – but we do believe that a fund of £100,000 per annum can help save life and prevent injuries.”

Conservatives believe that money for the fund can be found from savings they have identified in other areas of Council spending, such as the Special Responsibility Allowances, planning charges and postage costs. The Council has already identified over £1 million in savings from the PFI contract.

Conservative Councillors have been busy talking to residents through the Island about danger hotspots.

Cllr Bob Seely said he would highlight several danger areas in Central Wight. “In Rookley, there is a dangerous bend to the North of the village where there are regular accidents. In Chillerton, we need flashing signs around Chillerton School. We also need traffic calming at the southern end of the village. One of the residents told me that she felt her children were safer sailing across the Atlantic then walking down the street.

“Between Chillerton and Billingham, there is a dangerous junction where accidents are regular. Residents clubbed together to put up a mirror. In the village of Billingham there’s no speed limit. Some drivers go through the village at speeds well over 60mph. There are children living in that village. There are bus stops. Motorcyclists and drivers who go through the village at 60 mph are selfish and irresponsible, yet legally there is nothing wrong; that can’t be right.

“On the Military Road there are safety and visibility issues at the Chine Lane junction. These are just some of the safety issues we’d like the Council to look at. It is not just about lowering speed, it’s about money being spent on better, clearer signage and thought going into traffic planning.”

In towns too councillors have highlighted other safety and speeding concerns.

In Ryde, Cllr Wayne Whittle said that resident were concerned that roads like Monkton Street and the Strand were being used as fast cut-throughs.

Cllr Whittle said: “We need 20mph speed restrictions to stop motorist speeding down narrow streets where cars are parked either side, making visibility almost impossible; 20’s plenty.”

In Cowes, Cllr Paul Bertie said that the 10am–6pm pedestrian area restriction in Cowes High Street was sometimes ignored. “Even after 6pm, cars travel way too quickly through this narrow street.”

Newport has already asked for a 20mph zone in the town following a survey by Cllr Julie Jones-Evans in 2012.

The town’s Parish Council have committed in principle to put funding in towards new signage. “Newport is looking for action now,” said Cllr Jones-Evans.

Cllr Matthew Price, also from Newport, said that Hallbery Lane, Cross Lane and the surrounding roads probably represented one of the worst rat runs on the Island. Not only do residents contend with the IOW Festival and a significant amount of commuter traffic and parking disruption every day, but they also have an endless stream of motorists and HGVs using their roads to avoid Coppins Bridge.

Cllr Matthew Price said: “With the knowledge of the terrible accidents on the Island over the last few years, 20mph speed limits are an essential first step to keeping our children and the wider community safe.”

The Independent’s Root and Branch review has been going on for over six months.

Cllr Dave Stewart said: “It’s good to have policy reviews and all that sort of thing. But the Independents have been in power now for nine months – they are nearly a quarter way through their term of office. We need action not reviews.”