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Much of Harrietsham, near Maidstone, to see 20mph speed limit introduced

A 20mph speed limit proposed for a number of roads in a village is set to be introduced despite dividing opinion among villagers.

Much of Harrietsham, near Maidstone, is to see a reduced limit after Maidstone Borough Council’s (MBC) Joint Transportation Board voted to recommend Kent County Council (KCC) goes ahead with the plan.

West Street in Harrietsham is among the roads that would see a 20mph speed limit introduced. Picture: Google
West Street in Harrietsham is among the roads that would see a 20mph speed limit introduced. Picture: Google

Most of the village’s West Street, as well as the entirety of Alexander Road, Baldwins Place, Boxfield Close, Butler Close, Church Road, Cricketers Close and several others will be part of the new 20mph zone.

In May and April last year, villagers were consulted on the change after Harrietsham Parish Council recommended the idea to KCC.

Of 34 responses, 22 were in favour and 12 against.

County councillor for the village Shellina Prendergast (Con) told the Joint Transportation Board on Wednesday: “The 20mph scheme in West Street has been a long standing ambition for Harrietsham Parish Council and the residents.

“For me it’s about ensuring safety for all road users, it’s about adding to health benefits for those who would use the road in a different way rather than driving.”

Cllr Shellina Prendergast
Cllr Shellina Prendergast

However, in responding to the consultation, several residents argued the limit would achieve nothing and cause more congestion.

One response said: “I do not believe that the reduction in limit will do anything but cause congestion. A 20mph limit should only be for schools.”

Another added: “This will only cause people to not care about the limit. Harrietsham is already slow enough and common sense can be used.”

One argued that the village’s roads were already safe enough not to warrant a lower speed limit, saying: “Ridiculous - I am wondering what safety / accidents have occurred on any of these roads in the last year to warrant a speed reduction."

“These changes are 100% being made due to the attack on the private ownership of vehicles and pure power-tripping authority figures backing up the agenda,” said another.

Much of Harrietsham is to be under a 20mph speed limit. Stock image
Much of Harrietsham is to be under a 20mph speed limit. Stock image

However, KCC highways bosses say the scheme will improve public health and road safety.

Cllr Tom Sams (Ind) supported the project and suggested it could be expanded to other roads in the village.

“We know that many residents in Harrietsham would like to see a 20mph speed limit on roads which the scheme does not touch and this perhaps will be something we might look to in the future,” he said.

A KCC officer also explained to the committee that the goal of the speed limit was "to help encourage walking, cycling, local amenities, quality of life - how it feels to be a resident or visitor to Harrietsham”.

Cllr Patrik Garten (Con), however, was sceptical. “Back in the 80s we had this ‘Please drive carefully in our village’ [sign] – the polite notice to travellers through the village," he said.

Cllr Lottie Parfitt-Reid
Cllr Lottie Parfitt-Reid

“These days we’re trying to put laws in place because the polite way didn’t work, but will a 20mph zone sign actually make much difference?”

He added that, regarding West Street: “The average speed there is around 20mph, certainly for the sensible drivers, so we wouldn’t be changing much anyway.”

Cllrs Peter Holmes (Con) and Lottie Parfitt-Reid (Con) proposed an amendment – approve the scheme but on the condition that the number of roads included be reviewed in future, taking into account residents' views, with an ambition of reducing the number of roads.

The Joint Transportation Board voted in favour of the amended proposal, with six votes in favour, five against, and one abstention.

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