Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 19 Mar 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr C complains the Council disregarded the views of residents when deciding to introduce traffic calming measures and the speed cushions introduced cause him pain and discomfort. The Ombudsman has found no fault by the Council.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr C, complains the Council disregarded the views of residents when deciding to introduce traffic calming measures. Mr C says the speed cushions cause him pain and discomfort.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I read the papers provided by Mr C and discussed the complaint with him. I have considered the Council’s complaint correspondence with Mr C which contained links to the relevant decision-making documents. I have explained my draft decision to Mr C and the Council and provided an opportunity for comment.
What I found
- The Council wrote to residents and other road users in October 2016 with details of a proposed 20mph zone for a primary school area. The letter explained the Council was proposing to change the speed limit and introduce traffic calming measures.
- The proposed traffic calming measures included speed cushions, refuges and a speed table at the existing zebra crossing. The Council’s letter says responses to the consultation would be set out in a report to the City Mayor for a decision on how to proceed.
- Mr C lives on a nearby road and although this road would not have the traffic calming measures his usual route would take him along the road with the speed cushions.
- The Council subsequently prepared a report for the City Mayor recommending approval for the proposed scheme. The report explained the results of a speed survey which showed mean speeds of between 28.6mph and 29.3mph and referred to Department for Transport (DfT) guidance about setting local speed limits. The proposed scheme would bring mean speeds down to about 24mph to conform to the DfT guidance. The report explained the Council had considered various traffic calming measures including the use of mini-roundabouts, chicanes, rumble strips and narrowings but these were all rejected due to reasons of physical constraints, cost and/or ineffectiveness. The report confirmed the proposals were a road hump at the existing zebra crossing outside the primary school, a refuge with two speed cushions outside another school and two sets of speed cushions along the same road. The aim of the measures was to reduce speeds and maintain a low speed. The report also set out the results of a meeting with the police service to discuss the scheme options at which the police service confirmed it would object to a 20mph speed limit without physical measures to reduce speed. The report also included the responses of the three Ward Councillors with two being in favour and one providing no comments.
- The report also included appendices showing the extent of the proposed 20mph zone, the location of proposed traffic calming measures and the outcome of consultation with residents and other stakeholders (including Ward Councillors, the emergency services, local schools and the Council’s disabled persons access and cycling officers).
- Separate appendices detailed the outcome of the consultation with affected residents, a breakdown of the responses by street and a resident’s petition objecting to the traffic calming. The petition with its covering letter and photographs was included in full in the appendices to the report. The petition makes clear that signatories were in favour of the reduced speed limit but not the traffic calming measures. The signatories wanted digital signage to slow drivers and traffic enforcement through mobile cameras and enforcement officers. The petition also referred to existing parking issues with photographs of inconsiderate parking.
- The appendix providing the detailed breakdown of the consultation responses confirmed that 197 letters and plans were delivered to all properties in the proposed 20mph zone with 75 replies. This provided a 38% response rate. Of the replies, 54 (72%) were in favour of the 20mph limit and 19 (25%) were against with 2 don’t know replies. For the traffic calming measures, there were 33 (44%) in favour and 38 (51%) against with 3 don’t know replies and 1 blank reply. Another appendix provided a breakdown of the responses by street.
- There were also 108 letters sent home with school children with18 replies. Of these, 17 (94%) were in favour of the 20mph zone and 16 (89%) in favour of the traffic calming. There were also 3 responses via the Council’s website with 2 in favour and 1 against for both the 20mph limit and traffic calming measures.
- A separate appendix sets out the wording of the petition objecting to the speed cushions and the grounds of objection. The petition contained 125 valid signatures from 92 different addresses. Of the 92 addresses, 54 did not respond to the consultation letter directly, 23 responded against the traffic calming measures, 13 responded in favour of the traffic calming with 1 don’t know and 1 blank response. The case officer provided a response to the petition including the comments from the police meeting referred to above. The case officer also referred to the possibility of vehicle activated signs but confirmed the site did not meet speed camera enforcement criteria. The officer confirmed changes to traffic signals in 2017 may improve traffic flows and of 26 visits to the road 15 penalty charge notices had been issued and some yellow lines introduced to address parking concerns.
- A summary appendix confirms the results of the consultation with properties in the proposed zone as being 72% in favour of the 20mph zone but 51% against the proposed traffic calming measures. The results from the school were 94% in favour of the speed limit and 89% in favour of the traffic calming measures. This appendix set out three options with the arguments for and against each option:
- Proceed as proposed. FOR: of the total responses, there was a majority in favour. AGAINST: majority of residents were not in favour of the traffic calming measures.
- Proceed with 20mph for side roads but no traffic calming on main road and remove that road from 20mph zone (as speeds too high for 20mph speed limit without physical traffic calming and police had confirmed would object). FOR: majority of residents were not in favour of traffic calming on road. AGAINST: would upset those residents that did want traffic calming and majority of respondents in favour of 20mph speed limit and could result in accidents to children attending schools.
- Do not install scheme. FOR: satisfy residents that do not want traffic calming measures. AGAINST: upset those residents that do want traffic calming and 20mph speed limit and could result in accidents to children attending schools.
- I have completed my investigation as I have found no evidence of fault by the Council.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman