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By Hannah O’Hanlon
A South Kintyre councillor has said the decision not to implement mandatory speed limits in parts of Campbeltown after years of campaigning is ‘disgraceful’.
Councillor Donald Kelly reacted to a report which referred to speed surveys being carried out at Meadows Road, Ralston Road, Davaar Avenue and the Roading.
He said that a decision taken by Argyll and Bute Council’s Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands area committee at its meeting in March had been ‘ignored’, after Jim Smith, the authority’s head of roads and amenity services, confirmed that mandatory speed restrictions in those areas had not been pursued.
The discussion took place at the latest meeting of the area committee last Wednesday (June 8).
Minutes of the March meeting state that the area committee ‘requested that, given the results of the speed surveys in Meadows Avenue and Ralston Road, Campbeltown, officers provide a further report to the committee in relation to how a mandatory 20mph speed limit could be taken forward for those specific areas; and agreed that the item should remain on the workplan until such time as the Davaar Avenue speed survey had been carried out, and the results of same had been reported back to the committee’.
At last week’s meeting, Councillor Kelly said: ‘At the last area committee meeting in March, the speed volume survey had been done in Ralston Road and concluded that the area met the criteria as per the council’s speed policy.
‘It triggered the requirement for a mandatory traffic speed limit to be put in place. At that time, it said within the criteria that it should be introduced.
‘The further work undertaken between March and June indicates the same criteria should be applied to these areas as well, so all four areas trigger the requirement for a mandatory speed limit.
‘Why is the decision of the March area committee being ignored, and no further work done, and no reference that all areas now trigger the requirement?’
Mr Smith said: ‘What could be taken forward is a mandatory order, which is being progressed and would not need any calming measures. There is an advisory speed limit in place.
‘These order processes are quite expensive, and what we expect in the not-too-distant future is a blanket 20mph limit for all built-up areas.
‘So we would not need the signs. The order element is time-consuming and can take six to 18 months to put in place.
‘We have got speeds down to an acceptable figure, and that probably would not change through any mandatory speed limit in place.
‘Police Scotland say they have no cause for concern and the advisory limit seems to be working.
‘If we can be a little patient to enable the limit to be put in place, it can be done more cost-effectively.’
Councillor Kelly responded: ‘There has been no action taken by the department and this is the only action the council has taken.
‘I think it is absolutely disgraceful that the committee has made a decision in March and it has been totally disregarded by the head of roads and infrastructure.’
He then tried to move a motion that the committee should support a request for mandatory speed restrictions to be looked at and implemented.
But clerk Shona Barton said: ‘I would say that is not competent. We would need to get officers to prepare further information and I don’t think the area committee has the power to make that decision. There are budgetary implications.’
The committee’s chair, Kintyre and the Islands councillor John McAlpine, asked: ‘Have the speed restrictions been applied for? I know you said there were a shortage of officers, but is this in the pipeline?’
Mr Smith replied: ‘No, on the basis that there is already an advisory speed limit in place and it is being complied with by most drivers.
‘Officers are of the view that there would be no benefit progressing a mandatory speed limit.’
Speaking to the Courier after the meeting, Councillor Kelly said: ‘The response from Jim Smith is totally unacceptable and is a prime example of the tail wagging the dog.
‘It is even more worrying when both the chair of the committee and the leader of the council made no attempt to intervene and insist that the decision taken by the previous area committee should be adhered to.
‘This leaves me no alternative but to ask an outside body [Audit Scotland] to look at the workings of Argyll and Bute Council.’
Council leader Robin Currie, of the Kintyre and the Islands ward, told the Courier: ‘When at area committees, I’m there representing my ward and as vice-chair; I’m there to support the chair.
‘A question was asked by Councillor Kelly to the head of service and I didn’t see it as my place to intervene. I simply can’t intervene in all discussions just because I happen to be leader of the council.
‘Councillor Kelly should continue his dialogue with the head of service and hopefully the matter can be resolved and, if it isn’t, I would be happy to have a conversation with them.’
Councillor McAlpine added: ‘Argyll and Bute Council arranged six days of seminars after the election. All heads of service were in attendance and were there to aid new and old councillors with pressing issues.
‘This is an issue Councillor Kelly could have taken up with the appropriate officer prior to the area committee meeting but he chose not to attend those informative seminars.’
The Courier also put Councillor Kelly’s comments to Mr Smith via the council’s press office but had not received a response by the time the paper went to press.