More evidence is needed for controversial 20mph zones

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To many people it will be seen as a good example of democracy at work. Others will throw their hands up in disgust.

The latter will be among the 54 per cent of those surveyed at Hayling Island (out of 1,000) who wanted a 20mph speed restriction slapped on a large part of West Town.

Yes, they were the majority, but Hampshire County Council’s Cllr Sean Woodwood, who runs the authority’s roads, ruled it was not a big enough majority and has put the plan on ice.

Compare Hayling’s response to that of the village of Wallington on the outskirts of Fareham. There, 91 per cent of people backed the 20mph limit through the village and will get it.

The issue is interesting. Many Hayling Islanders opposed the proposed 20mph zone because they thought it included roads which they believed should not be.

Take long, straight, bungalow-lined Staunton Avenue. It has mature trees on either side and deep verges – typical suburbia where, it would appear, all is tranquil.

But to a driver the temptation to put a foot down and whizz along this straight-as-a-die stretch is great. So, look out pedestrians emerging from behind those trees.

Nearby Bacon Lane is a rat run. It is narrow and twisting. It is not dissimilar to the road through Wallington. There are good cases for both to have 20mph limits.

But is there any case for these 20mph zones at all? In Portsmouth the answer seems to be yes.

Five years ago it became the first city to impose 20mph limits on virtually all minor roads – roads which are narrow, double-parked and usually in densely-populated areas.

There, every year since 2008, casualties on the 20mph roads have been significantly lower compared to casualties in roads that have remained 30mph.

The RAC wants more evidence about their impact on accident figures. It backs 20mph zones outside schools and at accident blackspots, but remains to be convinced about blanket bans.

That’s what Cllr Woodward should do now: go away, look at the stats for each Hayling road and reconsider.