Temporary speed limits delayed after councillors question democratic process

Attempts by roads officials to introduce temporary speed limits south of Lerwick have led to complaints from elected members who felt they were being “disenfranchised”.

SIC members were asked to note the introduction of 30mph, 40mph and 50mph limits on the A970 between Ackrigarth south of Lerwick and the B9073 junction at Gulberwick.

Officials were planning to use “delegated authority” which allowed them to take decisions without a vote from members.

However, several members raised concerns about key decisions being made without their involvement – questioning its impact on democracy.

Environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson said he took “serious exception” to members only being asked to note the decision, and asked for the matter to be deferred.

Mr Thomson said he had no prior notice of the proposal – despite it falling under the remit of his committee.

“I had no sight of it, nor the courtesy of being told that this would be forthcoming here today,” he added.

Convener Malcolm Bell also raised concerns over the process.

“We’ve complained as members for a long time, certainly during the period of lockdown, that we’ve been disenfranchised to a large extent because of the situation that we’re in,” Mr Bell said.

“What we have here is something that we’re simply being asked to note.”

People living in the area are reported to have been calling for speed restriction for years to improve road safety.

The report presented to council also highlighted the impact of Covid-19, which has seen more people walking and cycling, adding that reductions to speed limits could help encourage such change, while aiding safety.

Chief executive Maggie Sandison explained that regulations introduced during lockdown made particular mention of the use of temporary traffic restriction orders, and how they could be used to promote active lifestyles.

But while councillors acknowledged the officials had done nothing wrong in using their delegated powers, many felt it would be better for members to decide.

The officials were asked to prepare a report with more data for an upcoming meeting.

Colin Gair warned, however, that it would take time to collect the evidence and therefore a report would not be possible for the council’s next meeting on 10th August.

Lerwick South member Peter Campbell said he was “bitterly disappointed” the report could not be discussed.

“The residents of Sound Brae, in particular, had been advocating the reduction of the speed limit for years now,” Mr Campbell said.


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