20MPH INVESTIGATION: Worthing 20mph consultation ‘open to abuse’

20mph speed limit proposals are being considered
20mph speed limit proposals are being considered

A COUNTY council officer has admitted a consultation on a 20mph scheme for Worthing which would invite online responses could be ‘open to abuse’.

Details of the consultation are being finalised by a steering group, in which letters will be sent to every household in the borough.

But opponents of the scheme have slammed the probable inclusion of an online consultation and the fact non-residents will also be able to add their views.

Elise Mason, of newly-formed ‘20’s pointless’ said the plans made ‘fraud’ easy.

She said: “I have got a copy of the electoral roll. I could select a name, make up an email address easily and send over my response.

“Anyone with a computer could do this and the chance of there being a duplication is slim as much like an election, I would expect a low response rate to the paper consultation.”

The opposition group sits on the steering group but says the majority are minded to open the consultation up.

But Worthing County Local Committee, which authorised the £50,000 consultation, specifically stated at previous meetings it wanted to hear the views of Worthing residents only.

West Sussex County Council principal community officer Brian Morgan, who has overseen the group’s discussions, said the council was required to extend the consultation to outside residents as the roads were public highways.

The approach would also ensure the maximum number of responses.

He said: “Everyone has a right to a view about public highways. Anyone can drive on them, so in theory, anyone has a say.

“It is open to abuse but it will be obvious to us if someone is abusing the system and the CLC will be made aware of that.

“In Chichester, where we did a similar consultation, there were no such signs.”

20’s Plenty campaigner Duncan Kay said he expected the council to put in safeguards but believed it was more than just residents who would be affected.

He said: “I am sure there are plenty of people who live outside the boundaries of the scheme who come into Worthing regularly and I think their views need to be considered.

“It is also really important that we get as many people as possible to respond so that we get a true reflection of the views of everyone who uses Worthing’s streets.”

The Department for Transport guidance for setting local speed limits states a consultation should include local residents, emergency services and other groups, such as cyclists and residents’ associations.

It makes no specific mention of a requirement to include those living outside the proposed 20mph area.

The consultation is pencilled-in to be launched in April. The plans could still change, as two steering group meetings are still to be held.

For a special report on the 20mph proposals, including an examination of the concept of 20mph limits, the police’s view and accident figures, see the Worthing Herald, out Thursday, January 30.

* In the paper version of the report, the findings of the recent Herald poll, asking readers their opinions on the proposals, stated 87 per cent were against. The actual figure was 83 per cent.