Reduced speed restrictions to be rolled out at local schools

Reduced speed restrictions to be rolled out at local schools

9 September 2020

ELEVEN local primary schools have been included in a roll-out of 20mph speed limits announced this week by Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

The lower speed restriction at certain times of the day outside throughout Northern Ireland will be phased in over the coming months.

The local primary schools included in the list of over 100 across the province are: St Patrick’s, Legamaddy; Christ The King, Drumaness; Derryboy; Killyleagh Integrated; St Joseph’s, Crossgar; St Joseph’s, Carnacaville; St Patrick’s, Portaferry; St Patrick’s, Castlewellan; Anahilt; St Mary’s, Aughlisnafin; and Andrews Memorial in Comber.

Mrs Mallon said on Monday that she first made a commitment in June to allocate £2m for part-time 20mph speed limits at around 100 schools across Northern Ireland so that “parents, children and staff will be safer as they go to and from school on a daily basis”.

“Schools were assessed across our four roads divisions and 25 schools in each division were identified based on considerations of need as well as individual site constraints,” she added.

The minister stressed the importance of keeping children, parents and teachers safe and promised “positive, practical changes delivered on the ground by the Department of Infrastructure in their community”.

She continued: “Road safety, especially around our schools, is a priority and it is my intention that through future programmes many more schools will have a 20mph speed limit on the roads outside their gates.”

New road signs will be erected at each of the schools in the form of standard fixed speed limit roundel signs with flashing amber lights. These will be set to come on at the times the reduced speed limit applies. 

This follows trials at a number of schools to determine the effectiveness of this arrangement of signs and it was found they have a positive impact on the reduction in mean speed.

Local politicians have broadly welcomed the announcement, with several parties calling for all schools to be included.

South Down MLA Colin McGrath said the decision was “yet another example of an SDLP minister taking the lead and delivering a tangible outcome for all”.

While he welcomed the inclusion of local schools within the 100 schools, he acknowledged that some schools may feel also need the speed limit measure.

He added: “It is hoped that this will only be the first round of this scheme and this is something that could be rolled out right across the north to make our schools among the safest places to be and the safest places to travel to and from.”

Strangford MLA Michelle McIlveen, who is chair of the Assembly’s Infrastructure Committee, said the news was “very welcome”.

“There have been campaigns for many years to reduce the speed limit at a number of these schools, so there will be many staff, parents and residents delighted with this news,” she said.

“While this signage is only part-time, trials have shown this to have a positive impact upon road safety. As a consequence of behavioural change, this can help play an important role in keeping pupils and other pedestrians safe.”

Newry, Mourne and Down Council chairwoman Laura Devlin said the announcement was “superb news”.

She added: “I am inundated with complaints about speeding cars especially in the vicinity of rural schools. Children are regularly crossing and are at particular risk.”

Sinn Féin councillors Róisín Howell and Cathy Mason have welcomed news that two local primary schools within the Slieve Croob DEA have been included in the scheme.

Cllr Mason said: “Reducing the speed limits around local primary schools is something I have been continually calling for since being elected last year. This is a common-sense approach which will hopefully go some way to improve road safety for our children and young people.”

Cllr Howell pointed out the importance of the reduced limit to schools like St Mary’s Primary School in Aughlisnafin.

She said: “Some of these roads have the national speed limit outside the school gates which is totally unacceptable.”

However, local Sinn Féin MLA, Emma Rogan, has called on the minister to widen the scheme out to all primary schools. 

“Slowing traffic down and ensuring pupils safety around schools is absolutely essential and should not be for a few schools but for every primary school,” she said.

Mournes councillor Andrew McMurray said he was delighted to see four schools he had directly lobbied for to be selected, but was disappointed that some schools have not been included on the list.

He added: “I will continue to lobby the minister and her department on their behalf as I would like to see this scheme be extended to more schools.”