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20mph speed limit to be enforced in central Belfast

By Staff Reporter

Published 25/01/2016

Signs for a 20mph speed limit, due to take effect in Belfast city centre from January 31
Signs for a 20mph speed limit, due to take effect in Belfast city centre from January 31
Belfast city centre streets which will have a 20mph speed limit

A new 20mph speed limit will finally come into force across Belfast this weekend - more than three months after it was supposed to.

Drivers have been warned that restrictions take effect from Sunday in a move aimed at cutting accidents.

The speed on roads across the city centre will be reduced.

Signs warning motorists of the impending change have appeared in recent days.

A series of 20mph warnings have been installed above existing traffic signs.

Electronic notices have also been placed at various points, including one at Victoria Street.

Technically, the scheme was introduced on October 12, 2015 in Belfast city centre, but no signage was introduced, meaning the new limit could not be enforced.

David McNarry, a member of the Assembly's regional development committee, warned the changes were a further burden on motorists.

"20mph speed restrictions in Belfast city centre - are you kidding?" he said.

"The chaos caused by bus lanes, diverted traffic, roads being dug up and now this - it is more 'Big Brother' stuff.

"I have always supported a 20mph limit outside schools, old people's homes and hospitals - places where a speed limit would actually make sense."

But Green Party councillor Ross Brown said it was a sensible move. "Slowing down by 10mph isn't going to ruin anyone's day but it could save a life," he said.

"We want to make the city centre a shared space for people, including walkers and cyclists.

"There isn't any need for anyone to do more than 20mph in a city - I don't think cars move much faster these days anyway."

Plans for a 20mph limit in Belfast first emerged in July 2014.

The Department for Regional Development announced a 22-day consultation period on the proposals.

At the time it said: "We have stated our commitment in the NI Road Safety Strategy 2020 to pilot 20mph signed only schemes to help improve safety on our roads."

Many areas like the Holylands district of south Belfast currently have such 20mph schemes. But this is believed to be the first time 20mph speed restrictions have been rolled out to such a large business district.

A previously issued Government road safety campaign entitled 2020 Vision - which looks at making Northern Ireland's roads safer over the next six years - gave an indication it wanted more 20mph limits in built-up areas.

Last February the then minister responsible for roads, the UUP's Danny Kennedy, warned the Assembly that rolling out new signage for 20mph zones across Northern Ireland would cost at least £6m - and potentially as much as £26m.

He said this would add pressure to his department, which was facing severe budget cuts, and had faced much criticism for not fixing street lighting, leaving grass verges uncut and not filling potholes.

Mr Kennedy was replaced as Regional Development Minister by the DUP's Michelle McIlveen in September.

In November her cash-strapped department was handed £24m in the November reallocation of unspent funding.

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