LOWER speed limits are being introduced in Ashburton as one the four ‘most in need’ Devon communities.

They will be in selected areas of Tiverton and Winkleigh, and all the roads in Atherington (North Devon) and Ashburton.

The decision, agreed by Devon County Council’s ruling cabinet, follows the introduction of a new way of considering 20mph speed limit requests last year.

It comes after Newton Abbot residents rejected such limits on the town’s main and residential roads, but they did support it outside schools.

The new ‘prioritisation system’ was introduced because of the high number of 20mph requests the council receives. It involved ‘expressions of interest’ from local communities for new areas, of which 105 were received.

Each scheme was then assessed, taking into account average speeds at key locations and the number of vulnerable road users in the area.

Other factors include the speed related collision history, the level of community support, the presence of an active ‘community speed watch’ group and the community’s deprivation index ranking.

The four highest ranked communities were then chosen.

Councillor Stuart Hughes (Conservative, Sidmouth), cabinet member for highways management, said they ‘represented a good opportunity for a study to inform our future policy,’ adding: ‘They can be delivered in year and with the available budget.’

A fund of £100,000 is available for the schemes this year, less than many opposition councillors wanted when the budget was set in February.

Councillor Julian Brazil (Kingsbridge), leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, went further at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting – suggesting Devon follows a decision made by Wales this week to introduce a blanket 20 mph in built-up areas.

‘I think we ought to work in partnership with our communities. Parish councils have some pretty big reserves, so I hope that once we’ve gone through these four – which I might say appear to be pilot schemes – that we can roll out this scheme as widely as possible and as efficiently as possible.’

He added: ‘Overall, very pleased to see it’s happening. I’d like it across the whole of Devon.’

But Cllr Hughes questioned who would enforce the blanket 20 mph limit: ‘You put them in [and] if people carry on driving 30, 40 miles an hour, residents will expect [the limit] to be enforced. The police have said they won’t enforce them.’

Labour member Tracey Adams (Mincinglake & Whipton) welcomed the schemes but said she was a “little disappointed” that the budget meant only four were approved.

‘The more 20 mile per hour areas in residential areas the better, as far as I concerned.’

Councillor Jess Bailey (Independent, Otter Valley) said it is ‘good that four have been approved” but pointed to the 101 areas missing out means the system is ‘totally oversubscribed.’

The cabinet approved the four schemes and will consider future funding for more 20mph speed limits as part of its local transport plan in the autumn.