SPEEDING motorists in villages across North Yorkshire could avoid prosecution due to a legal loophole, police have admitted.
Many villages have signposted speed limits of 30mph in areas where street lights are spaced 200 yards apart or less, but according to traffic regulations, this should not happen.
Temporary Inspector Lindsey Stamp has investigated and said so-called “repeater signs”, highlighting the 30mph limit, “are expressly prohibited from restricted roads”, and when placed alongside street lighting, may make enforcement “difficult and challengeable”.
Insp Stamp said local councils appeared to have put up the repeater signs to re-enforce the 30mph limit, but the problem was “not necessarily a case of incompetence, but a highly complex subject with many different issues”.
Stillingfleet, Kelfield and Wistow have all been investigated, but deemed compliant.
Police were made aware of the issue by one resident, who did not wish to be named, who said: “It shocks me that the issue is so very widespread and it is likely not only those villages between Selby and York, but many around the county are faced with speed limits that are completely unenforceable and have been for many years.”
In a letter to the resident, Insp Stamp said: “In the case of Stillingfleet, Kelfield, Riccall and Wistow, North Yorkshire County Council has erected repeater signs within the village environs and despite the fact that there is a system of street lights less than 200 yards apart.
“A Restricted Road can not have a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), on it making it a 30mph speed limit. Therefore, if a Restricted Road is so controlled (by a 30mph TRO) the legislation is defective and the speed limit does not exist, is challengeable and drivers cannot be convicted.
Insp Stamp said many of the traffic orders dated to the 1960s, when the villages may not have had street lighting, and said the status of the roads had not been reviewed by the traffic authority.
A joint statement from North Yorkshire County Council and North Yorkshire Police admitted a review of signage in Cawood and Riccall would be “carried out as a priority”, but said the majority of villages in the first report were correctly signed.
It said: “As a result of these concerns we have reviewed the 30mph speed limits in Stillingfleet, Kelfield and Wistow villages and this has concluded they are signed correctly and in accordance with expert legal advice commissioned previously by the County Council. Repeater signs are necessary for these particular speed limits because the lighting in the villages has been classed as footway lighting and not carriageway lighting. If the lighting was of a standard sufficient to be classed as carriageway lighting, then the use of repeater signs along the road would not have been appropriate.”