CONTROVERSIAL plans to cap speed limits in Winchester city centre to 20mph will be implemented, it has been confirmed.

Work on reducing the current 30mph restriction in a bid to promote healthier travel options and cut the number of traffic-related casualties is expected to start as early as August.

City council officer Andy Hickman said: “We’re hoping it will make the city a more pleasurable place for people to walk and cycle. Experience from around the country shows these schemes have significant benefits. The results from Portsmouth showed a reduction in the number of casualties, so there are wider benefits as well.”

At a council meeting, reports that traffic volumes in Great Minster Street had reduced by 40 per cent since The Square was refurbished were contested by chairman of the St Swithun Street and Symonds Street residents’ association, Peter Grant, who objected to the proposal.

“We have already had experience of the 20mph limits,” he said. “It was introduced in 2012 and it had a shocking increase in speeding of five times [of what it had been before]. That’s huge.

“That is such an incredible increase that we have to stop and take recognition of it.

“It’s quite clear to all of us that the lack of enforcement means drivers have two fingers in the air and we have seen this in The Square. It says no access and yet there are 500 cars there every day.

“Unless this is enforced, frankly, you are all wasting your money.

“Maybe it will make you feel better but there’s no evidence it will help. If you do go ahead with this scheme, one thing I ask is that you do before and after surveys and you publish them.”

Cllr Brian Collin, of St John and All Saints ward, said: “I am in favour of the report and I have been a champion of 20mph limits in residential and commercial streets in Winchester.

“Now 20mph is being proposed for the centre of the city – the commercial core street. For the most part this proposal is sound but there are glaring problems in its implementation.

“I submit that the effect of the city centre 20mph proposal on these two junctions makes the stretch of Wales Street and the stretch of Chesil Street leading to the start of the city centre 20mph area positively dangerous.

“I urge you to make sure that as part of your recommendation these two stretches of street are included in the schedules and join up the thinking behind the existing 20mph areas and the proposed city centre one.”

While councillors listened to pleas to extend the parameters beyond the scope of the old Roman walls, it was argued that any abstention would result in time lost.

The plan is for all roads from Blue Ball Hill to St Thomas Street to the bottom of Romsey Road and Arthur Road in Hyde to be included.

Cllr Tony Coates said: “If we were to push this back today we would be losing about 12 months.

“Let’s get on with it and implement as much of the 20mph restriction as we can.”