WORRIED residents have hailed plans to introduce 20mph speed limits in a number of Ross-shire towns, amid fears a spate of near misses may soon end in tragedy.
Councillors this week backed plans for reduced limits in parts of Alness, Dingwall, Invergordon and Tain.
The move has sparked relief from fed-up residents, who have long called for action on roads one claimed were "like a racing circuit".
Highland Council is to spend £250,000 over the next five years introducing 20mph speed limits. A further £100,000 of carbon clever capital cash will also be spent between now and 2023 after the Ross and Cromarty Area Committee voted in favour of the new limits.
Chairwoman of the committee, Councillor Fiona Robertson, said: "I am pleased that work to extend 20mph speed restrictions in Tain, Invergordon, Alness and Dingwall can progress. The impact sustained by a child who is struck by a vehicle at 20mph is serious enough, but at 30mph the results could prove fatal."
The new measures will include gateway signs, 20mph repeater signs and speed indication devices that warn motorists if they are going too fast.
The introduction of a pedestrian crossing at the north end of the High Street in Alness is also being investigated. In Invergordon, another measure being explored is the reinstatement of old hatching to narrow the road on the High Street. And in Dingwall enhanced signs and lining at crossing points on Old Evanton Road are being investigated too.
Invergordon resident John Chalmers, who previously raised a 700-strong petition calling for a crackdown on speeders in the South Lodge area, has welcomed the news.
"I would be greatly in favour if they did 20mph limits because we are still being bombarded by boy racers in Strath Avenue and they are just using the road like a racing circuit," he said. "Police have done high-profile patrols but they can’t be there all of the time.
"There hasn’t been a fatality and that’s just by luck," he continued, adding that it had been several years between concerns being raised and moves to reduce speed limits being taken.
One Tain mother, who said she dreaded to think of the current dangers to her toddler, also welcomed the plans.
Fiona Mackay, who lives in Academy Street with her husband Paul, said her daughter was beginning to walk and she was fearful of what could happen if she ever got out the front door.
"I’m frightened there could be a fatality on the road," she said. "When you’ve got young children that 10mph [cut] makes a big difference. Our house opens right onto the main road, and is used by lorries, tractors, buses and all sorts. The wee one is now walking and you worry about what would happen if you accidentally left the door on the latch – they’d be onto the road and I dread to think what could happen. Next door has young children as well."
The change in speed limits will require formal Road Traffic Regulation Orders before they come into force. The council said it will consult with the communities over the details of each proposal, with the intention of introducing them in the new financial year.
Highland councillor Maxine Smith, who represents the Cromarty Firth ward, encouraged the public to have their say during the consultation process.
"Around two years ago residents of South Lodge presented a petition to the council, asking for a 20mph on their estates, especially where children cross the main Strath Avenue to attend the play park or visit their friends.
"There had been a few near misses, which would have resulted in casualties. However, this is a consultation, so people can say if they want it or don’t want it and explain why. We can then see what the majority of people actually want now in both Invergordon and Alness."
Royal Burgh of Tain Community Council chairman David Macdonald added that his members were keen to make a contribution to the consultation process. He said: "We’ve had recent complaints about speeding, particularly in Academy Street and [a limit] in this sort of area would be sensible. We would also probably consult with the public to see where any hot spots were."