A BID to make 20mph the default speed for roads outside schools, busy pedestrian streets and residential areas in Surrey has failed to gain enough support to be taken up by the county council.

The Liberal Democrats’ proposal wanted current 30mph zones to be reduced by 10mph using just signs, without the expensive traffic-calming measures that are usually also introduced.

The scheme was put to an online meeting of Surrey County Council on Thursday last week by Goldsworth East and Horsell Village Lib Dem Lance Spencer. He said it was an opportunity to make roads safer as well as cut air pollution levels.

But extensive amendments to the motion by the cabinet member for transport, Matt Furniss, were overwhelmingly supported by his fellow Conservatives. The changes were approved by 46 votes to 31, with only the opposition councillors backing the Lib Dems.

The council leader and cabinet will merely be asked to adopt a policy of reducing the limit where the average speed is recorded as 24mph or less and where there is support from the community.

Cllr Spencer said he hoped to get cross-party support for 20mph limits, which he said were being adopted using signage alone in Cornwall and across Wales.

Cutting traffic speeds would reduce the number of road accidents and contribute significantly to Surrey’s target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, to reduce global warming.

Households, businesses and traffic in the county produced 20 million tonnes of emissions a year, with 46% of this coming from transport, he said. This was having a massive impact on climate change and people.

It was a bigger issue in Surrey than other parts of the UK because the county had more roads, more cars and bigger cars per head of population than elsewhere.

“In the Horsell 20mph zone, the signs have reduced the average speed of vehicles by two miles an hour,” said Cllr Spencer. “The council needs to take a lead on speed reduction to reduce climate change.”

Cllr Furniss said a package of measures was needed in 20mph zones to effectively slow down traffic. Relying on the police to enforce lower limits placed an unreasonable demand on the force. A blanket limit would result in the majority of residents ignoring the signs and criminalising themselves.

His amendment to the Lib Dems’ proposal effectively altered it to reaffirm the council’s current policy of introducing 20mph zones with signs and traffic calming.

He also said funding for lower speed limits had to be balanced against the many requests for pedestrian crossings and other road safety measures.

Cllr Spencer commented after the meeting: “It was disappointing that the Tory group saw fit to counter our motion with such a negative amendment. Conservative members I have spoken to have privately expressed support for this sort of scheme to be introduced in communities where there is local support.

“I made the climate change argument on the basis it would reduce vehicle emissions, but this was not even acknowledged by the Tory administration. This would be a really good starting point for having difficult conversations with residents about the sort of changes we will all have to make on an individual level to combat the climate crisis.”

During last Thursday’s meeting, Cllr Furniss announced that council would be spending an extra £1million a year on road safety improvements for the next three years. The money is on top of the additional £13m made available to the local and joint committees in the boroughs and districts for road safety schemes over that period.