40mph limitMotorists should be forced to slow down on commons, campaigners have told the Welsh Government.

Many people are afraid of exercising their rights on common land because of traffic speeding by. The Open Spaces Society says there should be a blanket 40mph throughout Wales where roads cross unfenced commons.

Livestock is at risk from vehicles travelling at speed, which means many commons are not grazed, which in turn has a detrimental effect on the land. Walkers would also benefit from a lower speed limit, the OSS says.

The comments come in the society’s response to a Welsh Assembly Government consultation on setting local speed limits.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the OSS, said: “Commons are unique, because of their history, unspoilt landscapes and wildlife habitats, and because they offer opportunities for public recreation. 

“People have the right to walk on every common in Wales, thanks to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and the right to ride horses on some of them, by virtue of earlier legislation.

“Too many commons are crossed by busy roads and the commoners no longer wish to exercise their rights because their stock is at risk from speeding traffic. Yet grazing is good for the viability of the common, its vegetation and its public enjoyment. That means that commons crossed by roads are increasingly at risk of being fenced, which is not only expensive but creates an eyesore and restricts public access.”

Speed limits are a better alternative to fencing in common land and allowing traffic to continue across it at breakneck speed.

“Fencing on a common requires the consent of the National Assembly for Wales, in addition to any planning permission,” Ms Ashbrook said. 

“The society is informed of all such applications and we object unless there is an overriding need for fencing which cannot be met by alternative means. So fencing a common can be a long, expensive and uncertain process.

‘We have called for a blanket speed limit of 40 mph wherever a road crosses a common which is not fenced on both sides, and lower if the common is already within a speed-limit zone, for example, where it is within, or adjoins, a town or village. 

“Then people will know that unfenced commons are special, they will recognise that they must slow down, for the good of the animals, the public and the unspoiled habitat of the common.”

‘The Gower Commons Initiative has argued for many years for 40 mph speed limits across Gower’s commons. 

“This has won public support but Swansea Council has yet to allocate resources to this important project.  The Commons Initiative has tried every other means of slowing the traffic and now needs that speed limit to ensure that animals grazing the unfenced commons are protected. We congratulate the Commons Initiative on pressing for the traffic to slow down, to ensure that the beautiful commons of Gower remain open and free.

“We call on the Assembly to help places like Gower by requiring there to be a 40 mph speed limit on unfenced commons. We hope that Wales will thus lead the way in celebrating and protecting its unique commons.”

Schemes limiting speeds to 40mph have already been set up in the New Forest and Dartmoor National Park.

In December 2006, the OSS appealed for similar limits to be applied to all commons in England.