DUNCAN BARKES: There’s a sinister edge to 20’s Plenty vigilantes

Just when I thought there was no more to write about the 20’s Plenty campaign, a new development occurs: a request for volunteers to snoop on drivers in the Chichester area by monitoring their speeds.

Worthing motorists had better watch out. The campaign team in your town is jubilant, with an approved consultation set to ask residents for their views on a reduced speed limit in certain residential streets.

The majority will not bother to respond – and therefore you can argue that it serves them right – but the screeching minority will shout loudly.

If Worthing goes the same way as Chichester (although a recent survey said that 83 per cent were against the idea) drivers can expect inconsistent applying of the limit, leading to general confusion about where is 20 and where is not.

Under the guise of road safety, campaigners will bang their drum, protesting that the streets need to be reclaimed.

But their real motive, I believe, is a green one. Some supporters of 20’s Plenty want people out of their motors and on foot or bike. It is also interesting to note that one of the Chichester campaigners is a Green Party activist.

There is still a distinct lack of hard evidence that a reduced 20mph speed limit improves road safety, but you highlight this at your peril.

My advice to Worthing councillors is to be careful. 20’s Plenty campaigners in the town have already taken email responses from Councillor Michael Cloake and plastered them all over their website, with some pretty sarcastic rebuttals.

The latest move in Chichester to recruit volunteers to monitor motorists in roads affected by a 20 limit has a potent whiff of vigilantism about it.

Campaigners have forked out nearly two hundred quid for a speed gun and have received permission from Sussex Police to record numberplates and speeds of cars doing more than 20mph.

Would Sussex Police grant similar permission to motorists to try to curb the cyclists on our streets who cycle at night with no lights, ride on the pavement or seem unable to comprehend that a red traffic light means stop? I very much doubt it.

These new powers given to Chichester campaigners are farcical. If they want to convince sceptics their agenda is more than simply ‘four wheels bad’ they should try to influence us with the weight of their argument. Instead they will be lurking at the roadside, clipboard and speed gun in hand, looking like the busiest busybody in town.

I accept that many 20’s Plenty campaigners genuinely believe they are doing a good thing, but this latest development does not help their cause. It just makes things more sinister.