THE family of a woman killed on a busy road reacted with fury last night to news that speed limit signs on the road through their village were “non enforceable”.
And campaigners fighting for a reduction in the speed limit through Brancepeth, near Durham, said they were “staggered” by the news the 40 miles per hour signs were for cosmetic purposes only.
The issue of a speed limit through the village to the west of Durham on the A690 road to Crook has become a political hot potato since the death of Ellen Hendry, 81, last November.
And an inquest into Mrs Hendry’s death held yesterday was told by PC Kevin Kitson, the forensic collision investigator for Durham Police, that the legal limit for the road through Brancepeth was actually 60 miles per hour.
To gasps of amazement from Mrs Hendry’s family he added: “There are 40 miles per hour non-enforcement speed limit signs. The limit is actually 60 miles per hour.”
When questioned again by Angela Curran, the solicitor acting for Mrs Hendry’s family, PC Kitson confirmed: “The 40 mile per hour signs are non-enforceable. The local authority is aware of this. The positioning of the signs was wrong, which means they are non-enforceable.”
Hours before Mrs Hendry was killed as she crossed the road after alighting from a bus from Durham, villagers had visited Durham County Council headquarters calling for a reduction in the speed limit from 40mph to 30mph.
Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods pledged to support villagers’ attempts to get the limit cut. But the MP was under the mistaken impression, like the vast majority of villagers in Brancepeth, that the legal limit was 40 miles per hour. Last night Mrs Hendry’s son Philip said: “I find it absolutely staggering that the limit is non-enforceable. What is the point of having the signs? We have been misled by the council.”
Last night a Durham County Council spokesman said: “The police did make us aware that the speed limit signs do not correspond with the existing traffic order but as the whole question of a speed limit through the village was under review – both as part of a countywide review of speed limits and more specifically, the villagers’ request for a lower 30 mph limit – we decided to wait until these matters were resolved.
“However, the issue of enforcing the 40 mph limit through Brancepeth has never been an issue as our traffic surveys have shown that the mean speed of vehicles using the road is 35mph.
“Nevertheless, in view of this technicality becoming public knowledge, we shall be taking immediate steps to see what can be done to prevent motorists from taking advantage of the situation until the current speed limit review is resolved.”
Coroner Andrew Tweddle adjourned the inquest at Chester-le-Street to allow a witness to be called to give evidence at the request of Mrs Hendry’s family.