WELSH Ministers have been urged to ditch their “extremely divisive” 20mph policy by Shadow Transport Minister Natasha Asghar MS in an 11th hour plea.

Members of the Welsh Parliament debated the record-breaking petition on Wednesday (May 22) when opponents called for the £33m policy to be rescinded.

The South East Wales MS paid tribute to those who had campaigned against the 20mph project and added that the petition, which has nearly 500,000 signatures, “highlights the strength of feeling amongst the Welsh public.”

She told the chamber: “The frustration with this policy has stemmed from the fact it is draconian in every sense of the word.

“I said it on many occasions, and many may boo and deny it, but this policy is poised to deliver a £9bn blow to the economy.

“It is hampering our emergency services, it is hindering our public transport network, and it is making Wales a less attractive place to live, work, visit and invest in. In short, it is quite literally bringing Wales to a standstill.”

The MS drew attention to a recent air quality report which cast doubt on the argument that 20mph speed limits improve air quality.

The report found that at 50 per cent of the locations monitored, air quality had worsened.

She added: “Twenty mph should be kept outside schools, hospitals, and areas of increased footfall, but the Welsh Government’s current approach is too extreme and unnecessary in so many cases.

“The Welsh Government should, I believe, listen to the concerns of the public and ditch this extremely divisive policy.

“There is a real opportunity here for the Government to show it is working for the people, by not dismissing this petition and making genuine meaningful change.”

In response to the debate, the Welsh Government’s cabinet secretary for transport, Ken Skates MS, claimed the government was listening with a ‘national listening programme in full swing.’

He said the government was determined to address public concerns, help local authorities make the right decision and make 20mph a success.

The man responsible for introducing the policy – former deputy minister for climate change, Lee Waters – accepted there were "things the Welsh Government should have done differently" about the rollout. 

Mr Waters, who was previously director of national cycling organisation Sustrans Cymru, claimed the controversial policy had "saved lives".

But he told the Senedd: “A protest of this size should make us pause and reflect. And it has...

"We launched a review, earlier than planned, into how the speed limit was being implemented. And far from ‘marking our own homework’, as we were accused, the initial report from the review panel was pretty blunt. 

"It said there were things the Welsh Government should have done differently, that I should have done differently, and that local councils should have done differently.

“I accept that... the communications campaign came too late; there wasn’t enough support and buy-in from across the Welsh Government to prepare for the change; and there was poor consultation by local councils with their communities.”

But he added: “The policy is working. Speeds are down. People are driving slower... for every drop in the average speed limit of 1mph casualties are estimated to fall by 6%. That’s fewer heartbroken families.”

Commenting after the debate, Natasha Asghar said: “Labour’s 20mph speed limit scheme – which has been backed by Plaid and the Lib Dems – has been an utter shambles from the very beginning.

“We are all in favour of road safety, however the Welsh Government must listen to residents all across the country now, who have made their views abundantly clear, and axe this policy in favour of a targeted approach.

“Whilst there has been a slight change in rhetoric from the government, I will continue campaigning until this £33m 20mph scheme has been rescinded.”