MORE than 1,000 road signs were taken down and either salvaged or scrapped across Gwent when Wales’ new 20mph laws came into force. 

Many speed limit signs became redundant after the switch, when the Welsh Government lowered the default speed limit on most roads in built-up areas from 30mph to 20mph. 

Councils across Wales collectively received millions of pounds to cover the costs of taking down old signs and putting up new ones to remind drivers of the new speed limit on so-called restricted roads – typically described as those with street lights at every 200 metres or less. 

That has included areas where there was already a 20mph limit with smaller, “repeater” signs to remind drivers a different limit to the standard was in force have had to be taken down now that the lower limit is the one drivers should assume applies in a residential area. 

A Freedom of Information Act request to Caerphilly County Borough Council shows 1,110 signs were removed as part of the switchover while Torfaen Borough Council has disposed of 285 which it couldn't reuse.

“We have aimed to salvage as many signs as possible that were of good condition,” Caerphilly Borough Council said in its response to the information request. “As we do not have an abundant space for storage, we have not been able to stock all the ‘good condition’ signs that have been taken down and these have been presented as scrap waste for processing.” 

Answers from the five councils in Gwent, shared via the What Do They Know website, show that in Torfaen 285 were deemed to be “redundant” following the change in the legislation. 

The borough council said it had sought to reuse road signs but said some were no longer of any use: “The authority, where possible, have tried to reuse signs that have been removed in other locations across the network, however, signs considered to be redundant e.g. no longer needed or not of a suitable standard to be reused have been disposed of accordingly.” 

The request to Newport City Council did not uncover the exact number of redundant signs, but the local authority followed a similar inspection process.

“All signs removed resulting from the Welsh Government change in the default speed limit were inspected, and where found to be in a condition where they may be reused in future maintenance programs or new schemes, have been retained and put into storage,” the city council said in response to the request.  

“Those signs deemed to be redundant, were disposed of by our term contractor as part of the work instruction for their removal.  

“Our contractors are obligated to dispose of redundant materials responsibly and are recycled where the material permits this.” 

Monmouthshire County Council said that by the beginning of November, it couldn’t say how many signs were no longer required as it is still installing 20mph zones and changing signs, work that may not be fully completed until the end of this year. An officer said: “We can’t answer the query presently.” 

It said signs that couldn't be reused would recycled while in Blaenau Gwent the borough council said it has also tried to reuse signs but has had to dispose of some.  

It responded: “Signs that we were able to repurpose as part of the 20mph default works were used in alternative locations, for example 20mph repeaters signs from Strand Annealing were repurposed in Trefil.  

“Signs that we were unable to be repurpose or in a poor condition were disposed of.” 

The switch to 20mph default speed limits came into effect on September 17, with police forces saying they would first generally try to educate drivers breaking the law, before introducing penalties. 

The Welsh Government said it had introduced the lower speed limit to “reduce the number of collisions and severe injuries from them”, and to “make our streets safer”. 

The introduction of the policy has proved controversial, however. Calls to scrap the change to 20mph became the Senedd’s most-signed petition ever, and drivers opposing the switch held several go-slow protests on major roads such as the M4 around Newport in the autumn.