THE speed limit in built-up areas across Wales will be dropped to 20mph next year after politicians in Cardiff Bay approved proposals today.

Politicians voted to approve plans to lower the default national speed limit on residential roads and pedestrian streets with streetlights fewer than 200 yards apart, from 30mph to 20mph.

Wales is the first UK nation to make the move and the Welsh Government says dropping the speed limit will ‘help save lives, develop safer communities, improve the quality of life and encourage more people to make more sustainable and active travel choices’.

Slower speed limits have been trialled in eight Welsh communities over the last year, including St Dogmaels, Abergavenny and Llanelli North.

20mph speed limits will be rolled out across the whole of Wales in September 2023, at a reported cost of around £32 million.

Explaining the change, the Welsh Government said: “The new legislation will not apply a blanket speed limit on all roads, it will simply make the default limit 20mph, leaving local authorities, who know their area best, to engage with the local community to decide which roads should remain at 30mph.

“Currently, just 2.5 per cent of Welsh roads have a speed limit of 20mph, but from next year this is expected to increase to approximately 35%, helping to create safer roads and communities across Wales.”

Speaking after the vote, Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said: “I am delighted that the move to 20mph has received cross-party support across the Welsh Parliament today.

“The evidence is clear, decreasing speeds not only reduces accidents and saves lives, but helps improve people’s quality of life - making our streets and communities a safer and more welcoming place for cyclists and pedestrians, whilst helping reduce our environmental impact.

“We know this move won’t be easy – it’s as much about changing hearts and minds as it is about enforcement – but over time 20mph will become the norm, just like the restrictions we’ve introduced before on carrier bag charges and organ donation.

“Once again Wales is leading the way for other UK nations to follow.”

Russell George, MS for Montgomeryshire, was against the new law, telling the Cambrian News before the vote: “I am supportive on introducing 20mph speed limits outside schools, playgrounds, places of worship and high streets, but a blanket roll-out is not appropriate.

“With a price tag of more than £32 million, is this really money well spent at a time when the Welsh Government should be focused on tackling the big issues at hand such as the cost-of-living’’

A consultation was held into the proposed dropping of speed limits across Wales and from just over 6,000 responses, 53 per cent of people said they were against the lower default limit while 47 per cent were in favour.

Reasons for opposition included longer journey times, increased congestion and concerns it could "annoy" drivers.