Councils will be given greater freedom to introduce 20mph schemes under new government proposals to improve road safety.
Local officials will also have more scope to cut speeds on rural roads with a history of accidents and introduce variable speed limits outside schools as part of the updated Department for Transport guidance.
Ministers hope the revised advice will give traffic authorities more flexibility when setting local speed limits and lead to more appropriate and consistent limits across England.
Under the new guidance, which was put out for consultation yesterday, councils will be encouraged to expand 20mph zones and limits in urban and residential areas where it can be shown they benefit safety and quality of life.
There are around 2,000 schemes in England with research suggesting that introducing a 20mph zone can cut collisions by 60 per cent.
The DfT guidance says: "Based on this positive effect on road safety traffic authorities can, over time, introduce 20 mph zones or limits into major streets where business on foot is more important then slowing down road and lesser residential roads in cities, towns and villages, particularly where this would be reasonable for the road environment, there is community support and streets are being used by pedestrians and cyclists."
The new guidance will also see the introduction of a speed limit appraisal tool designed help local authorities assess the full costs and benefits of proposed schemes.
Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "It is vital that speed limits are suitable for local conditions and councils are best placed to determine what these limits are, based on local knowledge and the views of the community.
"To help, we are publishing updated guidance for consultation. This includes a number of initiatives we have introduced to improve road safety, including making it easier for local authorities and communities to put in place 20 mph schemes, or use common-sense measures such as variable speed limits outside schools.
"Road safety is a top priority and the guidance will help councils make evidence based decisions to introduce local speed limits that reflect the needs of all road users."
The final guidance, which will be used by local authorities when setting limits on single and dual carriageway roads, is expected to be published by the end of the year.
There will be no changes to the national limits of 30mph on street lit roads, 60mph on single carriageway roads and 70mph on dual carriageways and motorways.
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