IT’s been a funny old week. To be honest, every week feels like a funny old week these days.

Yes, the news agenda has been dominated, not unreasonably, by corornavirus and my heart goes out to those who took a punt on a two-week break on the sunny Costa Brava only to find themselves having to go into quarantine when they got back home.

So much for Y Viva Espana.

Perhaps it might have been a better idea to have a staycation after all.

But while our attention was diverted by the row over wearing facemasks in shops, whether or not Harry and Meghan had anything to do with the behind-the-scenes revelations about their regal strife and Boris Johnson’s conversion, like St Paul on the road to Damascus, from libertarian fat bloke to champion of healthy living, a couple of other changes may have slipped under the radar.

Take, for example, the announcement on Sunday regarding the speed you can drive through motorway roadworks.

Currently, the fastest you are allowed to drive through roadworks is 50mph but all that is about to change with motorists being able to put their foot down and crack on at 60mph ‘to save on journey time’.

This comes about after ‘extensive research and trials’ conducted by Highways England which has confirmed the new upper limit where it is safe for road users and road workers.

The rationale, according to Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, is: “All of our research shows that road users benefit from 60mph limits in roadworks.

“They have shorter journey times and feel safe.

“Road users understand that roadworks are necessary, but they are frustrated by them.

“So testing 60mph has been about challenging the norm while ensuring the safety of our people working out there and those using our roads.”

Regular readers of this column will be aware of my angst regarding motorway roadworks, especially those for the so-called smart motorways.

My main issue isn’t the roadworks themselves, but a combination of very narrow lanes and the fact that the roadworks section can go on for 20 miles.

No matter how much the experts may have stress-tested a 60mph limit, there is no doubt driving through seemingly never-ending roadworks is inherently more dangerous.

Anyone listening to traffic and travel information on the radio will have been aware of the almost daily accidents in the roadworks section around Knutsford when the smart motorway work was taking place.

Frankly, there were times when to mandatory 50mph limit seemed excessively fast and I would have been much happier in the really narrow lanes if it had been 30 or 40mph.

Anyone travelling to the south west on the elevated section of the M5 through Birmingham in the recent past would have had to negotiate the 10 miles or so of roadworks where the speed was reduced to 30mph (yes, 30mph on a motorway) but at least it was safe.

And that’s the key. It’s all about safety.

I’m not convinced upping the limit to 60mph is a good idea but I am happy to be convinced otherwise.

I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • My Twitter timeline has been inundated by what appear to be trolls posting selfies showing them in shops not wearing a face covering with the hashtag NoMaskSelfie, proclaiming that they have the ‘right’ to freedom of choice.

I’m just wondering what the correlation is between the ‘anti-maskers’ and the pro-Brexiters?

  • Following on from that speeding announcement came the news that as part of Boris Johnson’s ‘build, build, build’ strategy, planning laws are to be relaxed.

According to the Politics Home website, under the new rules, which Downing Street is calling “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War”, existing commercial properties, including newly-vacant shops, can be converted into residential housing more easily.

Number 10 said the changes “will both support the high street revival by allowing empty commercial properties to be quickly repurposed and reduce the pressure to build on greenfield land by making brownfield development easier”.

The new rules will come into effect in September, doing away with what the government calls “the unnecessary red tape”.

Added to that, the plans will allow families to add up to two storeys to their home without full planning permission through a fast track process. The aim is to create new homes and living space for growing families.

The right will initially only be available purpose-built blocks of flats. However, it will be rolled out to all detached properties.

There are concerns that the new plans will lead to a rash of unsightly developments and clash between neighbours. However, government ministers hope the new plans will make it easier for growing families to expand their properties without having to move.

Personally, I think the new rules have the potential to be an unmitigated disaster. No matter what the logic is behind them, I very much suspect we will quickly enter into the realms of the law of unintended consequences.

Planning control rules exist for a reason, no matter much of an inconvenience you may think they are.