On Wednesday, February 17th, Bury Parish Council chairman Karen Davis and Cllr Paul Whyles, who takes the BPC lead on road issues, attended a meeting with senior police officers and other involved parties on the subject of road safety on Bury Hill. This meeting resulted from a previous meeting between Cllr Whyles and Chief Inspector Habib Rahman, Sussex police’s new dedicated anti-social behaviour chief inspector, recently appointed by Chief Constable Jo Shiner.
Ch Insp Rahman called the meeting and it was also attended by Supt Juliet Parker, Sussex and Surrey Police Head of Operations and Partnerships, Oliver Fisher, Inspector Operations Command, Emma Tugwell-Smith, Operations Manager for Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, Jon Forster, Road Safety Manager for West Sussex County Council, Chris Stark, Areas Highways Manager for West Sussex County Council, and Jeff Travis, Media Office for the South Downs National Park Authority.
Cllr Whyles was invited to paint a picture of the issues surrounding anti-social road use for the residents of Bury, during which he discussed a 20-year history of ever-growing motorbike noise disturbance, dangerous speeding, past police operations that failed to resolve the problem, residents’ gratitude for the most recent Operation Downsway but also disappointment that no lasting and sustainable solution had been found that did not depend upon a police presence.
Cllr Whyles reminded the meeting that BPC had made a well-researched and argued application for an average speed camera installation on Bury Hill and added that BPC was disappointed by the lack of response to that application by Sussex Safer Roads Partnership. He argued that while the problems were long-standing, deep-seated and complex, the best possible approach to arriving at a sustainable solution would be one involving inclusivity and cooperation, as was represented by this meeting.
Cllr Davis added that BPC was a forward-looking and proactive parish council which was more than willing to play a role in the business case for a camera installation, adding she was confident that Bury could make a contribution via fundraising should affordability be the central issue over the provision of such an installation.
Jon Forster reported that the issue of anti-social road use on Bury Hill was something he had been aware of for 20 years and that still no solution had come to light. Engineering solutions, such as amending the start of the two-lane section of the hill, were limited in scope, he said, because of strict rules over road layouts. The meeting was told that an average speed camera installation had been made on Box Hill in Surrey where very similar anti-social biker road use was a problem. However, this had not served to reduce the problems of noise.
There was discussion of re-educating the minority of bikers who choose to speed and create excessive noise, through a campaign that would serve to stigmatise anti-social behaviour. While this was seen as a worthwhile approach, and that BPC could perhaps instigate a poster campaign to this end, it was also accepted that it would be a very long-term engagement and would not necessarily produce the sustainable solution that is most urgently needed.
Encouragingly, Supt Parker stated that she was determined and confident that a ‘blueprint’ solution could be found for the problems of Bury Hill.
Cllr Whyles said that all options should remain on the table, including average speed cameras and even acoustic cameras, which have been successfully deployed in other countries but have had only limited trials in the UK, with problems relating to securing prosecutions based upon their evidence.
It was agreed that a further meeting would be convened in about three weeks time.
While it is perhaps disappointing that an instant and lasting solution was not identified and agreed upon, it is nevertheless very encouraging that Sussex Police are engaging directly with Bury’s stakeholders in this matter and there is every reason to be hopeful that continuing dialogue will indeed produce the lasting solution that Supt Parker wants to see for Bury Hill.
Any feedback on this issue would be very welcome and should be directed to Cllr Whyles at: paul.whyles@