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Antisocial road use: An update

Bury residents concerned about antisocial road use and motorbike noise on Bury Hill will be disappointed by the latest news on this front.

Bury Parish Council has finally received a reply from the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership in response to BPC’s application for average speed cameras, lodged with SSRP on 22 July last year.

After almost ten months of silence, SSRP has now formally responded, repudiating BPC’s well researched and well-argued case, and also dismissing the possibility of engineering works or for that matter any other sustainable, long-term measures to counter the menace of speeding traffic on Bury Hill and specifically the use of Bury Hill as a high-speed race track by a hardcore minority of bikers travelling at terrifying speeds of up to 120mph on a dangerous stretch of road in the heart of the national park.

In BPC’s view the SSRP’s response is an exercise in complacency and denial which selectively uses data to support a foregone conclusion.

For example, SSRP writes: ‘We wish to emphasise that the number of bikers travelling through Bury is not significantly higher in comparison to other communities across the county.’ One glance at the hundreds of motorbikes parked at Whiteways on summer Sundays clearly tells a different story. How else do the majority get there, other than via Bury Hill? The fact is Bury Hill is a magnet to motorcycle riders, something everyone recognises locally except, it seems, SSRP. In truth, Bury Hill is unique in Sussex as a motorbike Mecca, its nearest counterpart being Box Hill in Surrey. Indeed, the two sites represent the end points of a favoured biker journey, taking various routes between A and B.

The majority of those bikers ride legally and respectfully and are welcome in our parish. However, there is a significant minority of hardcore bikers who choose to flout the law, with impunity it would seem. SSRP concludes that Bury Hill’s problems are best dealt with by policing such as Operation Downsway, despite its obvious cost and despite the fact that this is only effective against hardcore bikers when the police are actually present, which of course they are not most of the time.

The hardcore offenders know when the police cameras are stationed in Bury. Some race up and down Bury Hill at highly dangerous speeds at 7.30am on fine weekday mornings in the summer. Others do so on Sundays when walkers, countryside lovers, and law-abiding road users might expect to be able to enjoy this area of the national park without the excessive noise pollution and danger to life that their behaviour represents. However, if the police camera vans are there on a Sunday, they return later instead, after the police shift has finished, and once again race up and down the hill at speeds of up to 120mph, repeatedly turning around at the entrance to Bury village. One village resident has had to abandon reading his children bedtime stories because of the intrusive and excessive noise.

For these reasons, police presence, gratefully received as it always is by the residents of Bury, does not and cannot represent a truly sustainable, effective and long-term solution to the problem of antisocial road behaviour that has blighted our village now for 20 years.

Individual members of SSRP have in the past acknowledged that blight, from both a police and county council perspective for example. However, their collective response as SSRP is once again to do nothing. Their decision-making process, slow as it is, is not transparent. SSRP continually ignored BPC’s requests to attend their meetings in order to ensure that the true situation on the ground was properly represented. Under its present constitution, how is SSRP publicly accountable for its decision making? To what authority does it answer? What line of appeal do members of the public and the local authorities that represent them have against decision making that is based on outmoded criteria and does not take into account the distress caused to so many residents?

Cllr Paul Whyles who has taken the lead on road matters for BPC says: ‘What is clear to me is an unwillingness on the part of SSRP to act in any way, not only rejecting average speed cameras but also any kind of engineering modifications, speed limit changes, etc.

‘And despite their lip service to BPC’s very clear plea for an inclusive, collaborative approach to finding a long-term sustainable solution, they plainly have no appetite for working with BPC at achieving such a result.

‘SSRP tries to argue that Bury’s case is based upon one weekend last May when traffic was excessively high because of Covid lockdown alleviation. That is a specious argument. Had they ascertained the true circumstances on the ground, details BPC offered to provide them in face-to-face evidence, they would know that for the remainder of last summer when their data box was not working, the nightmare continued once the police were absent. And this year the issue is worse than ever.

‘Having only recently driven down Bury Hill on a Sunday morning and found my car once again a few feet away from hardcore bikers careering at high speeds for the benefit of the layby’s commercial biker photographer, taking the bend so fast their knees were virtually on the tarmac, my fear is that there will have to be the appalling scene of carnage that such behaviour must one day result in, before SSRP deigns to act.

‘In the meantime, SSRP’s dogmatic adherence to collision data rather than taking into account the years of distress that antisocial road use has imposed upon our community, and its selective interpretation of limited data, raises serious questions about that organisation’s modus operandi and its accountability.

‘It is worth noting that Wisborough Green, which has mounted an effective campaign over antisocial riding through their community via the pressure group WGCANS (Campaign Against Speed and Noise) now has an acoustic camera on trial, has received at least one visit from the Chief Constable Jo Shiner and has the additional advantage of being able to mount an effective Speedwatch operation, an option not even available to Bury because of the ludicrous 50mph speed limit as the A29 passes through our community, despite the fact our village school lies on the other side of that road.

‘I have previously urged residents of Bury concerned about antisocial road behaviour to form a similar pressure group. Now, more than ever, that initiative is necessary over and above the work already done by BPC.’

SSRP’s formal response to Bury Parish Council, dated 14 May 2021, can be read here

BPC’s original application to SSRP for average speed cameras, dated 22 July, 2020, can be read here

Here are some useful email addresses should any residents wish to comment on these matters. We would urge you to add your voice to ours.

Jo Shiner, Chief Constable, Sussex Police: jo.Shiner@sussex.pnn.police.uk
Andrew Griffith, Member of Parliament for Arundel and South Downs: andrew.griffith.mp@parliament.uk
Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner: pcc@sussex-pcc.gov.uk