In December 2020, the council’s Task and Finish Group, set up to look into the problems caused by anti-social car cruising events in the city, met for the first time.
At Tuesday’s (March 8) Communities scrutiny committee, the group presented its interim report, which included a range of suggestions to tackle the problem such as modification to roads and increased enforcement from the police.
Residents across the city have complained for a number of years about the problems caused by noise and damage to property at popular car meets in the city, some attracting visitors well into the hundreds.
Last month, a woman was seriously injured at an organised car meet on Stapledon Road in Orton Southgate.
The report noted the increase in popularity of these events in recent years, which often cause a ‘chronic noise nuisance.’ It has also become commonplace for drivers that have attended one such event in the city to then move onto another part of the city to ‘undertake street racing and various forms of stunt driving.’ Several hotspots have been identified by the police for this. They have confirmed that between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020 they received 65 calls regarding complaints about events at Orton Southgate Industrial Estate on Stapledon Road, in the same timeframe, 43 calls were made about Vivacity car park in Hampton Vale and 21 calls about Pleasure Fair Meadow car park in the city centre. Calls were also received with complaints about Royce Road, the site of the old greyhound stadium in Fengate and parts of Werrington.
The report noted that it is now common place for noise from these type of events to start from around 9pm and finish as 3am on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and on some weeknights.
The noise has been described as ‘relentless, pausing only when drivers need to change their shredded tyres.’
This has caused residents problems with sleeping, concentrating, holding conversations and hearing the TV/radio.
Many residents have expressed their frustration at the police response, with a number saying that they have given up on reporting these incidents.
Local business owners, particularly in Orton Southgate, have reported regular damage to their property from stones being kicked up by skidding cars and problems with discarded litter and tyre rubber. One such owner even said they come into work every Monday to find windows smashed.
Cambridgeshire Police has insisted that it does not have the resources to answer all calls for services that relate to dangerous driving.
The police have a range of powers to deal with the issue including dispersal orders, Public Space Protection Orders and Community Protection Notice, that can be issued to an individual.
The Task and Finish Group is also drawing up and costing plans for altering road layouts at these hotspots but unlikely to pursue designated areas for these events given issued with the availability of land and insurance/liability.
Cllr Christian Hogg, who presented the report to the committee in place of the cross-party group chair Cllr Julie Howell, said: “During the pandemic, people have had more free time and the roads have been emptier, so what we have seen is an emboldening of these car racers. They have turned our parkways into racetracks and our industrial estates into drifting tracks.
“The police have put this forward as a community issue but and put it within the remit of the neighbourhood policing team but I believe this is squarely down to road policing. We need to have specialist officers that are able to robustly tackle these car racers.
“What we have been doing up to this point isn’t working because the situation is getting worse and so we need fresh thinking and to get around the table to come up with concrete ideas about what we can do differently.”
The council’s highways team will now be tasked with producing detailed plans and costings for road alterations, while a memorandum of understanding will be sought with Cambridgeshire Police; guaranteeing their support for the council with the implementation of injunction(s), community protection orders or public space protection orders.