Wokingham Borough Council is asking residents how they have been affected and what it can do to help following a rise in unauthorised car meets.
In March, the council’s executive unanimously agreed to ask residents for their views on creating an order to restrict the activities associated with unauthorised meets, including dangerous driving, racing, aggressive acceleration and braking, sounding horns, playing loud music, foul language and threatening behaviour.
The council is now running an online survey with a view to adopting a Car Cruising Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which would give it greater power to tackle dangerous and anti-social behaviour, ensuring the borough is a safe place to live.
Car cruising is the term for when drivers meet to race or show off their vehicles. The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 requires that the activity restricted by the order has a detrimental effect on residents’ quality of life and that the activity is persistent or ongoing.
From January 2021 to January 2022, 82 incidents were reported to the council or Thames Valley Police. The most common locations for these car meets were at the Carnival Hub car park in Wokingham town, the Mereoak Park and Ride near Three Mile Cross and supermarket car parks across the borough.
If the PSPO is created, anyone who does not comply could be fined up to £1,000, or receive a fixed penalty notice of up to £100. It can be enforced by a police officer, police community support officer, or an accredited council officer.
The online survey will run from 7 June to 19 July and is available via the council’s online platform, Engage Wokingham Borough.
Cllr Ian Shenton, executive member for environment, sport and leisure, said: “We want to ensure Wokingham Borough continues to be a safe place for our residents and the behaviour associated with these car meets completely goes against that.
“Some of the people who attend these gatherings show little or no regard for the people around them and we want to send a clear message that we are serious about tackling this extremely anti-social behaviour.”
What we can do to help
The survey asks residents if they have been affected by car meets, where it was held, the impact it had on them and if they feel the PSPO should be created.
Under the Act, the council can:
- Set blanket restrictions and requirements
- Restrict access to public spaces, including certain types of highway, where the route is being used to commit anti-social behaviour
- Set targeted restrictions and requirements against certain behaviours by certain groups at certain times
The council is proposing that all land owned, maintained or managed by the local authority be covered under the PSPO, as well as any other place to which the public has access.
The order would make it a prohibition to be the driver of a motor vehicle where the following activities take place:
- Causing danger or risk of injury to road users, including pedestrians
- Causing damage or risk of damage to property
- Aggressive acceleration/braking or racing
- Carrying out including but not limited to skidding, handbrake turns and drifting
- Creating noise through excessive engine revving, sounding horns or playing music
- Using foul or and/or abusive language
- Using threatening or intimidating behaviour
- Causing obstruction, whether stationary or moving
It would be an offence to promote, organise or publicise any event where the prohibited activities take place and to attend an event where the prohibited activities take place.
Wider approach to anti-social behaviour
Last month, the council launched a new service to tackle anti-social behaviour and other issues that affect residents’ quality of life. As well as car meets, the in-house team offer a visible presence to address concerns such as fly tipping, noisy neighbours and unlawful encampments.
In partnership with the police, the council has successfully reduced the number of car meets in the borough by warning drivers and installing CCTV cameras.
If a crime is being committed and people are in danger, call the police on 999 or 101 if it is not an emergency.
For any other nuisance, contact the council at email@example.com or call 0118 974 6000 during business hours. An out of hours service is available by calling 0800 212 111 from 5pm until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and during the daytime at weekends and bank holidays.
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