Councillors vote in favour of lockable entry barriers to discourage anti-social behaviour and dangerous driving
An ongoing problem of vehicle related anti-social behaviour, including revving engines, loud music, litter and dangerous driving (often at high speeds) in Seaton’s Jurassic car park and Sidmouth’s Manor Road car park during the evenings, is to be discouraged through the installation of lockable entry barriers and dragon’s teeth at exit points, after councillors voted in favour of this method of deterrence at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday 4 November 2015.
East Devon District Council officers will now proceed with getting detailed quotes for the lockable barriers and dragon’s teeth devices, which councillors preferred to traffic calming humps - originally recommended to members by the Environmental Health and Car Parks Service in a report to cabinet.
The council has agreed that it will work with Sidmouth and Seaton Chambers of Commerce and town council members to jointly monitor car park numbers and to ensure that the car parks are not locked shut when they are needed. It is proposed that the barriers will be locked in the evening (initially from around 9 pm) until 8am the following day by Streetscene staff.
However, the costs and feasibility of electronically operated barriers will also be investigated – this would provide a flexible solution to concerns about access expressed by the chambers of commerce and members of Sidmouth and Seaton town councils, as well as ward members. They are worried that many residents, as well as visitors to both towns, will be affected by the closure of the car parks and that it could have an impact on the revenue of local businesses together with tourism income. It should be noted, though, that automated barriers are only reliable for use on manned sites, as someone needs to be available to deal with the inevitable mechanical failures that can occur.
Residents in both Seaton and Sidmouth who live adjacent to these car parks have said that the problem of ‘boy racers’ and car related anti social behaviour has been reoccurring for many years and have been urging action by both the council and the police. In May 2015 a 51-signature petition was presented to the council by people living close to Manor Road car park, who wanted a permanent solution, such as a barrier across the entrance and a one-way spike strip (or something similar) across the exit.
The problems in these car parks have been the subject of a joint operation between council officers and the police, which resulted in written and verbal warnings being issued to individuals suspected of being involved. However, despite the warnings and a series of joint council/police visits to car parks, residents reported that the problems continued.
Comments on resolution
We are sensitive to the concerns of the local members and the chambers of commerce. It is therefore our intention that we are as flexible as possible over the times during which the barrier is locked up, so it is not harmful to the local businesses. The barrier would be locked in the morning and in the evening at different times, depending on events going on in the two towns. We already do this in two car parks in Exmouth and it works.
We will monitor car park numbers through the Chamber of Commerce and town council members and the car parks will not be locked shut when they are needed. We will work very closely with them to make sure that the barriers are the most appropriate solution to this problem.
It is important that we acknowledge the very real concerns expressed by residents about the issues of both disturbance and road safety. They have been carefully weighed against the wishes of both Seaton’s and Sidmouth’s business communities and it now seems right that we implement measures to deter these drivers from flagrant misuse of the car parks, which is clearly detrimental to the well being of residents.
Police in favour
Sergeant Andy Squires, Neighbourhood Team Leader for Sidmouth and Seaton, who is supportive of the installation of barriers to stop entry, but which still allows people to leave the car parks, said that from a police perspective, this was a partnership problem. Sergeant Squires said:
Catching these drivers is very difficult as there need to be witnesses in order to prosecute. There will always be ‘boy racers’, hence the need for a long term solution using education, enforcement and engineering. I’m delighted that in this climate of budget cuts, the council has gone straight for the ultimate solution.