This is a guest report by a member of the local group Safer Streets for Winchmore Hill. Bruce Tofield attended the meeting held on 3 October 2023, at Wheatsheaf Hall, Main Street.
There is clearly great anger among residents both at the very loud noise including explosions from large numbers of cars that gather to race and display and that have specially modified exhausts, and also at the apparent failure of police and Enfield to solve the problem over many years. The room was full and the many remarks from the floor were consistent in noting the repeated disturbance for hours on end to people’s sleep and mental health (children in particular) and to animals (dogs especially) and also the frustration that the problem had been getting worse and more frequent in recent years. The meeting went on for two hours and would almost certainly have continued for a lot longer had it not been brought to a close.
It does seem odd that one silent lady holding a placard noting, correctly, that juries are allowed to reach decisions according to their conscience can be arrested and charged while motorists who repeatedly create excessive noise and disturbance can, at best, be issued, in the first instance, with warning letters. One resident noted that noise from a sound system he uses at events that neighbours object to is very quickly closed down by police.
As was noted by councillors and the police present, problems of this kind are not unique to Enfield and are causing concern across the country. Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Stevenage and Southend were mentioned.
The car park near the A10 where B&Q had vacated their store had been the location for gatherings of what were said by one resident to be hundreds of cars with hundreds of people present, many apparently taking drugs and with very noisy, and potentially dangerous, displays of wheel spins and other manoeuvres. According to the police superintendent who attended, and who regretted that he did not have the resources needed to properly tackle the issue, this space had recently been blocked off after one of his PCs had engaged constructively with the site’s owner, Blackrock.
But it was noted that the problem wasn’t restricted to a single car park and mention was made of many roads in the borough where cars driving at excessive speeds were causing great danger to pedestrians and other road users. Holtwhites Hill and Cockfosters Road were mentioned but, even at Winchmore Hill Green, I have heard explosive exhaust noises on some nights recently, after midnight, possibly from racers on Hoppers Road or nearby.
It seems that these gatherings are widely advertised on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. One resident said that Luton and Southend had engaged with the event organisers via social media to organise events that were limited in number, and controlled, with some success. This approach, although seemingly well worth trying, didn’t appeal to many present.
From an anthropological perspective it would be interesting to study the car meet phenomenon. What drives young people to do this stuff? There is a long history of young people’s behaviour annoying the older population – often for good reason – but perhaps some insights could lead to more effective solutions. In the 19th century, Scuttlers in Manchester, later on Peaky Blinders in Birmingham, and, when I was young, Mods and Rockers. What is missing in young people’s lives that they resort to gang-like behaviour? There are probably common themes throughout the centuries that, if properly understood and dealt with, could short-circuit disturbing behaviour.
But all that is for the longer term. More immediately, Cllr Gina Needs (Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Cohesion) said that the statutory three-month consultation on a PSPO (Public Space Protection Order) would begin in November. Several people wondered why this had taken so long and some were of the view that the costs for violating a PSPO would not deter the racers. It was unclear why Enfield was not pursuing an Injunction against the problem as Wolverhampton is currently successfully doing. An injunction can provide more severe penalties for infringement and one speaker noted that the problem had increased in Enfield because of injunctions taken out in Essex.
There were many comments noting that much better coordination between the authorities (Enfield and the police) and local residents would be of great benefit in helping to identify and record problems and perpetrators quickly and effectively and to inform residents of actions being taken and progress being made.
While these problems may seem to be some way distant from Winchmore Hill, as noted above, they are already here although not, so far, severely. Fast cars that are speeding are very mobile. But although extreme, the problems of cars racing and engaging in dangerous manoeuvres are on a continuum with excessive speeding on residential roads such as Hoppers Road and the spoiling of neighbourhoods such as The Green by the dumping of rubbish, by cars parked where they shouldn’t be, and by large numbers of delivery drivers in too limited a public space.
I hope that, following this meeting we, Safer Streets Winchmore Hill, can engage with Enfield and other groups as appropriate, to help create a safer, more welcoming and more sustainable local neighbourhood. While speeding cars with very noisy exhausts are, so far, only a minor problem, it is cars that create most of the problems that we wish to deal with – speeding and danger to life, noise and pollution, and parking in all kinds of inappropriate places.
5 October 2023
The following week 9th October, a further meeting was held in Grange Park. This was organised by Councillors James Hockney (Bush Hill Park) and Chris Dey (Grange Park). There were representatives from the Police, TfL, and the GLA. There was also a representative from the Grange Park Residents’ Association. There were no representatives from the council. This was attended by about 35 members of the public and was a chance for some communication about what can be done by all the relevant authorities. It was also a chance for residents to communicate their frustrations with the speeding and car meets. James also mentioned his petition with nearly 2000 signatures had been submitted.
The Police officer explained that they do not have the resources to deal with the speeding and car meets. The speeding enforcement needs to be done by the Police Driver Unit and the car meets should be attended by the ‘Construction and Use’ unit. Both these are very specialised units. For example, on any one day, there are only two drivers in the local force who can drive with blue lights and they are used for day-to-day operations. Without these drivers, it would be difficult to tackle the road racers. The construction and use police unit inspect the vehicles and can issue fines and prohibition orders. One further problem for Enfield is that it is in the middle between two Police Driver Units locations – one west and one east. So, while they will patrol (and by all accounts they love giving out speeding tickets) they sometimes get diverted when there are issues en route (for example on the M25). Both the police officers were very honest about the way the resources have been depleted over the last 10 years as well as a change in the way they respond, where more care is taken and so each job takes longer.
The representative from TfL was new to the job and didn’t give any commitments. TfL are responsible for putting in average-speed cameras on only part of the A10. All parties agreed that the whole of the A10 from the Great Cambridge roundabout onwards needs to have cameras.
The police and councillors agreed that one way forward is for Enfield Council to extend the Public Space Prohibition Order across the whole of the borough. This would make attending a car meet illegal and easier for the police to take action. They have been liaising with the council for many months and it appears progress is being made
Better Streets for Enfield 10th October
Here’s how the West Midlands Police tackled this issue a few years ago.
Previous Better Streets for Enfield reports on the A10