Move to clamp down on excessive vehicle noise in Shropshire town centres

Excessive noise from vehicles is a problem in most of the market towns in Shropshire, and in many villages too. The noise comes from several sources including cars with modified engines and exhausts and motorbikes revving up to maximise noise. In Ludlow, as in other towns, we have long had issues with young racers rushing around the town and the Eco Park and with a minority of motorcyclists making excessive noise.

Last Thursday, Shropshire Councillors agreed to seeking funding for an acoustic camera trial in Shropshire, with a view that is the scheme is successful, it would be rolled out across Shropshire. It is unlikely that Ludlow will host the trial, though I will bid for that, but we could seek funds from bodies such as the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office or draw on community infrastructure levy monies for our own scheme.

Acoustic cameras have been on trial in the UK since 2019. The main trial in Kensington & Chelsea proved successful and acoustic cameras are being rolled out across the borough using monies from the neighbourhood community infrastructure levy. The council has also implemented an Antisocial Behaviour (ASB) Nuisance Vehicles Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO). Current prices are about £28,000 per installed camera. Cameras have also been used near Fareham on the a32.

Residents in Kensington & Chelsea have been complaining about Lamborghinis and Ferraris racing around. We don’t see many of these upmarket cars racing around Ludlow but we see the same anti-social behaviour. Young racers charge around our streets to impress their friends and competitors. They are often known as boy racers but there are girl racers too. Whatever we call them, they don’t impress other residents and they disturb people into the early hours.

The police had a clampdown on young racers in Ludlow a few years back, seizing and crushing one car and reporting vehicles with modified exhausts to insurance companies. But they don’t seem to be currently giving this problem much priority.

There have been many complaints about motorbikes in the town centre. Some people would like to ban them but we can’t ban bikes without pedestrianisation of the town centre. There is no consensus on this and anyway the problem is overly noisy bikes or bikes that are being revved to make noise.

If we have acoustic cameras, where would be best place for them? Bell Lane and Brand Lane are obvious locations though there may be space limits and possibly conservation area objections. Sheet Road and Temeside are through routes for the young racers and may be more suitable.

The progressive introduction of electric vehicles will reduce sound from all vehicles but full electrification of personal transport, buses and HGVs is some decades away. There will be an unplanned consequence of decarbonising transport. Electric vehicles will be quieter, making non-electric vehicles sound louder. And we will have to change the way we cross the road. We have too much reliance on acoustic signals to our ears to warn of approaching traffic but electric vehicles make little sound. We learnt this with the re-introduction of city trams, which had to be fitted with a soft cow bell sound to alert pedestrians of their approach.

We might need to think about whether to give these devices a snappy name if we adopt them widely here. The French have called theirs Méduse because their acoustic cameras look like a squid on a stick. Squiddy McSquidface for Shropshire perhaps?

The motion

The bold text is a Conservative amendment to the Lib Dem motion. It was accepted and the motion was agreed unanimously by councillors.

It is well known that excessive noise is damaging to both physical and mental health. It also is degrading to the environment and general amenity of an area. In recent years there have been successful trials of acoustic cameras to catch motorists and motorcycle riders with vehicles that emit excessive noise. The threshold set in the trials in London was 80db. Emergency vehicles and otherwise law-abiding HGVs would not suffer fines. This motion calls on the council to seek funding for a pilot scheme that, if successful, could be rolled out across towns and parishes in Shropshire.

A tree was demolished during a night of racing around the Eco Park in November 2017
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