Canvey Island boy racers face crackdown

Powers to tackle Canvey Island boy racers is “integral to the quality of life of so many”, a council leader has said as a crackdown is launched.

First steps to bring in a stringent Public Spaces Protection Order to tackle anti-social boy racers was agreed by Castle Point Borough Council cabinet on November 18.

Essex Police added its support for the introduction of the PSPO for the area around Roscommon Way which regularly sees anti-social behaviour and dangerous and careless driving, predominantly on Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday evenings between 9am and 2am.

The borough council’s plans for a PSPO follow years of attempts to tackle the issue that seriously impact the sleep of residents living in a nearby housing estate, but also risks the lives of those taking part.

Cabinet member councillor Wayne Johnson, (Cons Appleton) said: “I fully support the introduction of a public safety protection order.

“It is important to note that we are not just doing this for the residents who are being impacted, we are also doing it for the safety of the perpetrators who are driving these vehicles.

“They are risking their lives.

“Over the weekend a very close friend of mine lost a grandson who was 17 years of age in a car chase.

“It is a very dangerous game and the message that needs to go out from this council is that we are doing this for their safety as well as being helpful to our residents and protecting them against this anti-social behaviour.”

The council has now agreed to a six week consultation – a necessary first statutory step before it can make a PSPO.

The findings from the consultation will be brought back to cabinet for it to decide whether to proceed with the PSPO and, if so, the area to be designated and the restrictions which would apply.

Anyone in breach of the order can be prosecuted, or issued with a £100 Fixed Penalty Notice. Repeat offenders can find themselves in court.

Essex Police have received reports of anti-social behaviour since the road opened in 2012

The noise of the racing vehicles can be heard from the other side of the island and even into Benfleet, the council’s cabinet heard.

Several operational orders over the years to try and address the problem have only been met with varying degrees of success.

One solution to lock the gates at Morrison’s car park and McDonald’s, where the crowds congregate and race between the three roundabouts on Roscommon Way, interfered with access for Morrison’s night workers.

Essex Highways says that because of the type of traffic and classification of the road, it is not feasible to implement any traffic calming measures.

During 2021, Essex Police put in place several dispersal orders enabling police to require individuals or groups to leave a specified area and not to return within a specified period of not more than 48 hours.

But this time limit means that dispersal notices may need to be issued repeatedly in persistent cases. Further, these powers only permit police to require an individual to leave a specific area, not a general area.

The location is even more attractive given the nearby McDonald’s provides food and drink to those who attend – not just those racing between the three roundabouts at high speed “drifting” around the bends but also for the large crowds of spectators of up to 100 or more who can line the unlit dual carriageway, only metres from the racing cars passing them at speed.

The borough council say this comes with “considerable risk” who have no physical barrier to protect them from those racing along the highway.

The council says a PSPO may provide a useful additional measure “to tackle the persistent and unreasonable activities”.

Leader of Castle Point Borough Council Andrew Sheldon said: “This is a very important motion and step for this council and that has been a policy priority of mine for some time.

“It is very rare you find a motion that is so integral to the quality of life of so many and that has so much to do with a very serious concern about public safety.

“A public safety protection order is something this council can do.

“The police have gone out there and done a fantastic job time after time.

“We want them to have more power and to give them – we are going to consult on giving them- more powers to go out there and do their job with a far stronger hand.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter