Council plans crackdown on ‘nuisance’ car meets

Waltham Forest Council is planning a crackdown on car meets in response to ‘significant’ incidents of anti-social behaviour and nuisance.

Residents across the borough have made regular reports of loud noises late into the night, as well as large groups behaving in an intimidating way, speeding or taking drugs.

Car meets, which see groups of car owners congregate typically at night, are “well organised, well attended and tend to be focused within particular hotspot locations causing the local residents significant alarm and distress,” the council says.

Car meets are also linked to racing, revving engines, ‘problematic congregation,’ and drug-related incidents, including the use of NO2 laughing gas.

In a bid to tackle the unauthorised meets, Waltham Forest is now looking at introducing a public space protection order (PSPO), which would prohibit large congregations of drivers.

Drivers congregating is not an offence in and of itself, but the council says it is a “major contributing factor” to the nuisance and disruption that residents report.

The authority has launched a consultation, asking residents for their thoughts. Officials want to know to what extent car meets are a problem, how they affect residents, and whether they agree or disagree with a PSPO.

The main areas affected are Hoe Street in Walthamstow and Lea Bridge in Leyton, based on GovSource data collated between June 2021 and November 2023.

Under the PSPO, which would be enforced across the borough, it would be an offence to attend an unauthorised car meet as either a passenger or a driver.

The council and officers from Metropolitan Police would be given new powers to enforce the order.

Breaching a PSPO restriction is a criminal offence and can result in a £100 fixed penalty notice or a fine of up to £1,000, if prosecuted.

A total of 152 reports were lodged in relation to nuisance car meets. They do not include nuisance associated with parking, general speeding, moped deliveries, and commercial vehicle repairs.

Of those, 24 were in Hoe Street, 22 in Lea Bridge, 18 in William Morris and 15 reported in both Wood Street and Markhouse Road.

Residents have taken to social media to complain about “noisy cars” in Lea Bridge.

After police officers visited the Argall Industrial Estate, an area known for car meets, one local tweeted that car meets presented “not only a road danger menace for local workers but a noise problem for people at home, too.”

The number of incidents reported tend to increase in the summer, the data reveals.

The worst months in both 2021 and 2022 were July, followed by June in 2023. A total of 22 incidents of antisocial behaviour were reported in July 2022.

Waltham Forest already has a borough-wide PSPO in place which tackles street-drinking, aggressive begging and the use of threatening or insulting langauge.

It was approved by the council’s cabinet in July 2022 and will run until September 5 2025.

The consultation on car meets will run until Wednesday April 24. It is available to view on the council’s website

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter