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Kensington community calls for acoustic cameras to stop street racers

Cars racing the streets of Kensington late at night has led to a petition for acoustic cameras to be installed in the borough.

The resident-led petition collected more than 600 signatures in three weeks triggering a formal consultation from Kensington and Chelsea council last week.

Street racers are using Holland Road near Shepherd’s Bush as the starting line of an illegal “TfL racetrack” that runs throughout the borough until the early hours of the morning.

Holland Ward resident Corine Charton, 66, said: “They drive like lunatics, it really has to stop, it’s ridiculous.”

Late night Lamborghini and Ferrari races are only half the problem, cheaper customised cars with loud exhausts and troops of motorbikes are also being blamed for the damage to bus stops, central reservations and sleepless nights.

The incessant noise is driving residents mad, waking them up in the early hours, leaving their children frightened from the sounds of car crashes, engine growls and sirens from the emergency services.

At 9:12pm on April 10, police and ambulances were called to Holland Road to a head on collision between a Porsche and a British Transport Police vehicle with two people taken to hospital with non-life changing injuries.

Residents witnessed three ambulances, two fire engines and more than 15 police cars attend the wreckage, closing Holland Road for more than two hours.

At 4:30am on New Year’s Day 2021, Paul Campbell, 49, died in a hit and run incident on Warwick Road in Earl’s Court. 

Two 23-year-old men were arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

James Oaks*, who has lived around Holland Road for more than 30 years and seen the racers in action over several months, said: “They drive around in circuits racing each other, taking off from the traffic lights at very high speeds, I’m convinced they get to 100 miles an hour.

“I have dialled 999 on two occasions.

“There’s nobody controlling it, the police aren’t interested.”

Kensington & Chelsea is ranked the third nosiest London borough with 232 vehicle noise complaints throughout 2020, with most of the complaints related to supercars according to data from Compare the Market.

In September 2020, Kensington and Chelsea council piloted Britain’s first acoustic cameras in Knightsbridge.

Councillor Johnny Thalassites who led the campaign for the scheme said: “The council had been receiving complaints about noisy cars, keeping them up at night, because of so called supercars tearing down the streets.

“When we heard about the acoustic cameras and the new tech that was available, we wanted to give it a go and see if it was a way that we could make the public spaces protection order more effective.”

The acoustic cameras, that are triggered when a sound of over 80 decibels is detected, were installed on Sloane Street after the council received dozens of complaints of noisy engine revving and late-night races. 

The pilot was a success, with more than 100 fines issued in three months and zero repeat offenders. 

TFL’s head of transport policing and community safety, Mandy McGregor, said: “Speeding of any kind is totally unacceptable and racing vehicles on the roads is a particularly dangerous and selfish activity that can have devastating consequences on people’s lives. 

“We jointly fund the Roads and Transport Policing Command and carry out regular speed enforcement and roads policing operations in the borough to tackle these offences.

“We are also planning to reduce the speed limit on Holland Road to 20mph to make it safer for everyone in the area.”

Although the reduction of the speed limit on Holland Road is welcomed, residents still believe that the street racers will continue their late-night antics as the troublemakers are already ignoring the law.

They strongly believe that acoustic cameras are the only solution to the problem.

Councillors in Earl’s Court have also raised concern at the dangers of these street racers.

Councillor Malcolm Spalding said: “The supercars were a rich young man’s hobby to show off their luxury cars and other boys followed them with cheaper cars and motorbikes.

“Only men with small egos have loud cars.

“Earl’s Court, Embankment, Holland Road, Cromwell Road became their racetrack, the TfL racetrack.

“Before you can do a public space protection order, you have to get evidence. So that’s what we’re doing right now with everybody writing in with complaints.

“When environmental health can determine it’s a nuisance, it becomes a statutory nuisance by law.

“These cameras have the decibel metre built in, as soon as they hear the noise, they will take a snapshot of that section of road, you’ve then got a photograph so the council can prosecute and find them.”

Talking of his latest campaign with residents of Holland Road, Councillor Thalassites added: “We hope to get cameras by the end of the year and if we’re able to it will be the first place in the country that does it.

“We are trying to be responsive; we know that it’s a huge concern.”

People with concerns about speeding on TfL roads can report these through the Community Roadwatch scheme or through the Metropolitan Police Service portal.

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

Featured image by benjamin lehman on Unsplash 

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