Villagers to operate speed guns to catch out drivers in Harrogate

Pannal supporters of Community Speed Watch pose for a photograph in Harrogate, though the the real team and location is not shown.
Pannal supporters of Community Speed Watch pose for a photograph in Harrogate, though the the real team and location is not shown.
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A group of fed-up Harrogate residents are to become the first in North Yorkshire to operate their own speed guns in a battle against drivers "hell-bent" on using their village as a high-speed rat-run.

A Community Speed Watch team of volunteers in high-visibility jackets is about to be deployed in Pannal in a ground-breaking new scheme launched by North Yorkshire Police.

Although pilot schemes were tested in different parts of the county last year, Pannal and Burn Bridge will be the first to operate the electronic guns live.

Residents' participation has been championed by the village's parish council, which was only established in May after a lengthy campaign led by Pannal Village Society.

Parish council member Howard West, said: "Too many drivers seem hell-bent on getting to their destination without taking any notice of speed limits.

"As expressed through the community-led plan, speeding is one of the principal concern of residents.

"Pannal and Burn Bridge Parish Council is determined to show that the village is a no-go area for speeding rat-runners."

Villagers in Pannal say speeding traffic has been a constant problem for Pannal and Burn Bridge for a number of years.

But the situation has worsened recently after what they describe as "the disaster area" of the junction on Leeds Road after the new M&S store was built.

Resident Mark Siddal, who is the Pannal CSW team's main point of contact with the police, said: "Traffic volumes and speed were highlighted as the number one concerns for villagers in a wide-ranging community consultation conducted 2 years ago.

"The situation became even more acute after the Leeds Rd road changes as a result of the new M&S store, when villagers noted an increase in through traffic travelling at speed."

For obvious reasons, neither the residents nor the police will be disclosin in advance when CSW will be in operation.

But any residents taking part in the new system will have to follow strict rules on the deployment of speed guns.

All volunteers have been trained in the use of radar speed guns by the police.

There will be three to four people in a team, easily spotted by their high visibility jackets.

The unnamed team, two of whom are members of the parish council, will only be allowed to position themselves at sites designated as safe by the police.

Signs will inform motorists that CSW is in progress so there is no attempt to hoodwink drivers or catch them out unfairly.

But parish councillor Howard West said he was confident the new system would have an affect.

It would involve more than reminding drivers od the dangers of speeding.

The volunteers would be passing on the results of their speed guns to the authorities.

He said: "Community Speed Watch, under the leadership of resident Mark Siddall, will provide a highly visible presence in order to educate drivers that limits are there to be obeyed.

"Any vehicle observed by the volunteer teams that exceeds the limit will be reported to North Yorkshire Police so they may take appropriate action."

The new project has not only been supported by North Yorkshire Police but by Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan who said in March she was keen to roll out CSW across North Yorkshire and ensure there was a big enough supply of speed guns.

She said: “I am really pleased to see close knit communities like Pannal and Burn Bridge coming together to set up the county’s first Community Speed Watch scheme.

"I know full well the impact speeding can have on small towns and villages so I am very pleased to see Community Speed Watch now being rolled out. "

“The driving force behind this scheme is to give communities the opportunity to play a part in influencing driver behaviour, and I am really looking forward to seeing the results of the scheme in Pannal and Burn Bridge. I am also pleased to see so many volunteers coming forward to make the scheme a success, so thanks to all those residents who have come forward to take part.”

The new approach is only one weapon in the armoury of a parish council determined to deal with Pannal's traffic problems.

North Yorkshire Police's deputy chief constable Tim Madgwick, said: “Community Speed Watch will be incorporated as one part of the solution that North Yorkshire Police can deploy, alongside the safety camera vans, our Roads Policing Group and the proactive work we carry out with our partners at the 95 Alive Road Safety Partnership to combat speeding through residential areas.”

Mark Siddal said the residents' involvement in Community Speed Watch did not mean any decrease in the efforts of the regular police.

He said: "Local officers from North Yorkshire Police will also be undertaking separate but complementary enforcement activity around the village.

"By undertaking such a comprehensive approach, residents and police are confident of making Pannal a no-speed zone in the near future."