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Police in Maidstone criticised over failure to deal with off-road bikers who are making residents' lives a misery

A 77-year-old pensioner said her life is being made hell by the noise from bikes tearing around a nearby recreation field.

The woman from Longfield Place, Maidstone, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said: "The noise is just unbelievable. It's making me ill."

She said: "I've been trying to do a U3A study course, but it's impossible to concentrate even with all the windows closed."

The bikers are riding up and down Mangravat Playing Field and Pheasant Lane, a no-through road alongside Maidstone cemetery.

The lady said: "I'm at my wits' end, I've tried reporting it to the council. I've reported it to the police on many occasions, but nothing happens."

She has now become so fed up at the lack of police response that she has filed an official complaint.

Sean Carter, the chairman of the North Loose Residents Association (NLRA), said the problem was widespread.

Sean Carter, chairman of the North Loose Residents Association
Sean Carter, chairman of the North Loose Residents Association

He said: "There are about four bikes involved, being ridden by youngsters, probably aged 15 or 16.

"Sometimes they have a younger child of five or six sitting in front of them.

"Obviously no helmets, no license plates and almost certainly no insurance.

"As well as Mangravat field and Pheasant Lane they've been driving around South Park off Armstrong Road too."

Mr Carter said: "It's very unpleasant for people, and on a couple of occasions when residents have tried to challenge them they have just been subjected to a torrent of abuse, which is distressing in itself."

The footpath beside Maidstone Cemetery that off-ride bikers use as a dirt-track
The footpath beside Maidstone Cemetery that off-ride bikers use as a dirt-track

He said: "I know of at least two of our members who now won't walk down Pheasant Lane for fear of coming across the bikers."

Mr Carter was also scathing about the police response - or lack of it.

He said: "We have reported incidents and even sent in photos of the offenders, but nothing happens.

"We try to encourage residents to report every incident on the police 101 number, but that is a joke. After hanging on for 20 or 25 minutes without anyone even answering, people naturally give up.

He said: "Our PCSOs are well aware of the situation, but don't seem to be able to do much about it."

Cllr Brian Clark
Cllr Brian Clark

Cllr Brian Clark (Lib Dem) said: "I am working with the police, KCC and MBC on this matter, but the heart of the issue seems to be that these individuals feel they can ride their motorcycles illegally on public open space for considerable periods in plain view with little chance of being caught. This is something that needs to change.

"Residents tell me, and I can empathise from my own experience, that using the police 101 service is one of the most frustrating means of reporting incidents given the lengthy waiting times.

"In discussing this matter with police, I have been told that the web 'chat' service is a more efficient way to report crimes but this is not available to many residents who have limited computer knowledge.

"Anti-social motorcycling has become a persistent issue in the area that is having a huge impact on residents leaving them unable to enjoy their homes and gardens during this warmest of summers, and instead suffer anxiety about the next time the noise will start. This is just unacceptable."

Cllr Clark added: "The police have has some success but the reduction in resourcing which has occurred during the last 10 years or so is plain to see on the ground, given how long motorcyclists often seem to be able to continue unchecked.”

South Park off Armstrong Road has also been affected
South Park off Armstrong Road has also been affected

In the past, police have successfully used drones to track down anti-social riders.

The police District Commander for Maidstone, Chief Inspector Steve Kent, said: "We are aware of residents’ concerns about anti-social use of motorbikes in Mangravet and Boughton Monchelsea.

"In July and August this year, we received five reports of nuisance motorcycles in the area. This is a significant reduction on the 23 incidents reported to us in April and reflects the work our officers have completed to identify and target the small minority of riders who persistently cause a problem.

"Since April, seven riders have been issued with community protection warnings. If their behaviour is repeated, formal notices can be issued, riders will be reported for any offences they commit and uninsured vehicles will be seized.

"Where those responsible are under 16 years of age, their parents have received the warnings, which require them to ensure any off-road motorbikes are used lawfully and only on private land, with the permission of the landowner."

Mangravat Playing Field, Maidstone
Mangravat Playing Field, Maidstone

"Our community safety unit is currently working closely with Maidstone Borough Council’s community protection team to identify improvements that can be made to footpaths and open spaces to prevent access for off-road motorcycles and other vehicles.

"As a result, kissing gates have been installed where appropriate and this has been a factor in reducing reports of anti-social behaviour on bikes.

"It is really important that anyone affected by this illegal activity makes their concerns known to us so we can deploy our resources effectively."

Incidents can be reported on the Kent Police website using this link. https://www.kent.police.uk/contact/af/contact-us/

But the Chief Inspector's remarks did not convince Richard Hunt, the vice chairman of the NLRA and its representative on the Safer Maidstone Group.

He said: "Since the start of the schools' summer break the problem has increased to an almost daily bombardment of sound from noisy motorcycles, sometimes lasting from 9am until past 8pm."

Richard Hunt of NLRA
Richard Hunt of NLRA

He said: "The noise has been so bad that residents cannot use their gardens or have their windows open.

"The use by offenders of Pheasant Lane and the footpaths leading to Mangravet field has led to dog walkers and pedestrians having to jump out of the way to avoid the off road motorbikes and at least one quad bike.

"On occasions people have been verbally abused by the offenders who travel at excessive speeds on these paths. An intolerable situation."

Mr Hunt said that undoubtedly more people had tried to report incidents than the police were aware of.

He said: "Many people have spoken of attempts to contact the police on 101 resulting in waits of 15 minutes and sometimes more than 30 minutes before giving up."

Nuisance bikers in Maidstone
Nuisance bikers in Maidstone

He said: "Some have reported getting through to be told that no patrols are available to attend.

"Most people have given up contacting the police because of a lack of positive action. "

Mr Hunt also said: "No kissing gates having been installed - at least not in our area - although that prospect is being pursued by Cllr Clark."

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