Police under fire over car cruises

POLICE chiefs have been accused of washing their hands of the growing menace of car cruise gatherings in Brighouse.

An accident during a meet on Sunday 'was just waiting to happen' according to Brighouse Independent Councillor Colin Stout who accused police of failing to take responsibility.

His concerns were underlined last night when a senior police chief told the 'Echo': "This is not solely a police matter.''

The accident on Sunday involved a man in his 20s who was said to have been struck by a silver Honda Prelude in Armytage Road at about 8.24 pm. It then sped off in the Huddersfield direction.

The victim was taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary where his injuries were not thought to be serious. Police are hoping to trace the injured man and want anyone with information to call 01422 337077.

This was the second accident in Armytage Road since the car cruisers began meeting there. In an earlier incident two people were injured when a car ploughed into a crowd of onlookers. Two teenagers were taken to Calderdale Royal Hospital with leg and head injuries but were later allowed home. The driver of a Ford Fiesta was interviewed by police.

Councillor Stout has called for an urgent meeting with Calderdale Police, traffic engineers and fellow councillors to discuss curbing the activities at the industrial estate.

Councillor Stout said: "I knew something like this would happen and I feel there is worse to come. I am sick of hearing the excuse that it is only a minority number who race. It only takes one.

" The whole organisation should be held responsible. If they can afford to spend thousands of pounds on their cars then they can surely afford to hire an air strip to hold their gathering."

He has been campaigning for a clampdown on the car enthusiasts' gathering, which attracts hundreds of people from across the country to Brighouse every week. He blamed West Yorkshire Police and named Calderdale police chief, Supt Marc Callaghan, for not using a heavier hand with the car enthusiasts.

"As far as residents and businesses in Armytage Road are concerned, Supt Callaghan's attitude is flippant.

"At the Brighouse Police Forum he sent out a message that people should come to Brighouse to enjoy themselves.

"He didn't see this as a major problem but it is a working industrial estate and is causing chaos and misery to the people living on Armytage Road and the people who work there."

Calderdale Police traffic commander Sgt Garry Alderson said there were no plans to stop the gatherings but he understood people's concerns and said the meeting had focused them to look at ways of managing the gatherings.

He said: "The meeting was very productive, with the main outcome being ways of managing the gathering rather than preventing them. Ourselves and the council will meet with businesses in Armytage Road to discuss the issue. Brighouse Insp Pete Brennand will be making contact with the organisers of the gatherings through their website. We will all be working together towards a correct solution."

Supt Marc Callaghan was unavailable for comment but Community Safety Officer Chief Insp Bill Hall said the situation in Armytage Road was not solely a matter for police.

"From the outset we have encouraged others to change the road layout so that vehicles cannot ride alongside each other. The industrial estate is mainly private land and is not our responsibility. We have given advice to landowners to fence their carparks off but that is up to them. I understand their problems with litter but our main priorities are domestic robberies, burglaries and violent crime. Litter is down to local authorities."

He said there was no record of the hit and run but confirmed there were reports of a man in his 20s who went to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

"The majority are car enthusiasts. We have carried out checks in the past to ensure the cars are taxed and road worthy but there is nothing to warrant putting a lot of our resources down there. When the event was smaller we had more people racing but now the gathering has grown this has stopped. The majority are behaving themselves and meet to show each other their modified cars. No crimes have been reported and the problem of noise is not a police matter.

"If campaigners want to close the road or introduce traffic calming measures then this is a local authority matter," he said.

Coun Stout said around 450 cars had been in Armytage Road last Sunday and what had started as a small rally on the industrial estate was now spreading into Clifton, making residents' and traders' lives a misery. "They are defecating forecourts, leaving their rubbish and causing havoc," he said.

Deputy Mayor of Calderdale Coun Ann McAllister (Con, Rastrick) attended the meeting to discuss ways of curbing the gathering and Coun Anne Martin (Lab, Brighouse) spoke to the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police in Wakefield to raise her concerns.

Coun Stout said an Armytage Road Business Safety Committee, involving police, companies and residents on the industrial estate, would be organised to determine how to handle the situation. A separate meeting would be set up with residents from Clifton. "We will be looking into the possibility of alternative sites. We would also like to see organisers marshall the event and set up an annual membership to deter the boy racer types."