Police to join team targeting illegal off roading
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
Two police officers are to work as part of a council team to target illegal off-road vehicles in the Gwent Valleys.
Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly borough councils will provide nearly £120,000 over two years to Gwent Police, which will base a PC and a civilian Police Community Support Officer with Torfaen to work alongside council officers in tackling off-roading.
As part of the new partnership with police monthly action days targeting scramblers and other off-road vehicles are planned, while it is also intended produce videos of stops and vehicle seizures and even bikes being crushed. Drones could also be used to hunt for illegal vehicles and the possibility of providing police with their own scramblers is being considered.
The police officer and PCSO will be seconded to Torfaen Borough Council until March 31, 2025, and will co-ordinate and undertake investigations and enforcement activity in relation to illegal off-roading across the three boroughs which share borders.
A report for Torfaen council has said Gwent’s Labour Police and Crime Commissioner, Jeff Cuthbert, has claimed police couldn’t fund specialist equipment to assist in tackling illegal off-roading while it is recognised the force “could not deliver such a focused, time-consuming project without external funding”.
Shared Prosperity Fund
The councils are using money from the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund to pay for the two police officers. The fund replaces European Union cash and work to preserve the uplands of South East Wales was previously provided for from EU and Welsh Government funds.
Torfaen council has approved a service level agreement with the force for the secondment of two 0.6 full time equivalent police officers to it. Torfaen will put in £65,136 for the project, though that will be discounted to take account of time lost with the project having officially started in August, while Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly will each contribute £30,000 over the two years.
A £20,000 capital budget is also available to buy key equipment and signage so people know where off-roading isn’t allowed and enforcement action takes place.
Gwent Police has secured and will fund a dedicated 4×4 vehicle for the duration of the secondments and the plan will also consider how the project should end and assess how effective it has been.
According to the report the officers will also look to establish “better ways of working” between the police, council staff and commoners and developing “user-friendly” guidance, including advice for the public and professionals on how to report incidents and get the message across about “the danger and destruction being caused, to the landscape, heritage sites, livestock, and people” from off-roading.
There is no specific mention in the report of ‘green laneing’ which is the authorised use of vehicles on approved tracks which are not tarmacked or have another hard covering. Straying from ‘green lanes’ to unauthorised land is illegal off-roading.
The report states the secondments form part of a continued strategy to preserve the uplands that support “the rural farming community, provide important biodiversity rich habitats, including peatland, and include important areas for recreation” as well as retaining carbon and water, mitigating against climate change.
Fly tipping and arson as well as illegal off-roading are all identified as landscape crime impacting the Gwent uplands and also flagged as risks to Blaenavon’s World Heritage Site status.
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