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Swansea businessman buys his own speed camera

03 Mar 2023 6 minute read
Paul Hooper, outside Hooper’s cafe with his speed monitoring device. Photo Richard Youle

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

A cafe owner who has become so frustrated with what he says is frequent speeding on the 30mph road outside, he has bought his own monitoring equipment which he claims has clocked one vehicle travelling at 106mph and many others exceeding 70mph.

Paul Hooper said he spent £3,000 on the device, which has been running on what he called “spy” mode since last November, because he was so desperate for traffic calming measures and 30mph signs on the stretch of Oystermouth Road outside his business.

“I want the issue to be recognised,” he said. He described the results of his speed survey as “staggering”, and even claimed Oystermouth Road could “well be the fastest 30mph road in the UK”.

Oystermouth Road is the east-to-west dual carriageway which links Swansea city centre with Mumbles via Mumbles Road and Victoria Road. Some of the dual carriageway is 40mph; the stretch east of St Helen’s rugby and cricket ground to the city centre is 30mph. There is only one 30mph roadside sign – outside the sports ground – but the presence of street lighting denotes a 30mph limit unless otherwise specified.

Swansea Council said regular speed monitoring it carried out on Oystermouth Road showed that the majority of drivers drove within the limit.

Excessive speed

Mr Hooper said his results suggested both a considerable amount of speeding, and an excessive speed problem. Over a recent 39-day period, he said his device – made by French company Elan City – recorded the following speeds on the eastbound section outside his cafe, Hooper’s:

– Under 20 mph: 37,433 vehicles
– Under 30mph: 364,307 vehicles
– Over 30mph: 128,375 vehicles
– Over 40mph: 17,942 vehicles
– Over 50mph: 2,212 vehicles
– Over 60mph: 585 vehicles
– Over 70mph: 273 vehicles

The total number of speeds recorded was 551,127 and, if the equipment was accurate, 149,387 of them were over 30mph. While that’s still a large majority within the limit, just over 27% exceeded it.

Mr Hooper said the top speed recorded was 106mph, and that the eastbound section was also a lot slower than the westbound as it had side junctions and vehicles sometimes parked on the inside lane.

The 57-year-old, who has a flat by Hooper’s, said he and others had raised speeding concerns previously with the council and South Wales Police but didn’t feel enough action was being taken – hence his decision to splash out on the monitoring device, which he fixed outside the cafe.

Asked if he was confident the grey box was calibrated correctly, he said he was. He said it was used widely on UK roads and that an employee of Elan City told him it was accurate to within 1mph.

Planning permission

Mr Hooper said he planned to apply to the council for planning permission to switch on a display element of the device, which would flash a 30mph sign when drivers went past. He said he was so exasperated that he might consider switching it on even if he didn’t get permission, although that could mean enforcement action.

“I hope to have a police letter of support for planning permission,” he said.

Mr Hooper said another issue was the noise of speeding vehicles, particularly at night, and air pollution.

Asked if he should have accepted there would be some road noise and some speeding when he bought the premises, he replied: “I didn’t realise how much it would be. I expected that it wasn’t going to be constant. It’s supposed to be 30mph. I didn’t realise how fast cars would go in the evenings.”

Referring to the results of his survey, he claimed that if you excluded vehicles which weren’t running freely and also excluded the fastest 15%, the average speed for the remainder was 51mph.

The eastbound section of Oystermouth Road, looking towards Swansea city centre. Photo Richard Youle

People living on Oystermouth Road have previously called for speed cameras to be installed. Resident Tina Curtis said in 2021 that it was “beyond a joke”.

She said: “You want to sit here at night. I open my patio doors – my God. I have to shut them – it’s the noise of the cars revving up, the exhausts backfiring. They dice in and out of the lanes. How somebody has not been killed, I just don’t know.”

Another resident, Don Astill, said: “At night it’s like Brands Hatch out there. They race from the lights (near Swansea Prison) up to the Slip Bridge. The music is going boom, boom, boom, and they are flying.”

And Philip Curtis said: “It’s blinking terrible. It’s a built-up area, for goodness sakes. We’ve given up complaining.”

Lower limit

The Local Democracy Reporting Service shared the results of Mr Hooper’s speed results with the council, the police and Welsh road casualty reduction group GoSafe, and also asked the council if the 30mph stretch of Oystermouth Road would reduce to 20mph when the new lower limit came into force in Wales.

A council spokesman said: “We regularly monitor the speed of cars travelling along Oystermouth Road, which show that the majority of traffic travels within the speed limit. A very low number of minor traffic incidents along this route in recent years means it is unlikely there would be a need for additional traffic calming measures.”

GoSafe said traffic calming measures were the remit of councils, but said in a statement: “GoSafe have been in liaison with Mr Hooper regarding concerns of speeding in Oystermouth Road. We are currently assessing the location and evaluating it’s suitability for mobile enforcement.”

Mr Hooper also showed his findings to Swansea West MP Geraint Davies, who said he had shared them with local councillors.

The Labour MP said: “I share Mr Hooper’s concerns on road safety and air quality and will be writing to the police to ask if local hand-held speed traps can be deployed from time to time to help reduce speeding along our seafront.”

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