Off-road bike park plans to deter nuisance riders progressing as police identify potential site for scheme

More details have been revealed about a planned off-road bike park aiming to curb ‘nuisance riders’ in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

It was revealed last year that Northumbria Police hoped to develop a dedicated facility off-road motorbikes, in an attempt to tackle issues often raised in populated areas.

Officers in the region have been attempting to grapple with motorcycle disorder for years, with concerns raised over speeding, noise and public safety.

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And land in the Follingsby Park area bordering South Tyneside, Sunderland and Gateshead council areas is understood to be under consideration for a proposed ‘bike park’ following the example of police in Scotland.

Police have powers to seize bikes being ridden illegally.
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Chief inspector Neil Hall, of Northumbria Police, confirmed meetings have already been held with neighbours over the scheme which were “more positive than negative”.

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Last week (Thursday, November 10), Sunderland City Council’s Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee heard a landowner had been approached who was willing to see the proposed site used as an off-road motorcycle area.

But the development would still need formal planning permission from South Tyneside Council before work could begin.

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A picture posed by Northumbria Police of an officer tackling a problem rider. The force has previously tried variety of tactics to clamp down on nuisance riders, including so-called 'DNA spray'.

Cllr Michael Butler said the proposal of a “credible alternative” was the “right approach” to tackling on nuisance riding, which was considered a “rite of passage” for some, especially in areas such as Fulwell Quarry, a protected nature site.

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He also claimed previous enforcement efforts may have deterred people from transporting off-road motorbikes to locations to ride responsibly, encouraging them to ride through the streets instead.

Cllr Paul Edgeworth called the motorcycle park a “step in the right direction”, but feared it would only attract “responsible people”.

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This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Michael Hartnack, a former police officer, who agreed the scheme was a “great idea”, despite his skepticism over whether it would work in practice, as many may lack the trailers needed to take their bikes to the designated site safely.

He also raised concerns about recent incidents involving off-road motorbikes on roads and called for more enforcement to “get a grip” of the issue.

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He added: “I think that the stick isn’t strong enough and I think the stick needs to be well and truly enforced in my view”.

Cllr Butler called the off-road bike park proposals “more lateral thinking” which followed positive examples over the border in Scotland.

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A working group has previously been set up by police to consider tactics for tackling nuisance riders.

The group has had discussions with police in Scotland, who have already adopted a similar bike park, on how best to implement it.

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Several Sunderland councillors on the Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee said motorcycle disorder is the biggest issue they deal with in terms of complaints from local residents.

Cllr Dianne Snowdon, who chairs the panel, stressed public reporting was key to help tackle the issue.

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Cllr Snowdon added: “We do get successes but we need that intelligence from residents for the illegal bikes.

“It’s our residents that are hiding them, it’s our residents that are riding them, we need the intelligence to help the police and the council”.

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To date, no formal planning application has been registered by South Tyneside Council for an off-road motorcycle park at Follingsby Park.