RELIEVED residents have won a long-standing battle against off-road drivers and motor bike riders who have made their life a misery for years.
Developers The Casey Group, owners of the site of the former Hartshead Power Station and Millbrook Sidings, and other agencies have thrashed out a solution that is already working.
Rogue riders and drivers can now be warned they risk having their vehicles and motor bikes seized by police if they persist.
Following 77 complaints of anti-social behaviour this year, Greater Manchester Police held a series of meetings with the Casey Group, Tameside Council, New Charter Housing, the Footpaths Association and local groups.
And the Casey Group has provided GMP with a letter to say that off road vehicle drivers and bikers are trespassing if they use the land causing anti-social noise and behaviour.
Previously police could not take action as they were unable to prove they were trespassing while drivers and riders claimed they had permission.
The letter from the Casey Group enables police to issue formal warnings and, if people offend for a second time, they have the power to seize and impound the vehicles while the land owner can also take civil action.
Gillian, from the Churchfields Residents’ Community Group who preferred not to give her surname, and two other residents, helped instigate the fight.
She said: “I have lived on the estate for 15 years and there has been a problem periodically, but nothing like this year.
“We have had up to 35 vehicles, 4 x 4s, quad bikes here at one time with the streets lined with vans and trailers.
“It has been a proper set up and they have come with the intention of holding rallies. We have never had anything on this scale before. When I first came here there wasn’t social media and the dark web to publicise these gathering.
“And from the end of March, 77 incidents were reported to the police. It wasn’t just weekends, but daily between 2pm and 10pm.”
Gillian does not want her surname printing because she and the other residents have been “abused, threatened and ostracised”.
She continued: “It was a recreational area with footpaths and a bridleway, but it became so bad people couldn’t go on to it as they had been driven at and swore at.
“We decided enough is enough and worked with multi-agencies to find a solution.
Gillian is delighted with the outcome, adding: “We all got round a table together and in four months have found a solution and achieved what others have been trying to do in 20 years.
“The Casey Group has stepped up and I would like to thank John Gilman, their development director, as well Sgt Stephen Lovatt, PC’s Tony Lawton and Martin Dench along with Cllrs Clive Patrick, Kevin Welsh and Adrian Pearce.
“We have also liaised with the Friends of Crowswood Drive, Millbrook Village Community Group, residents of Grove Road and Tameside Green Space.”
Gillian says there has been a “significant decrease” in the number of off road vehicles and bikers on the site.
She continued the campaign was not personal, explaining: “I was not being vindictive and I love watching bikers and Formula One.
“It is an acceptable hobby, just not here which is in greenbelt land and there are also health and safety issues.
“There are special places for people to drive and ride off road.”
Making the area secure remains a challenge as a footpath and bridleway dissects the land while anglers also need access to the fishing ponds.
Cllr Patrick is delighted with the outcome saying the land had become a magnet for off road vehicle drivers and bike riders.
He said: “The land had become a huge draw, but when police turned up they couldn’t prosecute or take action as they were on private land.
“All the partners have come together and the Casey Group has come up with the goods so police can now go on to the land and take action.”
Chris Peacock, from Newington on behalf of the Casey Group, explained the company has been happy to work with the community to resolve the issues.
He said: “It was great to get round the table with groups and we are keen to work with the community on a remedy that we are implementing.
“We are working on the entrance points, but are mindful people need access to the bridlepath and angling club to the ponds so don’t want to stop everyone.
“We are working with different groups on suitable gating to be a hindrance, but which will allow legitimate use.”
PC Tony Lawton added warning letters have already been handed out to drivers and riders who he explained came from far and wide to use the land.
He said: “Numbers have already reduced, but we there are still one of two we need to track down.
“We need information so if members of the public see them going into an address we need that replaying to us. And I would ask them to report it by telephoning 101.”
PC Lawton pointed out a problem is that the land has been used illegally for about 30 years.
He was also aware of a number of incidents including members of the public being drive at and one child almost being knocked down.