‘Enough is enough’ - town’s fight against motorcyclists damaging its precious forest
PUBLISHED: 20:11 22 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:45 24 February 2020
A community has said enough is enough amid a surge in motorbikes “dangerously” riding on a forest’s public paths, destroying the scenery and making life a “misery”.
Police, action groups and people living in Thetford have been trying to tackle what officers call "large-scale anti-social behaviour" which has been plaguing their town and forest for the last few years.
But despite efforts to clamp down on offenders nothing seems to be deterring riders from returning.
Police constable Les Maguire, beat manager for south Breckland, has been leading a team in charge of tackling the issue and said Norfolk Constabulary and Forestry England are using their resources to target offenders and reprimand those who continue to ignore warnings.
PC Maguire said: "I was allocated the job of being the police point of contact for Forestry England.
"This was necessary due to the sheer amount of calls to the police from concerned members of public relating to the illegal and often dangerous use of motorbikes, quads and 4x4s in Thetford forest.
"Many times I have heard of people out walking who have had to take evasive action to avoid being hit by motorbikes riding through the paths.
"Sadly, the activity has not decreased, and it remains a problem that continues to affect others."
Anne Mason, chairman of Friends of Thetford Forest, has been part of the volunteer and conservation group for the last 25 years. She said that in the last year the numbers of motorbikes in the forest have rocketed.
She said: "We are very concerned about the impact on wildlife and habitats.
"It has been going on many years and it has increased in the last five years, but from 2019 to now we have seen the biggest rise.
"On two instances our volunteers have been out working in the forest and the motorbikes just went through a group of them. We have seen it first-hand how dangerous they are."
But it is those who live at the edge of the town, or near the anti-social behaviour hotspots, that have been the most affected, with residents saying bike riders are often hostile when confronted.
One resident said: "It is illegal to ride in the forest, a lot of them are unlicensed, they don't wear helmets and it's really dangerous. What if you're walking your dog or if you have children with you?
"If you ever confront them you usually just get abuse. They just don't care.
"We see and hear them nearly every day and it's making our lives a misery."
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Some residents believe they could be stopped if more preventative measures were put in place at access points into the forest, including from the town centre.
Another said: "It used to be full of walkers, horse riders and cyclists and we have seen less and less of them and more and more bikes.
"There needs to be clear signage saying, 'no motorbikes' and gates which physically stop them getting their bikes through. Enough is enough."
Calls for help were also made at the Safer Thetford Action Group's public meeting (STAG).
Mac MacDonald is the chairman who works with local enforcement officers to tackle issues and anti-social behaviour in the town which have been raised by members of the public.
He said: "This issue is all over Thetford because we have so much green space around us.
"We have had reports of motorbikes and dirt bikes at Barnham Cross, Abbey Farm and Cloverfield estates, but a lot are going to the forest.
"We are keen to help where we can and recently, we have been asking police to keep an eye on the outskirts of the town and focus patrols up there, including the forest."
PC Maguire added: "We have had lots of positive results including vehicle seizures and warnings issued within the past year and illegal riding is definitely a problem that we are taking seriously.
"As ever, public information given to us is of great value in tackling this and we welcome any snippets of information-however small."
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