SPEEDING is a bigger problem in Hawkhurst than anywhere else in Kent, according to data compiled by road safety group Speedwatch.
The village in Tunbridge Wells borough has seen two serious traffic accidents in the past two months, with one fatality, but no speed camera has been installed despite local politicians calling for one.
This comes at a time when budget cuts have led Kent Police to operate only one in four of their 77 speed cameras across the county. Mrs Julia Newman, Chairman of Hawkhurst Parish Council, said: “We are extremely concerned about speeding.
“Hawkhurst is located on a crossroads and has a high volume of traffic, which has been described by Kent Highways as ‘severe’.
“It may well be that the frustrations of delays in getting through the crossroads causes drivers to accelerate away from the traffic lights in excess of the speed limit.
“We have repeatedly asked for speed cameras to be placed where speed is a significant danger, demonstrated in Hawkhurst by our Speedwatch group’s statistics, rather than where deaths have already occurred.”
Speedwatch is a collection of volunteers across Kent who form groups in towns and villages to monitor roadside traffic using a speed gun.
By finding an average number of speeders from each session they monitored, the Hawkhurst Speedwatch group found a far higher figure than the next highest in the county.
In addition, six of the eight highest speeders recorded throughout Kent in 40mph zones were in the village. Even though just 19 of the 77 speed cameras in Kent are switched on, Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark said he has lobbied Kent Highways and Kent Police for one in Hawkhurst.
“At the moment, the criteria for installing speed cameras is based on the number of fatal or serious accidents along a particular stretch of road,” he said.
“But despite Speedwatch providing accurate information showing Hawkhurst to have one of the highest proportion of speeders nationally, Kent Highways and police remain of the opinion that Speedwatch data should not influence the location of new speed cameras.
“I have asked them to urgently reconsider ‘We have repeatedly asked for their position.”
POLICE COMMISSIONER RESPONDS TO SPEED CAMERA CONCERNS
Data which showed budget cuts meant only 25 per cent of Kent speed cameras are turned on has concerned Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott. Responding to figures released through a Freedom of Information request, a police
spokesman told the Times: “It is all about resources and making the most of what we
have got. All of our camera locations may be operational at any time, and it is the responsibility of the driver to adhere to the speed limit.”
It is not known which cameras are live and whether they are rotated. Mr Scott said: “Naturally I was concerned to see data which appears to suggest only one in four of the county’s road safety cameras is live and operational at any one time.
“Speeding is an issue which comes up time and time again when I meet with people right across Kent and Medway. “I am liaising with Kent Police in order to understand what the force and our partners are doing to improve this situation.”
NEW SPEED CAMERAS ARE NOT BEING CONSIDERED FOR TUNBRIDGE WELLS
Kent Highways denied claims that traffi c safety in Hawkhurst has been overlooked, but stopped short of promising more speed cameras. Responding to a call from Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark for more enforcement in the area and a review of their policy for installing cameras, the county council-run authority said enough is being done.
Like the police, County Hall pointed to ‘limited resources’ as a reason why there were
not more cameras.
When asked if more speed cameras were being considered for the Tunbridge Wells area,
the spokesman said: “No.” He continued: “Safety cameras are installed as a crash remedial tool and not as a speed management tool. Enforcement of speed limits remains a role for the police and is not the role of safety cameras.
“This follows the criteria based on the Department for Transport national guidance. “There is no history of speed-related crashes in Hawkhurst, and where enforcement activity has been conducted there has been no detection of high levels of offences. “PSCOs and area officers regularly offer visible support and enforcement
support, and partnership vans also offer enforcement support.”