Camera goes in Lowestoft - but still ‘no need to speed’

THE only fixed speed camera in the Lowestoft area has been permanently removed, along with three others in Suffolk, because there is not enough money to run them, it emerged this week.

The camera on the A1144 at Normanston Drive was taken away last month after detecting hundreds of speeding drivers since it was installed nearly a decade ago. But this week the county's police authority admitted for the first time that it had been forced to remove the cameras as a direct result of budget constraints.

The decision to decommission the Lowestoft camera and three others – on the A140 at Brome, the B1107 Thetford Road at Brandon and the A1304 Hamilton Road at Newmarket – follows a joint review by Suffolk police and Suffolk County Council, which was launched last September after a cut in government funding.

Police chiefs stressed yesterday that two fixed cameras would be retained at key accident blackspots and that mobile speed camera vans would continue to be used at key locations across Suffolk.

But the road safety charity Brake criticised the decision.

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Brake spokesman Richard Coteau said: 'Switching speed cameras off in Suffolk is taking a serious risk with people's lives, and we would urge the council to reconsider before there is a horrific crash.

'Local authorities have been put in a difficult position by government cuts to road safety funding, but we urge them to do everything they can to keep cameras running, putting the safety of local residents first.'

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He added: 'Fixed speed cameras are exceptionally effective in reducing speeds, crashes and casualties, preventing families going through the unnecessary trauma and pain of a road death or injury. Research has demonstrated that speed cameras pay for themselves several times over by preventing costly casualties, and are therefore a proven way to improve road safety without costing the taxpayer. Making sure that drivers stay within speed limits is crucial to avoid devastating road crashes and speed cameras are a proven way of doing that.'

Last year, The Journal reported that Suffolk's fixed speed cameras looked likely to be switched off after more than �1m of funding was pulled by the county council and Suffolk police decided they were too expensive for it to run on its own.

They were immediately switched on again after a meeting between police and county councillors, pending the outcome of a review. But it has concluded that just two fixed cameras should remain operative in Suffolk – on the A12 at Benhall, near Saxmundham where a downhill stretch of road with a 50mph limit ends at a busy junction, and on the A140 Norwich-Ipswich road at Coddenham, near Needham Market.

A police spokesman said: 'The result of this review was that Suffolk Constabulary continued to manage two static camera locations, with four additional sites being either removed or temporarily decommissioned.

'Following the end of the Suffolk SafeCam partnership a decision was made to prioritise two camera sites (at Coddenham and Benhall), which are seen as the most vulnerable areas as potential collision sites. Therefore the camera in Normanston Drive, Lowestoft, was made redundant and was due to be removed.

'However, a reduction in speeding remains one of our main priorities and we continue to deploy mobile speed cameras to hotspots throughout the county, including in the vicinity of previous static camera sites.

'We also have roads policing officers with mobile speed detection devices and community speed watch groups acting as a deterrent to anyone who thinks they can speed on our roads.'

The police say the Normanston Drive camera was removed as there had been 'three slight collisions' at the site between 2000 and 2010, with 234 offences detected between 2008 and 2010. No later figures are available.

Police authority chairman Joanna Spicer told The Journal: 'The police authority takes speed enforcement very seriously. There used to be six fixed cameras in Suffolk run by Suffolk County Council. As part of the budget cuts about 18 months ago the county council withdrew from the Suffolk SafeCam partnership.

'It was a difficult decision (to remove the camera at Normanston Drive), but the camera at Benhall detected more than 1,800 offences (in a three-year period) while it was 234 at Normanston Drive.

'We now have four mobile units that have the cameras in the back that cover Lowestoft and they will make more visits now to Normanston Drive as we are doing additional enforcement in different places now.'

There are now 33 Speedwatch schemes in Suffolk, all run by volunteers. The first started in Blythburgh in 2009 but the only scheme in Waveney is the Lowestoft North group, covering Blundeston, Somerleyton, Corton and Lound. Although Suffolk police support the schemes and say their feedback helps them to better target their resources, they cannot use their findings to prosecute drivers recorded breaking the limit.

Earlier this year, it emerged that the number of motorists caught speeding in Suffolk had risen by about 5,500 in just one year with 48,679 motorists captured by fixed or mobile cameras in 2011 – up nearly 5,500 on 2010.

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