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Repeal the part of the Road Traffic Act 1988 on closed road for special events

Comment 4th February 2016

Throughout Europe (and also in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man), ‘closed road’ events bring great benefit to the local communities in terms of tourism, economic prosperity and sporting kudos. The UK is at a disadvantage and is not able to reap these benefits because s.12(1), of the Road Traffic Act 1988, makes it an offence for a person to promote or take part in a race or trial of speed between motor vehicles on a public way. Though it is understandable that this legislation is directed at preventing dangerous and unregulated races and speed trials, properly monitored events can be both safe and enjoyable.  Instead of abolishing the legislation completely the new UK government could provide a mechanism to deliver a Temporary Suspension Order (in association with local authorities) that would enable a limited annual number of ‘closed road’ events to take place in England, Wales and Scotland, with the associated benefits for the regions selected. Previous studies undertaken on behalf of the Jim Clark Rally, put the figure for that one event in excess of £3m – this leads the MSA to estimate that closed road rallying for a limited number of approximately 20 events a year, could deliver substantial benefit to local areas, particularly in the low season, of between £20m and £60m a year

Why does this matter?

Heritage and history should be preserved for future generations to appreciate the achievements of the past.
 
The United Kingdom has always been at the forefront of motoring and record breaking achievements.  Saltburn in North Yorkshire was pivotal in the development of motor sport but today, due to a clause in the Road Traffic Act 1988, many UK citizens are deprived of participating or spectating in the re-enactment of those past great days of motor sport.  We must balance legislation against civil liberties and this is a case where the law deprives our civil liberties. I believe it also to be unlawful in respect of our EU membership, where closed road motor sport events are allowed.
 
Over one hundred years ago the first Saltburn Motor Sport Event took place on the town’s beach.  It was sponsored by a local garage owner and attracted crowds of thousands from the nearby Teesside towns.  Saltburn sands and Pendine sands in South Wales were reckoned by the great drivers of the day, to be the best surfaces for displays of speed in the entire UK.
 
In the inter-war years, some of the greatest names in British motor sport raced on Saltburn sands. The Guinness and the Younger families – both brewing dynasties – had young sons who loved fast cars and the thrill of speed. They were joined at Saltburn by the famous competition drivers of the day such as Malcolm Campbell and Parry Thomas.  It was then that the first motor cycle races took place. Indeed, it is said that T. E. Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia and a keen motor cyclist, once took part in a local event.
 
Following the end of the World War II and the development of purpose-built racing circuits such as Silverstone and Brands Hatch, racing on the sands ceased, but motor cycle hill scrambles from Saltburn up into to the hills continued.  These events were sponsored throughout the 1950s by the, then, Saltburn Urban District Council with the backing of local landowners such as Lord Zetland and his family. The hill climb remained a proud tradition and was recreated in 1993.  In that year, the Middlesbrough and District Motor Club approached the local authorities to see whether it could re-launch an annual vintage and classic motor cycle hill climb. It was anticipated that these events would coincide with the town's Victorian week, a celebration of the resort's Victorian heritage as a planned seaside town.
 
The type of bikes entered resembled a roll call of the lost British motor cycle industry. Their names ran from the ABC to the Zenith motor cycles, along with more familiar names such as AJS, Sunbeam, Rudge, Quadrant, BSA, the mighty Norton Dominator and the Brough Superior—the biggest and possibly the noisiest motor cycles built in the UK.  Well-known names in motor cycling such as Geoff Duke also took part in some of the events.
 
The hill climb took place along a length of approximately 440 yards, up Saltburn bank and Saltburn Lane.  That steep route climbed at an almost one-in-seven gradient from Saltburn's beach up to the Victorian gardens of Rushpool Hotel, a former home of the Bell family who were major ironmasters on Teesside.  The road was chosen because of the hill and because it was a very minor public highway, an unclassified country lane, where traffic counts showed fewer than 1,500 movements on the road in any one 24-hour period and consequently the required road closure orders were easy to implement.
 
The local police, local authorities and local community all gave solid backing to the hill climb as it was seen to be important to the town's tourist economy.  Over the years the race grew in popularity, with an estimated four thousand to five thousand spectators at both the start and finish of the hill climb, resulting in the town virtually doubling in size on hill climb days.  Those visitors to the area spent cash in a town which badly needed trade and tourist investment.
 
The hill climb became the Middlesbrough and District Motor Club's one big annual event and quickly became fixed in the Teesside sporting and tourist calendar, until the discovery of the existence of a little known piece of legislation -much of it enacted via statutory instruments.  Under this legislation, the hill climb was deemed to be illegal and, in fact, had been illegal from the first day that it was run. This information was as much a shock to the Cleveland Police and the Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council as it was to the hill climb organisers.

The riders who took part in this event were not highly paid motor sport employees, they were enthusiasts who loved to preserve motor sport history by lovingly restoring and adapting these classic machines.  The organisers of the event made safety a number one priority to ensure safety of both riders and spectators.  The town’s residents, many of whom were not motor sport fans, loved what the event did for their town and were very proud of it. Both the Parish Council and the Borough Council feel the event to be an asset to the area.
 
This document contains extracts of the document that the late Ashok Kumar MP presented to the House of Commons on19th July 2005

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/vo050719/halltext/50719h03.htm
 
we were not successful then in achieving the return of this event, we hope that now with the new coalition government  approach, that it will be reconsidered and this time be seriously considered. 
 
Middlesbrough and District Motor Club, have started a petition to re-instate Saltburn Hill Climb.
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