The B3135 Cliff Road that runs through the centre of Cheddar Gorge has long been a popular hotspot for drivers, but the local police have warned ‘drifters’ they risk jail for dangerous driving.
This warning comes ahead of Inside Out West on BBC One, in which footage shows a number of motorists ‘drifting’ through the famous cliffs on roads that aren’t closed to the public. An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman told the BBC they could be charged with various offences and “could even go to prison”.
In their defence, the drivers say they are forced to take to public roads because private landowners and race tracks do not allow them to practice off-road. One ‘drifter’ told Inside Out West: “I’d say it’s dangerous, yeah. There’s never been a crash to date. There’s been some not particularly close calls”.
Another motorist told the programme: “We work all year round, building and preparing the cars, putting our money into it. We don’t build them just to smash them up and try and harm other people”.
Last year, over 1,000 motorists turned up at Cheddar Gorge for a Bank Holiday car meet, leading to growing tensions between the Gorge bosses and the motorists. The event led to discussions between the organisers and Cheddar Caves and Gorge boss, Hugh Cornwell.
In July 2015, people living near Cheddar Gorge called for the speed limit on the main road through it to be reduced, although Somerset County Council said it had no plans to lower the limit. Christina Brown, chair of Cheddar Parish Council, said drivers racing on the road can be a “big problem”.
At a council meeting in December 2015, the parishioners discussed the extension of the 20mph zone in the village centre, “but neither Highways nor the Police had been supportive”. Following discussions, it was agreed to put this matter on hold.
Last summer, Avon and Somerset Police said it was in talks with Cheddar Caves and Longleat Estates regarding the installation of traffic calming devices in their car parks. But this is not a new problem. As this YouTube footage from 2012 reveals, drifting has been an ongoing issue at Cheddar Gorge for many years.
Ahead of the programme, people are already taking to Twitter to express their opinions on the matter, sparked by a tweet by BBC Somerset.
Some “Drifters” say they want private land to practice their driving & keep them off the road through Cheddar Gorge. pic.twitter.com/Vi1a9YMunV
— BBC Somerset (@bbcsomerset) February 22, 2016
In response, Ian Wylie, chief superintendent area commander for Somerset and North Somerset, tweeted:
@bbcsomerset watch inspector Andy Pritchard on Inside Out this evening to see what action ASC are taking workingnwith other agencies.
— Ian Wylie (@somersetCSuper) February 22, 2016
One local resident appeared to demand more action from the local police, while also requesting a 20mph speed limit through the “too narrow” Gorge:
@bbcsomerset Is that not what we have the Police for to keep these idiots off the roads put a 20mph speed limit up the gorge it’s too narrow
— HoniSoitQuiMalYPense (@KeithLynH) February 22, 2016
What are your views on the matter? Do you have sympathies with the drifters, who claim they’re unable to practice on private roads, or do you think the police should clamp down on their activities?
Tune into Inside Out West in the BBC West region at 19:30GMT on Monday 22 February 2016. The programme will also be available via the BBC iPlayer for 28 days.