Quiet words for government

Grant Shapps MP

A letter from the Rye Conservation Society to the transport secretary Grant Shapps

Dear Minister

Re: Excessive motor cycle exhaust noise

I am writing to you on behalf of Rye Conservation Society to ask for your reassurance that your government’s concerns as to the harmful effects of excessive motor cycle exhaust noise have not been forgotten and to ask how the trials of approaches such as noise cameras have progressed.

It is widely acknowledged that excessive exhaust noise is a country-wide problem, affecting not only the countryside, particularly the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but also the urban environment. The serious health impacts of this problem were identified by your predecessor Chris Grayling in June 2019 when he stated that:

“Makes lives an absolute misery”

‘Noise pollution makes the lives of people in communities across Britain an absolute misery and has very serious health impacts.

This is why I am determined to crack down on the nuisance drivers who blight our streets. Technology will help us lead the way in making our towns and cities quieter, and I look forward to seeing how these exciting new cameras could work.’

I understand that the technology to which he referred was the trial of noise cameras, which are already used on the Continent in cities such as Paris and now are being trialled in Chelsea. I would be grateful if you could inform our Society how the trials are progressing, if there are any proposals to roll out their use across the country and, if so, whether this will be through the relevant county highways agency or through your ministry.

Rye has a particular problem with weekend motorcyclists as it is a convenient midway stopping-off point on round trips from London and the Home Counties. It is reached by roads that are not heavily trafficked, flat and must seem very attractive to the motorcycle enthusiast.

Excessive noise throughout the weekends

The particular geography of Rye means that the five roads that feed into the town all join the road around the town and its central raised historic core, which means that both the lower suburbs and the Citadel are disturbed by the excessive noise throughout the weekends starting as early as seven in the morning.

If further practical trials of this technology are needed, I’d like to suggest that your ministry looks at Rye as a suitable location as all five roads into the town have straight sections suitable for the camera technology.

I have read that the UK has one of most stringent series of regulations in force to control both construction standards for, and the sale of, replacement silencers for motorcycles, but this does not seem to have resolved the problem. It appears to be exacerbated by some motorcyclists fitting inappropriate or altered silencers, mainly on older machines.

Whilst it is acknowledged that this is an enforcement matter, the evaluation of noise levels is a subjective issue which is not made easier when the current noise standard of 80db is set for a machine running at normal speed when a machine with a fully open throttle can easily reach 100db.

A health issue as well as noise

A police officer listening to a static motorcycle running at a normal throttle in a car park would be evaluating a very different animal when it’s an old machine with an illegal exhaust on the open road at full throttle.

As part of your approach to tackling this persistent problem I would urge you to look again at how the legal levels are set and the level of fines for infringement, particularly the fitting of illegal exhausts.

I must stress that this is not just a nuisance issue but a health issue and one that, as we hopefully emerge from lockdown, will only get worse.

Your reassurance that this problem has not been forgotten and news of how your Department will tackle it will be of interest not only to our members but to all the residents of Rye and the surrounding villages, through which the roads leading to Rye are found in the constituencies of both Sally-Ann Hart and Hugh Merriman.

Yours sincerely

David Bookless
Chairman Rye Conservation Society

Image Credits: UK Parliament https://members.parliament.uk/member/1582/portrait.


  1. Superb letter. Thank you David and the RCS. As a resident on one of those roads, there would be much joy should noise levels decrease. According to friends in Germany, each state monitors noise levels with devices mentioned in your article, and fines violators accordingly.

  2. The only way to combat the noise and pollution in our town is for the introduction of speed cameras and speed humps, trying to stop both motorcycles and cars is not going to work, we advertise ourselves as a tourist town, and words will not stop anyone from visiting, time to stop the moans and groans, and get these measures into place.and with an election coming up,what councillors are going to back these suggestions.

  3. Well that’ll go straight into the “I can’t be bothered basket”. Honestly, seeking to rely on a pair of journeymen like Grant Shapps or Chris Grayling (surely the living embodiment of “rising without trace”) really is scraping the bottom of the barrel! Grayling was so “determined to crack down on the nuisance drivers who blight our streets” that he did…err…precisely nothing before he was set into political exile! It seems to me that the one person who really grabbed everyone’s attention and got us all talking and thinking a bit more about this “blight [on] our streets” was the phantom tack and nail spreader!

  4. A very good letter.
    Now it just needs the people we vote/pay for to exercise their powers, and implement action against
    this noise menace which upsets soooooo many innocent citizens. Especially as we now know that
    noise seriously adversly affects people’s mental and physical health (not to mention tempers).
    It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens…….

  5. Hi everyone,

    Apologies for my slow response; I was out leafletting yesterday.

    If elected, I will support measures to protect our environment and that includes action to reduce all pollution including noise pollution. I also support positive action to combat anti-social and illegal motoring, Whether by motorcyclists or other road users. Your local county and district councillors can and should help in this mission. It’s time for a change and it’s time to take action.


  6. Well that’s good to hear. No need to look for any other road users though, it’s the bikers who make all the noise! It would be good to hear from the other candidates on this issue (or perhaps Rye News intend to put them under the spotlight and seek a response).

  7. This is indeed an excellent letter and a positive step taken. But shouldn’t we all also be tackling Rother Council to take action against the speeding motorbikes and other vehicles and adding speed bumps ? The 30mph signs are being totally ignored. The noise coming from some of the motorbikes this weekend has been horrific. We couldn’t even listen and watch The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in respectful peace.

    • The roads having nothing to do with Rother District Council. They are the responsibility of East Sussex Highways and Highways England.

  8. Forget speed bumps, forget other motorists, it is the bikers who are creating all of the problems. They don’t care about anyone but themselves. No doubt we will get the usual response that it’s an irresponsible minority etc etc who are to blame and the majority of bikers are truly wonderful human beings! Quite frankly, we are beyond this point. They are all tarred with the same brush. They can’t police themselves, as they impliedly promise, so they need to be cracked down on big time.

  9. Agree with the points raised but I’m not sure if speed bumps are the most effective way forward – they slow down everyone except motorcyclists who can weave around them. And they can be very painful if you happen to be in an ambulance. Speed bumps are also being recognised as being environmentally unfriendly due to increase fuel consumption and pollution from additional braking and acceleration.

  10. How are you going to implement it then Robert, the police are not interested,the environment agency are not interested, you cannot stop anyone visiting our town,seems your not interested in speed humps and cameras, are you going to put your hi viz coat on to stop them,because without putting in measures too slow them down,you are up the creek,without a paddle.

  11. The people that have motor bikes and enjoy using them and being part of a community of bikers are obviously made up of many responsible human beings just like the readers of Rye News.
    As ever it is always the few in number that break Social rules, Motoring highway rules , and criminal activity causing distress and danger.
    I am sorry to say Speed humps are extremely expensive to install.and maintained Also there are many designs ( which would be suitable?) . They cause damage to cars and can cause higher levels of pollution in localised areas where they are used.
    Can the responsible Bikers collectively do some thing about the Bikers who do dangerous driving and act in a socially bad behaviour ?
    Can the police have a concentrated effort to be in Rye to educate and warn them about the difficulties.

    Will the future of electronic vehicles bring quieter environments and healthier ones too.

    It would be very interesting to see the answer to the letter sent by the Rye conservation society and the information on the sound camera trail.

  12. The Police need to get interetsed then don’t they John! Presumbaly they might do if enough fuss is made and especially if this becomes a local election and PCC issue.


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