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Police and MoD officials team up to tackle illegal activity on Salisbury Plain

Picture credited to Wiltshire Police

Wiltshire Police have teamed up with the Ministry of Defence to tackle illegal activity on Salisbury Plain. 

'Operation Aston', which took place on Sunday, aimed to deal with off roaders in areas that are not permitted to the public and people contravening the by-laws.

During the operation, officers stopped 20 vehicles, seized 4 motorcycles and issued 3 fixed penalty notices for vehicles being driven off road without landowner permission.

Wiltshire Police’s Rural Crime Team, the Special Constabulary, Community Policing Team officers and representatives from the MOD based at Salisbury Plain Training Area covered large areas on the plain in 11 vehicles for the Operation.

Salisbury Plain at 94,000 acres is the same size as the Isle of White, covering a ninth of Wiltshire.

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon Angus Macpherson and the MOD Deputy Commander for the South West Region Brian Heil also attended the operation.

Rural Crime Officer Emily Thomas said:

“Plenty of people enjoy Salisbury Plain responsibly. My advice would be to plan your day out carefully. Ensure you have access to a map and stick to the areas open to the public. 

“Make sure you know what it means if the red flag is flying and know where you are not permitted to be, permissive byways can suddenly be out of bounds during training and operations.

“If you are planning to drive or ride on the Plain, remember motor vehicles are still limited to by-ways open to all traffic. Using an unofficial track or leaving the permitted by-ways could see you receive a Section 59 warning notice, or a £50 ticket for driving on an area other than a road.

“Public footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways are not for use by motorised vehicles.

“It is wrong to think just because you are out in the middle of nowhere that the usual rules for driving a car on a normal ‘A road’ no longer exist. The same rules regarding tax, insurance and a valid MOT still apply.  

“Be considerate of others on the Plain and travel at a quiet and unobtrusive pace. Know that the speed limit on the Plain is 30mph which helps ensure it is an enjoyable place for everyone.”  

Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson, said:

“It was a really insightful day getting to see first-hand the great collaborative working between Wiltshire Police and the MOD and the issues they are facing on Salisbury Plain. Issues which have the potential to be exacerbated by the declining weather conditions as we move into winter.

“It was interesting that the majority of those partaking in illegal activities on the plain were not local residents, but actually people who had travelled substantial distances from outside the county.

“Officers were speaking to people from Kent, Oxford, Sussex and Bournemouth. It was worrying to hear that these individuals had done little prior research other than a basic internet search. Despite the work that has been carried out by the MOD to improve the signage on the Plain to make it clear where the public should and should not be, people were of the impression they could simply tear around on MOD land as they pleased.

“Hopefully Operation Aston will help word spread that people need to take some personal responsibility for knowing how to lawfully and safely enjoy the Plain or risk having vehicles seized and being issued fines like we saw happen.”

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