Historic quarter-mile racing at Essex’s North Weald airfield – known as ‘London’s drag strip’ – has ended following a two year battle with the local authority.
Test and Tune events at North Weald, organised by Maitland Racing, had been a popular fixture with enthusiasts since 1992; following noise complaints from nearby residents, Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) decided not to grant any dates for 2018.
Promoter Tony Huck has said he would like to discuss the matter further with EFDC – and is considering a judicial review of the council’s decision.
“We have taken a decision not to grant a licence for the drag racing this year due to concerns about noise nuisance,” a council spokesperson explained.
“Epping Forest District Council owns and operates North Weald Airfield as well as being responsible for noise regulation and control. We have had a long association with drag racing and have introduced a number of measures to mitigate noise nuisance. However, these have not proved to be entirely successful and under the circumstances we have taken the decision in accordance with our statutory responsibilities. Unfortunately that means we have to call time on these events,” they continued.
The move has disappointed event goers, who now have travel to Santa Pod in Bedfordshire or Crail Raceway in Fife to drag race their cars. A petition aimed at restarting Test and Tune dates had attracted just shy of 4500 signatures at time of writing.
For Tony Huck, the cessation of racing represented a “frustrating” end to a quarter century of racing heritage. “It’s a shame. We have a wonderful working relationship with Airfield staff. I want to sit down with the council and, as reasonable people, run three or four events a year,” Tony said.
He also told Classics World that he was “heartened” by the response to the petition posted online at 38 Degrees; he also claimed to have the support of local residents in the villages around the airfield.Tony also took issue with EFDC’s refusal to issue North Weald Test and Tune with a noise abatement notice, something which he says denies Maitland Racing the effective right to an appeal.
Tony tried to accommodate the council’s wishes when complaints first arose in 2016. He offered to cut the racing on the main runway down to an eighth, rather than a quarter of a mile depending on the wind direction, and monitor the traffic on the access roads between the pits to reduce noise generated by racing.
By the of 2016, Maitland Racing had sound pressure level (SPL) recording equipment, and it had also suggested to EFDC that only street legal cars, themselves subject to noise restrictions, be allowed to stage down the runway. “Bear in mind that it was only ever two cars racing at a time,” Tony confirmed. “Furthermore, the wind had a huge bearing on noise levels – as much as 20 per cent depending on its direction. At certain times, the [nearby] M11 was actually making more noise than we did.”
Classics World understands that other motoring events – mostly sprints and experience days – will carry on as normal. “It’s all about the noise,” EFDC’s spokesperson insisted. “It has to be within the acceptable limits. We continue to have motoring events at the airfield.”
The council has also reiterated that it has no plans to develop North Weald, an airstrip which served the RAF during the Battle of Britain, for housing plots. EFDC’s spokesperson concluded, “That does not mean we are closing our doors to other events. The airfield is thriving and aviation is growing. It has nothing to do with housing or building development or developers.”
SING THE PETITION AGAINST THE CLOSURE
North Weald petition