POLICE patrols will be ramped up in the woodlands of South Wales to tackle the growing problem of illegal off-roading. 

Officers will increase their on-the-ground presence in a bid to stop offenders damaging forests and putting people's lives in danger. 

With forestry machinery theft another mounting concern in the area, a new partnership has been agreed between Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and South Wales Police (SWP), which will see a specialist unit established. 

Superintendent Marc Lamerton, South Wales Police strategic lead for tackling anti social off-road bikes, said: "We are committed to working with our local communities and partner agencies in order to tackle issues that have a detrimental effect on residents and we always strive to implement long-term solutions with a problem solving approach."

The new unit will be funded for three years from NRW’s Proceeds of Crime pot, with the increase in patrols bidding to reduce the damage to the environment and sensitive wildlife habitats caused by illegal off-roading, as well as improving the quality and safety of the environment for other forest users.

It will also help to reduce the damage to recreational assets such as mountain bike trails and aims to tackle the anti-social behaviour and crime linked to these means of access, such as raves, fuel and equipment theft and damage to harvesting sites.

David Liddy, recreational specialist advisor for NRW, said: “This is a really important partnership and we welcome the opportunity to be able to work with South Wales police and Local Authority’s to help tackle this antisocial activity. 

“When illegal off-roading and antisocial activities take place on our sites, it can put people and nature at risk and the costs for the ensuing clean-up and repair are significant.

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“We’ve seen a sharp increase over the last few years in the number of illegal off-roading incidents across south Wales that have been reported to us, and in some instances has led to members of the public being verbally and even physically assaulted.  

“This behaviour is wholly unacceptable and we’re committed to working with our partners and communities to tackle this issue so that our forests and woodlands are a safe place for everyone to enjoy.”

To report illegal off-roading call police on 101.