‘Cruise’ event causes London Colney Sainsbury’s to close

A SUPERMARKET was forced to close on Saturday night when hundreds of boy racers descended on their car park to take part in a “cruise” event.

Public safety fears prompted Sainsbury’s on Colney Fields Retail Park to close the store and the petrol station as up to a 1,000 people poured onto the site.

The “drifter event”, which brings owners of modified cars together, took the supermarket and the police by surprise.

Nearby residents in Alsop Close, Halsey Park and the Watersplash Estate, London Colney, flooded the police with calls as the numbers grew but Maggie Symonds, one of those living nearby, says they were slow to react.

She said: “They used to monitor these events because they happen every year but this one clearly took them by surprise. Many of us had to make calls before we began to think it was being taken seriously.

Maggie joined others who watched as the retail park was taken over by car enthusiasts revving their engines, wheel spinning and playing loud bass music.

As the numbers increased, Maggie and her neighbours decided they had to take a stand. She said: “We were all very concerned as we watched the boxes of alcohol being purchased from the supermarket and by the overwhelming aroma of recreational drugs in the air.

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“We approached the store’s duty manager and asked for his help but his request for a police presence proved unsuccessful. Eventually we decided to take it to Environmental Health.”

Members of the council’s Enviromental Health team were quick to the scene with Licensing Compliance Officers. Mike Lovelady, head of legal at the council, said that given the large numbers of people on site, discussions were held with the duty manager and a decision was made to close both the store and the petrol station to restrict access to alcohol.

He confirmed that the police were then called and the crowd was dispersed before midnight.

A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said: “Our priority on Saturday evening was to protect our colleagues and customers and so we decided to close our store early. We continue to liaise with the police and local authorities to prevent any recurrence of this kind of incident.”

Nearby McDonald’s also closed and residents reported seeing revellers urinating in shop doorways and down pathways that lead into the nearby housing estates.

A police spokesperson said: “Police deployed several units to disperse the situation and ensure peace was restored to the local area. We worked closely with retail managers from Colney Fields and the local authorities throughout the evening and will continue to work with our partners to ensure there is not a repeat occurrence.”

London Colney district Cllr Simon Calder was on the scene on Saturday and said he was greeted by “up to 1,000 cars”. He praised Sainsbury’s and the police for their prompt action.

Fellow district Cllr Jacob Quagliozzi added: “There have been a number of problems over the last year or so, particularly in the summer months with people using Sainsbury’s car park as a race track and I know it is something that concerns people on nearby Halsey Park and Alsop Close. District and parish councillors working with Sainsbury’s and the police should be looking at what we can do to reduce the misuse of the car park.”

The drifter events or cruises are organised via the internet. Over 12,000 people were invited via Facebook to the event on Saturday and more than 1,500 said they would be attending.

Maggie has now been asked to act as a Resident Liaison for discussions between the store, the council, police and environmental health in the wake of the incident. A meeting is expected next week. Residents can share their thoughts via www.facebook.com/groups/165153733609506