Britain’s first town with nowhere to hide

Scam120 The town of Royston in Hertfordshire is to become Britain’s first ‘ring of steel’ town, with hidden Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras installed on every single road in and out of the town by next month. Town bosses rolled out the usual platitudes to explain the introduction of this nefarious system:

“…make Royston the safest town in Hertfordshire”

“They give the police hard evidence as they track known villains.”

“It will make us the safest town in Hertfordshire and you won’t be able to drive in or out of the town without being clocked.”

“We will be the only town in Britain that will have ANPR on every approach to the town.”

The fact that Geraint Burnell, the town centre manager, considers it a benefit that no one will be able to enter or leave the town without being ‘clocked’ is a shocking example of the mindset of those without an understanding of the privacy concerns of the general populace. Chris Farrier, a spokesman for the civil liberties group No CCTV, expressed serious concerns about the dangers of systems like this:

“It is a hugely worrying development. It has been developed with no public scrutiny and government legislation. This is the biggest surveillance network that the British public have never heard of. The people of Royston had better get informed because their one is being described as a ‘ring of steel.”

There is no particular reason for installing this system, or particular set of crimes which the police wish to solve by using it. It will be a gigantic waste of tax payers’ money during a time when councils should be searching high and low for wasteful expenditure to be cut.

The public have not been consulted about this cruel abuse of privacy to monitor and store the movements of everyone who visits the town of Royston on a centralised database for 5 years. The inevitable conclusion is a nationwide network of ANPR cameras, ensuring that all movement of citizens can be monitored. Considering the multitude of civil liberties seen in the past decade, surely councils should realise this is not what the public want.

Posted by on Mar 25, 2011 in CCTV, Privacy | 32 Comments


  1. soapy
    25th March 2011

    While I am sure the the town of Royston is a lovely place and the the people are nice and friendly these measures have just ensured that I will never, ever visit your town.
    All I can add is that you the people of Royston voted for your representatives and you are now getting what you deserve.

  2. Had Enough
    25th March 2011

    Royston is a nothing town with no particular highlights. It appears to be taken over by the usual ‘concerned’ mandarins that have to regularly justify their jobs. This action is undemocratic and totally against community spirit. It should be challenged by the people of this grotty little place and Geraint Fuckwit should be taken out into the town centre, if they can find it, and flogged – PRONTO

  3. NeverSurrender
    25th March 2011

    “The safest town!’ Have they completely lost their minds? They have turned Royston into one of the last places on earth that I would wish to live or visit.
    Big Brother marches on towards its inevitable end of total surveillance! It is just a matter of time.

  4. BillyBloggs
    25th March 2011

    Ditto Ditto, Royston is a place to avoid, especially if you have nothing to hide

  5. DiscoveredJoys
    25th March 2011

    Sigh. Once more ordinary people are being spied upon to no effect. *Real* criminals will be driving cars with false registrations, or false number plates, or stolen vehicles, or driving from burglary to burglary within the town limits.

  6. Sherry
    26th March 2011

    Maybe a new Magna Carta is in order, this time pertinent to conditions of electronic surveillance.

  7. Richard Craven
    26th March 2011

    If I ever go anywhere near this place, I shall make it my business beforehand to acquire false number plates and a gimp mask.

  8. ohno
    26th March 2011

    As we are supposed to live in a democracy with certain rights then how can a council just simply decide to monitor a whole town like this? Who will have access to this data and how do they ensure that it is not being abused? The government needs to sort out the Freedom Bill pdq and sort out a robust set of guidelines for the use of CCTV and ANPR.
    I can be added to the list of folk who will never go anywhere near Royston. Doing this to a town is like going back to what they used to have in Russia (pre-Perestroika) ‘closed towns’.

  9. Andrew
    26th March 2011

    This article highlights the ‘slippery slope’ nature of APNR/CCTV. Once this happens in Royston, logically why not everywhere? As it says, ‘a nationwide network of ANPR cameras, ensuring that all movement of citizens can be monitored.’

  10. John
    26th March 2011

    It would be hilarious if it wasn’t actually true. Royston is one of the most boring towns imaginable. It’s hardly a hotbed of international crime and terrorism. It’s people appear supine enough to accept this piece of crap from thier representatives and to pick up the bill as well.
    My suggestion : False numberplates. Ideally with Cllr Burnell’s numberplate. Let’s see how the c*nt likes it himself.

  11. Royston resident
    26th March 2011

    As a resident of Royston, I’d like to correct a couple of misconceptions. Firstly, the people who are doing this to Royston are not elected representatives but self-selected local business people who have volunteered to form a committee (Royston First, aka the Royston Business Improvement District) which isn’t accountable to the public but gets to spend a fair tranche of the town’s business rates. They appear to have published a newsletter last summer which announced this plan – after funding for it had been agreed – but I hadn’t seen that newsletter until visiting the Royston First website ( today, after reading of the ANPR plan for the first time in the local paper this week. I imagine the same is true for most other people who live here: there has been no publicity about this until the Royston Weekly News report this week. So to suggest the residents are supinely accepting of this is premature – most of us have found out about it in the last 48 hours. I for one am somewhat less than delighted that my privacy seems to have been hijacked by a number of businesses in the area, most of which I’ve never bought anything from nor ever will. The irony of course is that Royston is already one of the lowest crime towns in the country, and not one of the crimes that have made the local paper in the seven years I’ve lived here could have been prevented by this system, nor are the people who committed them likely to have been discouraged by it. I shall be making my feelings known to Mr Burnell and his cabal at the first opportunity but it seems like they’ve got it all stitched up already.

  12. NeverSurrender
    26th March 2011

    Good for you Royston resident! Make sure that you tell Mr Burnell and his cabal just exactly how dreadful his little scheme is. It is not acceptable to force unwarranted surveillance upon innocent people. Tell him to stuff his cameras where the sun don’t shine! They will drive people away from your town and make it the most unwelcome place in the country.

  13. dominik
    26th March 2011

    Alot of stickers will be given out for sure

  14. Andrew Fowler
    27th March 2011

    Interesting to note that on of the Royston First Directors is a Lawyer.
    New website Launched to help defend against the Cameras

  15. Purlieu
    27th March 2011

    So, let me get this right. A bunch of loacal business people get together and decide to set up an ANPR network ringfencing the town.
    They do this (somehow) with public money.
    They accidentally forget to tell the people of Royston about it.
    Sounds very much like you need a “Day of Departure” for those cameras.
    Fridays are very popular for this sort of thing.

  16. wholesale cellular accessories
    28th March 2011

    Well, that one it is nice to hear. Maybe the town had probably increased their technology much. It is probably awesome to think if the town would enhance on the technology and the concept.

  17. Peterloo
    28th March 2011

    As a complete aside:
    did you know that thermite is a mixture of iron oxide (rust) and powdered aluminium (filings would suffice) and that when ignited it burns at over 1200 celcius?
    Don’t know what made me think of this or what compelled me to write it here.

  18. Big Bob
    28th March 2011

    That was very naughty Peterloo but, I understand and agree with your motive.

  19. Purlieu
    29th March 2011

    If I so much as erect a lollipop stick on my front wall, I’ll quickly get a takedown notice due to absence of planning permission, yet these private individuals are able to set up live cameras on poles all round a town and using public money to boot.
    What’s that all about ?

  20. Richard Craven
    29th March 2011

    That’s all about double standards. In the circs, it’s very difficult to see what is wrong with Peterloo’s suggestion.

  21. Purlieu
    29th March 2011

    I suppose, since they are “private” and not “police” cameras, putting black bags over them all might be a peaceful and non-destructive way of getting a message across.

  22. Richard Craven
    30th March 2011

    Yes, that’s a very good idea indeed. I think that that is exactly what people ought to do.
    Likewise, when I visit London, I occasionally use the bus. For this purpose, I always take some scotch tape with me, which I place over the lens of the onboard cctv, thus ensuring that I can enjoy a modicum of privacy during my journey.

  23. Robster
    31st March 2011

    Royston First are also building a community cinema in the town hall. No doubt you’ll have to be fingerprinted and have a retina scan before you’re allowed to go see a film.

  24. corevalue
    1st April 2011

    I note it’s not for the benefit of residents, but for business. Fascism rules!

  25. Harry
    3rd April 2011

    Come on!! It’s got to be an April fool wind up!! No one with the tiniest brain cell would set this kind of thing up without proper consultation – Would they???

  26. Robster
    5th April 2011

    Sadly it is not an April Fool, Harry. I drove past the new poles they have put up right next to the moderately picturesque Market Hill (A10 entering Royston from Buntingford). They are tall, quite thick and painted matt black – you no longer look at the pleasant Market Square, but at these two ugly poles. A real eyesore. “Welcome to Royston” – not.
    Then, on one of the poles is a small sign: “CCTV – looking out for you” – that sent a shiver down my spine!

  27. The Man
    5th April 2011

    This is not true! Nehind the times etc….
    Oxford city has been ringed with these cameras for the past 2 years; no one can drive around the ring road into the city without passing cameras at every roundabout,
    Oxford leads the way!

  28. air max shoes
    13th April 2011

    thanks so much- Diane

  29. Robster
    16th April 2011

    Well – the website set up provide a “mere citizen” view to the situation has now been taken down due to “violation of the terms of the web hosting company”…

  30. Travisher
    24th June 2011

    You had all better keep away from Peterborough as they are going up thick and fast. 5 on my normal route out of town already. According to the Evening Telegraph they are a joint venture between the City and the police. On one hand getting all the untaxed and uninsured cars off the streets of Peterborough would certainly cut congestion but on the other I really don’t like the idea of the police being able to track every movement of my car.

  31. Fragged8
    8th August 2011

    how very clever , and i’m sure the baddies aren’t clever enough to fit cloned number plates to their cars when they are up to no good,. that would render the very clever and costly ANPR useless in one stroke, but then baddies aren’t that smart are they ..

  32. Erich Mielke
    24th August 2011

    Wow, just 14,000 residents (acc to Wikipedia).
    But will they introduce a visa now so they can charge visitors for the days they stay or clamp them if they overstay? Will you have to bring your passport?

    Sore it’s only against the bad guys. But how comes Stasi said the same? I’ve heard that before…

    Now Royston is the first real STASI town after 1989.