‘Rethink terror roadblock plan for King’s Parade’
Cambridge Liberal Democrats have called on the city council to reconsider its plan to close King’s Parade to traffic for a trial period of up to 18 months in a bid to tighten security.
Part of King’s Parade is set to be secured by a barrier this autumn after Cambridge City Council agreed the proposals. The council made the move following advice from the police counter terrorism unit (CTU), hosted by Bedfordshire Constabulary on behalf of the Eastern region forces.
“I have significant concerns that this barrier design is simply not suitable for a road like King’s Parade,” said Market ward councillor Nichola Harrison, adding: “Cyclists will not have sufficient space to travel safely and this will impact on pedestrians too.”
Police believe a physical barrier north of Bene’t Street would help resist penetration by a vehicle approaching at speed, though there has been no specific threat.
But the council says it is an internationally recognised location, and just like other similar locations elsewhere in the country, it is working with partners to look at what can be done to make the public as safe as possible.
“While we clearly agree that ensuring the safety of Cambridge residents is a priority, this has to be done in proportion to the threat faced. Cambridge police did not approach the council requesting this roadblock and we are told the overall threat level remains low,” said Lib Dem highways lead Cllr Ian Manning.
Members of the council’s strategy and resources committee agreed last Tuesday (October 7) that £35,000 will be allocated to fund the work, and the remaining 50 per cent will be met by the Greater Cambridge Partnership.
Lib Dem Cllr Anthony Martinelli, chair of the west central area committee, at which the scheme was discussed, added: “Councillors were unanimous that this scheme was not appropriate in its current form and had not been thought through properly. I have written to both the executive councillor and the chief executive to request reconsideration.”
Cllr Lewis Herbert, Labour leader of the city council, responded:“Given the pressing security priority, it is an unavoidable decision to put in a temporary closure at the earliest opportunity. The two councils will then consider feedback ahead of designing and installing the permanent arrangement. For that we – and Cambridge – will rightly expect a design of the standard necessary to both protect the public and match its surroundings, and there will be further consultation before the permanent installation.”
Councillor Richard Robertson, executive councillor for finance and resources, added: “The city council has an obligation to act on police and security advice on the possible threat to our residents and visitors and is taking appropriate action. This followed a clear police assessment that the frequently crowded area on Kings Parade could be targeted by terrorists in the same way as has happened in London, including to counter the risk that vehicles could be driven at pedestrians.
“Cities across the UK with similarly busy pedestrian areas have already installed such barriers including Manchester and Birmingham.
“For cyclists there is one gap, just like there is already for cyclists wanting to enter Sidney Street from St Andrews Street
“Because of the University cycle traffic, particularly early morning, it is planned to keep the vehicle barrier open during the morning peak time for cyclists. At this time the potential security risk is also much lower because there are far fewer pedestrians in the area then.
“The barriers to be installed will be a temporary facility to see how well it works without digging holes and erecting bollards. However this means the equipment has to be capable of stopping a moving vehicle. Other cities have followed the same process of going for temporary, moveable equipment so the effect can be assessed and amendments made if necessary.
“We have also taken great care to identify replacement parking spaces near by for disabled drivers whose access to King’s Parade is now restricted. And we will review how the temporary scheme works before completing plans for the planned permanent arrangements.”