A ‘ring of steel’ is to be created around Leeds city centre in the wake of international terror attacks involving vehicles driving into crowds.
Streets such as Briggate and Lands Lane will have remotely controlled, lowerable bollards installed as part of a hi-tech system designed to stop unauthorised vehicles.
It’s about trying to minimise the risk where have significant risk.John Ebo, Leeds City Council’s head of city centre management
Although measures have already been put in place in Leeds over the past year, ram-raiders were twice able to drive onto Briggate in April to target high-end retailer Louis Vuitton.
Leeds City Council has been taking advice from both the North East Counter Terrorism Unit and West Yorkshire Police, but stressed that this was in response to global threats and not specific intelligence relating to Leeds itself.
There have been a number of terror attacks involving vehicles being driven into pedestrians, including in Nice, Berlin and London.
Details of the new measures for Leeds emerged during the latest meeting of the city council’s Licensing Committee when the issue of security was raised.
Coun Mary Harland said she was in favour of areas streets being pedestrianised to boost the night-time economy, but questioned whether it would make those locations more open to becoming targets for terrorists.
John Ebo, the council’s head of city centre management, said security was regularly reviewed, particularly following any terror attack elsewhere, to look at how the authorities can minimise the risk.
“We’ve been working with the Counter Terrorism Unit and colleagues within the police,” he said.
“You will have noticed some huge planters in some locations. They’re not just there for aesthetics – they do offer a level of protection.
“They are strategically located to create a chicane so you can’t just drive down.”
He revealed that further work is due to begin this winter on a ‘ring of steel’, who would see lowerable bollards encircling the main pedestrian area of the city centre.
The bollard system will use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and be controlled through the council’s existing CCTV network.
Bore holes will also be made in Briggate to allow the fitting of temporary gates – similar to those used as flood defences – to completely close off the street if needed, although these would not be used day-to-day.
Mr Ebo told councillors it was not prompted by a specific threat, adding: “It’s about trying to minimise the risk where we have significant risk.”
An assessment will also be made to decide whether further safety measures should be introduced in areas such as Greek Street, Call Lane and Merrion Street East.
A Leeds City Council spokesman said: “While there is no information to suggest any specific threat to Leeds, we are continuing to work closely with the police and partners to ensure that precautionary measures are in place to ensure the city is as safe and prepared as possible.
“As part of this work, we will, over the coming months, be introducing automated rise/fall bollards around the pedestrianised shopping area of the city centre. Once in place these will be controlled through the council’s CCTV system. An evaluation will also be undertaken on the potential of similar measures being introduced in selected other streets and areas of the city centre as appropriate.
“This type of initiative sits aside other proposals which we are currently assessing to further minimise risk and to provide to visitors, businesses and local residents, extra reassurance.”