Bath Chronicle

Put anti-terror plans on hold, residents urge

- Stephen Sumner Local democracy reporter

An organisati­on representi­ng hundreds of residents across Bath is calling for “draconian” counter-terror proposals to be put on hold.

Justin Draeger, who chairs the Federation of Bath Residents’ Associatio­ns, said the “deeply unfair” proposals could drive residents out of the city centre, leaving properties in the World Heritage City to deteriorat­e.

The measures to protect Bath from “hostile vehicles” include swapping the concrete barriers for moveable and static bollards, round-the-clock controls on who can drive into a secure zone and the removal of all parking, including disabled bays.

Bath and North East Somerset Council said the proposals follow national guidance but it has promised to listen to feedback and the advice of an access consultant.

Mr Draeger said: “The residents need to hear why such measures are required. We’re talking about Bath. It isn’t a hotbed of terrorist activity. It’s a fairly sleepy town in Somerset.

“Perhaps the council needs to look at similar sized cities going through the same process and work out why their measures aren’t as draconian.”

Avon and Somerset Police, which worked with the council on the proposals, said there is no specific threat to Bath but crowded places are attractive targets.

The measures will protect against “hostile vehicles”, which can be driven at pedestrian­s, or conceal a bomb or contain terrorists.

But controls on who can drive into the city centre will cause complicati­ons for disabled residents, tradespeop­le, taxi drivers, delivery drivers and removal companies. The current restrictio­ns between 10am and 6pm will be extended to run 24/7.

Mr Draeger added: “This is deeply unfair to city centre residents. We’re a World Heritage City. The residents keep up the beautiful buildings they live in. If they’re gone, who does that? It will end up looking tatty, like Venice.

“The council should pause, take breath and reflect on what’s proposed and whether it’s appropriat­e.

“Most recent terrorist attacks have been individual­s wielding knives. I’m not sure these measures can deal with people like that. A balance must be struck. We’re never going to protect the city against all attacks. We don’t want to completely disrupt people’s existence with these measures.”

His comments echo those of the Abbey Residents’ Associatio­n, which said of the new secure zone: “Anyone living in this area will be essentiall­y trapped unless they are able to walk, cycle or use mobility vehicles to reach shops and other facilities including blue badge and generalpur­pose parking areas.”

Councillor Joanna Wright, joint cabinet member for transport services, said the council is listening to residents’ concerns and had brought in a consultant to look at how to lessen the impact of the proposals and improve accessibil­ity.

She added: “However, it is an unfortunat­e fact that we know the threat from terrorism is greatest in crowded places like city centres. This is why we’ve been working since 2016 with the police to improve safety and security in Bath’s areas of high footfall.”

Cllr Wright said the introducti­on of round-the-clock controls was in line with national advice and was necessary to maintain safety.

The council has written to more than 300 households that sit within the secure zone, hosted a webinar on the proposals and extended its consultati­on until January 31. The feedback will help it refine the proposals before the final traffic regulation orders are advertised.

Avon and Somerset Police did not respond to Mr Draeger’s comments.

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