Security across Canterbury is set to be reinforced as part of an £800,000 operation to protect the city centre from a terrorist attack.
On the advice of counter-terrorism police, more than 100 bollards will be installed at 18 locations across Canterbury to stop a hostile vehicle being used as a weapon on the pedestrian-filled streets.
The authority’s engineers are already working on the proposal, which will cost £660,000 and should be complete within months.
Counter-terrorism measures are also being installed at the Marlowe Theatre at a cost of £140,000 as part of a separate project.
But first, a consultation will be held with residents and businesses in the city about how the plans will affect them.
City council chief executive Colin Carmichael, who first revealed the plans at a meeting of the regeneration and property committee, has confirmed local taxpayers will foot the bill for the work, which he says will help keep the public safe.
“There is no specific intelligence which says Canterbury is at risk but we need to take sensible precautions to ensure we keep everyone as safe as possible,” he said.
“This is an immensely complex project. Being a historic city and home to the Cathedral, Canterbury has a large number of challenges relating to its narrow streets, the volume of visitors, areas of archaeological importance and a high density of pipes etc belonging to the utility companies under the ground.
“There is no specific intelligence which says Canterbury is at risk..." chief executive Colin Carmichael
“Our experts have carried out ground-penetrating radar surveys to accurately find buried services, to ensure the proposed bollard locations are suitable and to minimise any disruption to businesses in the city.
“Installation work will cause some inconvenience but we will try and keep this to a minimum.
“We have been talking to the Canterbury Connected BID and will be in direct contact with businesses and residents in the very near future with detailed information on how the system will affect them.”
Anti-terror bollards have already been installed in a number of cities and towns across the UK following terror attacks using vehicles in recent years.
In March 2017, Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on the pavement along the south side of Westminster Bridge in London. More than 50 people were injured and five killed, including a policeman Masood stabbed before he was shot dead himself by armed officers.
Three months later seven people were killed and 49 injured in a deadly van and knife attack in London Bridge. As a result, concrete and metal fences were erected on Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth bridges.
Vehicles have also been used to commit terror attacks in other European cities, with trucks deployed as weapons including Nice, where 86 people were killed in July 2016 when a lorry was driven into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day and Berlin, where 12 died after a truck was driven into a Christmas market on December 19.
“This is an immensely complex project..."chief executive Colin Carmichael
In Canterbury, 105 permanent bollards will be positioned at 18 points across the city. Eight of these spots will have automated bollards that will be monitored by CCTV and can be remotely controlled by the city council’s control room.
They will be operational from 10am to 4pm - when vehicles are already banned from entering the city centre - and may start being implemented in the evening at a later date.
The city council has been working closely with Kent County Council, as the highways authority, to secure the necessary permissions and agree a protocol for the bollards’ operation.
Mr Carmichael said: “While we have sought financial support from the government and others, Canterbury City Council’s council taxpayers have footed the bill because, in our view, it was important to get this done as quickly as possible without any quibbles. Helpfully, Kent County Council waived its usual charges for making changes to its highways.”
Temporary security barriers were used to protect those attending the busy Christmas Eve carol service in Rose Square, Canterbury.
Armed officers have also been carrying out patrols at Canterbury Cathedral since 2016, in the aftermath of terror attacks across Europe.