Yorkshire rendezvous with French police over Tour

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A DELEGATION of French police officers visited West Yorkshire as preparations for the arrival of the Tour de France in the county gathered pace.

Forty to 50 gendarmes are expected to be involved in policing Yorkshire’s streets during July’s Grand Départ – the launch of the world’s biggest cycle race.

A number of officers, along with race organisers, visited West Yorkshire Police’s Carr Gate base in Wakefield yesterday in the first Anglo-French planning meeting to be held on British soil.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom is leading what will be a major operation during the two days that the Tour is in Yorkshire, as millions of people turn out to see the world’s elite riders.

He said: “The French have run the event for years and have a tried and tested and refined way of managing it. We need to make sure that there is good communication between us and them so that the planning is joined up.”

The number of officers involved in the policing operation for the Tour has not yet been finalised, but it will be the largest single sporting event ever handled by the West Yorkshire force.

Roads along the route will be closed as the race goes from Leeds to Harrogate and York before returning to West Yorkshire on day two.

Mr Milsom said exerting complete control over the crowds expected to turn out would be “impossible”.

But he added: “That’s not what it’s about – it’s not a security operation, it’s a sporting event.

“When you go to France, it’s clear that they see it as an honour that the Tour comes through their town or down their street.

“This is a unique opportunity for the county and it’s about celebrating and enjoying the race and it’s a real chance for neighbourhoods to come together.”

He said West Yorkshire Police intended to learn lessons from the policing of the London Olympics, which saw officers mixing in a largely informal way with the public .

“There’s a huge amount of pride in our county and we want to make sure the event shows us off as the welcoming, friendly county that we are,” he added.

Huddersfield town centre will host a high-speed street cycle race, dubbed Huddersfield One Criterium, on July 4 – the day before the Grand Départ.