£3.5m anti-terror measures approved in York as ‘city more vulnerable than others to attack’

Anti-terrorism security bollards will be installed around York city centre at a cost of £3.5m – after councillors were told the city’s narrow streets made it particularly vulnerable to attack.

City of York Council’s executive committee voted in favour of accepting a tender offer for the hostile vehicle mitigation measures (HVM), which will cost £1.75m more than first thought due in part to spiralling inflation hitting steel and concrete prices.

Shaun Tunstall, a counter terrorism security advisor, said York had an “obvious vulnerability” to a terror attack using a vehicle, with the city’s many pavement cafe’s offering “ideal targets”.

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In recent years, terrorists have used vehicles to carry out attacks in Nice, London and other cities. Such attacks require little planning or support and can often be carried out by ‘lone wolves’.

Mr Tunstall, who said his views were backed up by the UK’s top expert in the field, added: “The terrorist threat is becoming more unpredicatable…before we know it, something will happen.

“It’s a good move to get this sort of scheme in place.

“It’s something that is needed in York, more so than I’ve seen in most other cities that I’ve dealt with.”

Senior Commander for York, Superintendent Mark Khan, from North Yorkshire Police, added: “We have at times many people in a very small area, so that would make an attack far more successful for someone that would want to carry it out. There is less room for people to jump out of the way or escape from a vehicle.”

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Earlier in the meeting, disability rights campaigner Flick Williams argued the measures were not proportionate.

“We the taxpayers don’t even get to properly interrogate these decisions because it is shrouded in secrecy, hidden behind walls of intelligence and national security obfuscation,” she added.

The HVM measures are controversial because they are linked to a council decision last year to ban blue badge holders from parking in the footstreets area.

Diane Rowarth, from York Sight Loss Council, said: “A solution must be found that does not exclude disabled people and their families and friends from their own city centre.”

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Labour group leader Coun Claire Douglas said her party were in favour of the measures for the safety of the city, but raised concerns about delays to the project and the increased cost.

“We would reverse the ban on blue badge holders in the city centre and that requires us to think creatively about how we allow access to the city centre for those that need it,” she added.

Council leader Coun Keith Aspden said: “It has become a fact of life that terrorists can strike at any time and any place without warning.

“Not having proactive measures in place is an unacceptable risk”.

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Installation of the bollards is set to begin in April 2023. The extra £1.75m required will be taken from the 2026/27 highways budget.

The senior councillors also voted to press Home Secretary Priti Patel to offer more anti-terror financial support to councils, which are set to have legal duty to to ensure preparedness for and protection from terrorist attacks under the law.