Road blocks, armed officers and airspace restrictions as police reveal anti terrorism strategy for UCI championships in Harrogate
Police are set to erect large gates to block streets, introduce armed officers and enforce new airspace restrictions in Harrogate to ensure the safety of spectators during the forthcoming UCI Road World Championships.
Inspector Jeff McKeown of North Yorkshire Police, who has been closed involved in the event planning over the last 12 months and more, said the scale of the event meant they had to be ready for anything - including the threat of possible terrorism attacks.
He said: “Due to our ongoing involvement in the Tour de Yorkshire we were aware of the bid for the UCI Cycle Championships from a very early stage. We have been working very closely with Yorkshire 2019 - the event organisers - and a wide range of partners from the outset.
“The championships take place in public spaces and the police have core responsibilities in relation to crime and disorder, public safety and contingency planning.
“It is an unfortunate fact of modern life that we must also consider the potential for terrorism related issues.”
Although North Yorkshire Police are not technically in charge of roads, they have been closely involved with preparations for the arrival of the world’s greatest cyclists for nine days and the expected hundreds of thousands of spectators.
Inspector McKeown confirmed that in the week leading up to the start of the event a number of gates and other measures would be installed on roads affected by the race in Harrogate.
But he said they had taken steps to avoid one possible security measure - immovable concrete blocks - to help maintain traffic flow in Harrogate.
He said: “The new gates will be at locations that would have been subject of road closures anyway. But more robust measures are being brought in to create an area where vehicles are prevented from entering – meaning crowds are protected and pedestrians can move about more safely.
“Terrorism is, of course, a consideration as vehicles have been used in attacks in a number of places in the UK and elsewhere.
“There are also wider public safety aspects as given the high crowd densities then any moving vehicles in the area around the finish and Fan Zone could lead to injury.
“As part of our approach of working in partnerships, we have brought in experts from the National Vehicle Threat Mitigation Unit, which is based in the Metropolitan Police in London.
“This has enabled us to access specialist equipment from the National Barrier Asset that can withstand a deliberate attempt to ram them with a vehicle.”
The UCI events will actually span four police force areas, impacting upon North Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Police and Humberside Police.
But, because the vast majority of the route miles in the the UCI Championships takes place within North Yorkshire, North Yorkshire Police have taken the role as lead police force for the event.
Their primary aim is to ensure everybody attending the races and other events connected to the championships has a great time and stays safe.
Last year's UCI cycling hosts tell Harrogate 'you will love it'But, in this day and age, it will come as no surprise to anybody that not only will firearms officers and extra CCTV will be part of the mix but so will an ‘Airspace Restriction.’
Insp McKeown said: “An Airspace Restriction has been implemented for Harrogate for public safety and security reasons.
“This means that an aircraft cannot be flown unless a specific permission has been granted. This applies to aircraft such as helicopters, and also to drones.
“Breaches will be investigated and referred to the Civil Aviation Authority who will consider prosecution.”
North Yorkshire Police have also made provisions should any protests take place at the UCI championships.
Insp McKeown said: “We have seen protests of varying sizes at many of our large scale cycle races, although these have not generally been directed towards the race itself - the event merely provides a high profile platform to highlight a cause.
“We have always worked with protestors to facilitate lawful protest.
“We do, however, also have the ability to respond if a protest is intent on disrupting the race and spoiling the enjoyment of the event.”
On a positive note, the police are bringing in a team of motorcyclists from the Central Escort Group used to cycling events to ensure that roads used in the races can be closed for a much shorter period of time.
And Insp McKeown emphasised that, by working with other organisations, they had managed to avert the need for large concrete blocks to be built on Harrogate roads.
He said: "Our partnerships have enabled us to access specialist equipment from the National Barrier Asset that can withstand a deliberate attempt to ram them with a vehicle.
"Harrogate Borough Council have been involved in the site visits – including one on a very cold February day - and have put forward their views.
"Everyone has recognised the need for the town centre to function outside of the event period , with businesses restocking and residents accessing their properties.
"Whilst many of the roads could have been closed off with immovable concrete blocks, the representations from Harrogate Borough Council and the Highways department in particular meant that a much higher number of gates were included.
"This has significantly increased costs for the event organisers but the partnership approach ensured this was implemented for the benefit of the town outside the event times."