Anti-terrorism barriers to remain in place ‘indefinitely’

Four heavy-duty barriers have gone up at staggered points on the Royal Mile. Picture: Jon Savage
Four heavy-duty barriers have gone up at staggered points on the Royal Mile. Picture: Jon Savage
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ANTI-TERRORISM barriers being built to protect the Capital will remain in place indefinitely, the Evening News understands.

Work has started installing six heavy duty structures designed to prevent a Westminster Bridge-style attack during the summer festivals.

Security measures in place on the Royal Mile. Picture: Jon Savage

Security measures in place on the Royal Mile. Picture: Jon Savage

But an insider confirmed measures to stop a vehicle ploughing into visitors and tourists will remain for future events like Hogmanay while the security threat persists.

Meanwhile, police heralded an initial deployment during the summer festivals as a crucial step in keeping visitors safe.

“The whole point is to make sure with what’s happened internationally and nationally, our response isn’t the same old, same old,” said Supt Lesley Clark.

Security advisors see the barriers as an effective counter-terrorism measure given events in Nice, Berlin and London.

“We’ve seen continued use of vehicles as a viable weapon of attack,” said Supt Clark.

“We got together a recommendation to maximise the safety of the public and we’re grateful to the Home Office for accepting it and working with the local authority.”

Six barriers will be built in all – four at staggered points on the Royal Mile, and another two in Johnston Terrace and Mound Place.

The bill to buy, transport and install the barriers is thought to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and will be picked up by the UK government.

Police and council officials are expecting bumper crowds at this year’s 70th anniversary festival celebrations.

Supt Clark said the barriers were central to efforts in providing a “safe and secure environment” for visitors to the city.

The barriers will be only operated during events, like the Tattoo, which need a traffic restriction order, with full access at other times.

“The barriers won’t be down all the time,” said Supt Clark. “They’re part of a coordinated plan.”

Police stress there is no current specific intelligence to suggest that this year’s events are at risk from a terrorist attack.

But the threat to the UK from “internationally inspired terrorism” remains at “severe” – the second highest rating and meaning an attack is “highly likely.”

In March, 52-year-old Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge pavement, killing four and injuring more than 50.

It followed similar attacks in Nice and Berlin and prompted a review of security arrangements for this year’s festival events that attract over four million people.

That review led to the police and city council submitting a request for the deployment of the National Barrier Asset (NBA) in the city centre.

The NBA consists of high security gates, portals and barriers that can be temporarily deployed to prevent cars, vans and lorries being driven at crowds.

Owned by the Home Office, its deployment around the UK is coordinated by Sussex Police with their installation contractor H2S2.

A joint venture between Kent-based Highway Care and Hardstaff Barriers in the West Midlands, H2S2 specialises in a range of “hostile vehicle mitigation” measures.

Highway Care’s project manager said the terms of their contract with the Home Office prevented him from discussing Edinburgh’s new security 
barriers.

The company posted near £3.8m profits for 2015 in its latest accounts, attributing its success to developing “new and innovative products designed to increase safety and reduce costs.”

The NBA has been used extensively in the UK this year at other major events including Wimbledon and the Champions League Final in Cardiff.

But the Evening News understands the unique all-year round nature of Edinburgh’s attractions are likely to see the measures kept in place.

Police expect it to help protect visitors to events at the Castle and the High Street from 
vehicle attacks.

The city council hailed the barriers as an important “precautionary measure” in helping keep visitors safe.

Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council said: “Our August festivals are huge events for the city and the safety of our residents and visitors is absolutely paramount.

“We are helping the police to install a range of anti-terrorism measures in Edinburgh similar to those deployed in other major cities. There is no intelligence to suggest a threat, but it is appropriate we put safety first and take precautionary measures to protect large crowds of people at key times during the year.

“This summer’s 70th celebrations for the festivals are set to be the biggest and best yet and we look forward to welcoming the world to Edinburgh.”

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com