Disabled city centre residents face being “trapped” by “draconian” counter-terror proposals that will severely restrict access in Bath’s historic core, a group has warned.
All parking, including for blue badge holders, will be removed from a secure zone and road access will be limited to prevent hostile vehicle attacks.
The Abbey Residents Association (TARA) has called on Bath and North East Somerset Council to rethink its proposals, warning that the city’s economy is also under threat from Covid-19 and e-commerce.
Avon and Somerset Police counter-terror officers who advised the authority insist that the measures are proportionate to the “very real” threat.
In a post online, TARA said: “The council intends to create a security cordon excluding vehicles from the entire commercial core of the city.
“Anyone living in this area will be essentially trapped unless they are able to walk, cycle or use mobility vehicles to reach shops and other facilities including blue badge and general-purpose parking areas.
“The justification for all these draconian restrictions is vague but appears to be that in the past terrorists have used vehicles as weapons in crowded areas.”
It said there are other forms of terrorism that do not involve vehicles, adding: “The council should recognise that the city centre is at risk from more than just terrorism.
“The economy of the area is under threat from online retailing combined with the effects of Covid-19 and new planning regulations can be expected to erode the council’s long-standing, and wise, policy of maintaining retail frontages.”
Under the proposals, all parking in the “secure zone” will be removed – even for disabled drivers – but B&NES Council said there will be alternative parking and drop-off points for blue badge holders.
Road access to the crowded historic core will be managed 24-seven by CCTV control room staff, who will have the final say on who gets through the barriers.
Between 10am and 6pm, most deliveries will have to be carried or trollied in. Residents will need to give 20 days’ notice to secure a one-time access permit for large deliveries.
TARA has called for a rethink so taxis are able to operate freely in the secure zone, blue badge holders can continue to park and there is an easy way to get parcels or groceries delivered without a complex bureaucratic process.
It said the council should compensate affected residents for the impact on their property prices.
Inspector Martin Rowland, who works in counter-terror, told a recent webinar on the proposals: “You will have seen the horrendous attacks that happened in this country over the last few years.
“You will have seen the awful things that have been happening in Europe recently and that’s led to the increase [in the threat level].
“We always balance the message around terrorism which is for people to be alert but not alarmed. The measures are proportionate.
“This is Bath, not London, but the threat is still there and it is still real.
“An attack is highly likely and it would be remiss of us not to put some measures in like this particularly in a crowded place like Bath.”
Lynda Deane, whose role at the council focuses on reopening and renewing the high street, said: “We can see in a pandemic at the knock that it’s had to our local economy.
“Recovery from a terrorism attack would affect international visitors for years if not decades to come.”
Peter Naish, a security advisor for Avon and Somerset Police, said the measures were part of a “layered approach” to tackling terrorism in its different forms.
He said the force had not ruled out “softer measures” covering a wider area, in addition to what council leader Dine Romero called the “ring of steel” in the centre.
A council spokesperson said the proposals are backed by national police guidance and are in line with measures installed in or planned for York, Canterbury and Chester.
Any restrictions would be introduced via national highways legislation so the council would not be required to pay compensation.
It is commissioning an independent access consultant who will work with stakeholders on a package of mitigation measures for disabled people.
The council is consulting on the measures until 15th January. Visit the website to respond.
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter