Plea over Bacton security falls flat

Dedicated anti-terror officers will not be reinstated at Bacton Gas Terminal after ministers 'closed the door' on hopes that utility companies would contribute to Norfolk police coffers.

Dedicated anti-terror officers will not be reinstated at Bacton Gas Terminal after ministers 'closed the door' on hopes that utility companies would contribute to Norfolk police coffers.

Norfolk police withdrew their specialist team from the terminal, regarded as a key terrorist target, in April after the government refused to provide additional funding to com-pensate for the burden of protecting a site of national strategic importance.

The police authority and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb have been lobbying the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which is responsible for paying to protect energy sites, to find a solution.

Authority chairman Stephen Bett said armed guards provided by the Ministry of Defence Police guard the site but this alone is inadequate. They need support from Norfolk but the force can no longer afford to provide it after a government grant was withdrawn last year.


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In a letter to Mr Lamb, Mike O'Brien, a DECC minister, appeared to rule out a move which would have seen gas companies asked to pay for both the MoD and Norfolk police presence. He said the introduction of MoD guards had 'considerably improved protective security against terrorism'. But he also acknow-ledged the importance of 'working together' with local police.

Mr O'Brien said: 'The origin of the decision by the government to deploy dedicated armed policing at the key energy sites dates back to 2006 when the chief constables of the three police forces responsible for the policing of key sites approached the Home Office. They were concerned that their armed-response capacity for these sites would not be adequate in the event of a terrorist attack.'

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But he said that although the gas companies already funded the MoD presence, they contribute to local forces through standard business rates and therefore would not be approached to provide extra cash.

Mr Bett said that without outside funding, Norfolk would not reintroduce its team of officers. He said it was unfair for Norfolk taxpayers to fund the protection of a site which is of national strategic importance and provides gas for the entire country. He said: 'We will continue to respond in the event of an emergency, as we would to any site in the county. But we cannot guarantee we can provide specialists who are properly equipped to deal with a terror incident. The MoD police have acknowledged that their presence alone is not enough.'

In recent years, Bacton has been named as a target in terror trials. Suspected al Qaida operatives have been found with laptops loaded with detailed plans of the site.

Mr Lamb said: 'I will continue to ask questions and attempt to find a solution but I fully support Norfolk police's stance on this. However, this appears to be a closed door. The frustration is that the legislation which would allow the gas com-panies to pay for the policing appears to exist, but the government seems unwilling to consider that. The MoD police acknowledge the importance of support from Norfolk police.'

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