Covid-19 street closures leaves pavement cafes ‘vulnerable to vehicle terror attacks’

Emilee Geist

Coronavirus road closures have made streets vulnerable “weak spots” to vehicle attacks, a former counter terror chief has warned, as he called for a review of security measures in the wake of the UK’s “severe” terror threat.

Thousands of streets across the country have been pedestrianised following a policy by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, which gave councils extra powers to close roads without consulting residents under a £250 million fund meant for a green transport revolution.

As a result, high streets and school roads became alfresco dining spots, pavements were widened to promote social distancing and separated from roads in some places with nothing more than a “flimsy barrier”.

While many road closures have been enforced with heavy duty barriers and planters, some more temporary measures have seen councils simply use cones and signage to divert traffic.

Nick Aldworth, the UK’s former national counter terrorism coordinator, said the policy had created “new vulnerabilities” when it came to terrorism and called for stronger security assessments before councils were allowed to close roads.

On Wednesday, the UK’s terror threat level was raised to “severe” following attacks in France and Austria, meaning an attack is highly likely.

Mr Aldworth, who co-ordinated the response to the 2017 terror attacks, including Westminster Bridge and the Manchester Arena bombing, said it was a matter of when, not if, more attacks would occur.

“Where we have pushed everyone into the outdoors, you now see tables and chairs in streets you would never have seen them and that creates an opportunity for vehicle attacks,” he told The Telegraph

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