Armed officers take up gas terminal post

RICHARD BATSON They are a common sight at airports. But armed police are now to be seen at a different kind of terminal on the north Norfolk seaside.For officers carrying machine guns have begun work bolstering the security at the Bacton gas site.

RICHARD BATSON

They are a common sight at airports. But armed police are now to be seen at a different kind of terminal on the north Norfolk coast.

For officers carrying machine guns have begun work bolstering the security at the Bacton gas site.

They have been brought in to help combat the terrorism threat against the complex, which handles 30pc of the nation's gas supplies.

As previously reported by the EDP, the Ministry of Defence police presence will be on top of the regular cover provided by Norfolk police, and the bill will be picked up by the gas industry.

Just days after the decision to draft them in was made, the armed officers are already patrolling around the terminal on foot and in four-wheel drive vehicles simply marked "police", with an MOD crest on the door, and with a trailer as their headquarters.

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Home Office officials have denied the move is the result of any specific threat, even though last year it was revealed that the gas site was being targeted by known al Qaida terrorists, and plans of the complex were found on the laptop computer of an arrested suspect.

They said there was a general, ongoing "severe" threat, to the whole nation, so it was important to protect important assets and infrastructure.

The armed police, who will work alongside the existing force, would provide improve security for the site, its workers and the people living nearby.

Last night local MP Norman Lamb said he had been briefed on the armed police by Home Office minister Tony McNulty and backed the decision to deploy them at a small number of strategic sites.

"It is essential for us locally, and nationally, that the site is properly and sufficiently protected. It must be regarded as a potentially significant target because of its importance.

"I cannot begin to comprehend the implications if there was an explosion at Bacton, and this must be a reassurance to local people too," he added.

The arrival of the armed officers has been welcomed by district councillor Sue Willis, who said it was "good to know someone is looking after us".­