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Armed police to continue Bacton patrols

PUBLISHED: 08:45 31 August 2007 | UPDATED: 13:28 22 October 2010

Armed military police are to continue patrolling Norfolk's Bacton gas terminal on a long- term basis to protect the vital energy site from being targeted by terrorists.

Armed military police are to continue patrolling Norfolk's Bacton gas terminal on a long- term basis to protect the vital energy site from being targeted by terrorists.

For the last seven months Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) officers with sub-machine guns have bolstered security at the terminal to deter al Qaida extremists from attacking the plant, which handles a quarter of the nation's gas supply.

In November the EDP reported that intelligence reports revealed Bacton had been staked out by terrorists and a blueprint of the terminal had been found on the laptop of an arrested terror suspect.

Following the initial trial period the Home Office has now asked the MDP, which has the same powers as civilian police forces, to continue patrolling the site on a long-term basis as part of the government's counter terrorist strategy.

Since January, under the name Operation Vintage, the MDP has provided key security at four gas processing installations in the country with armed officers maintaining a high visibility presence at perimeters, entry and exit points.

Supt Mark Foulger, in charge of the MDP patrols, said: "The purpose of this operation is to deter, disrupt and detect terrorist activity and to defend the installations in the event of an attack, for which a traditional police response would not be effective.

"We have had a lot of support from Norfolk Police. It was important to establish a good working relationship with them, especially as this facility is so remote."

"We have also had a very positive response from local communities, for which my officers on the ground can take all the credit."

The MDP has 3,500 officers whose main role is to secure defence sites across the country. At any one time 70pc of its officers are on firearms duty. The cost of Operation Vintage is being met by the gas industry.

Supt Foulger praised the modern security facilities at Bacton gas terminal, which include CCTV cameras and so-called sterile no entry zones.

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, said: "The arrival of these officers has been welcomed by most of the local residents.

"The new MDP arrangements seem to be an appropriate and sensible response to the increased perceived threat from terrorism."

However, Mr Lamb said that government plans to build a bypass around the terminal to prevent terrorists driving near the site were not needed and would end up isolating Bacton village from the rest of Norfolk.

The Home Office said security measures were always under continuous review but would not comment on the particular arrangements for Bacton.

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