Armed police to guard gas terminal

RICHARD BATSON Armed military police are being drafted in to help guard Norfolk's giant Bacton gas terminal against a terrorist attack. But officials are stressing that the bolstering of security is part of a review of nationally important sites rather than a response to any specific threat.

RICHARD BATSON

Armed military police are being drafted in to help guard Norfolk's giant Bacton gas terminal against a terrorist attack.

But officials are stressing that the bolstering of security is part of a review of nationally important sites rather than a response to any specific threat.

The bill for the extra policing will be picked up by the gas industry rather than local or national tax payers.

Gas installations and power stations are among potential “targets” under the Home Office microscope. Bacton is vital to Britain's gas network, handling a quarter of supplies from platforms in the North Sea and via pipelines linked to the rest of Europe.

In November the EDP reported that specialist armed police could be used at Bacton following claims that it was being targeted by known al-Qaida terrorists after intelligence reports found activists staking out the site and the discovery of terminal plans on the laptop computer of an arrested suspect.

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The Home Office was reluctant to discuss security in any depth, other than to say it was “enhancing a package of protection measures” at key parts of the nation's “critical infrastructure.”

But Norfolk police confirmed that “additional resources” would be helping the local force with the protection of Bacton gas terminal.

A spokesman stressed that Norfolk police and gas terminal staff had provided a “high level of security and response over many years, in conjunction with the Home office and other security forces.”

But the new move would “improve and consolidate the safety and security of the staff and the public within the immediate area.”

Norfolk Police said there would be no adverse effect on local cover, with officers continuing to respond to reports requiring their attention in the Bacton area.

The force was also unwilling to comment on operational security issues in connection with the terminal, except to say it was looking forward to working with their new colleagues.

A Sunday newspaper at the weekend said “troops” would be used to guard oil and gas sites including Bacton.

But it was confirmed that the extra resources would be the Ministry of Defence police - a 3,500-strong force whose main role is to protect MoD sites across the UK. Officers are weapons-trained and at any one time 70pc of those on duty carry firearms.

The Home Office said the cost of providing MoD police at non-military sites was met by the industry involved. The move would bring “significant experience” to the locations involved and let the local force get on with protecting the rest of the community.

A spokesman said security was kept constantly under review and that there was no intelligence of a specific threat from terrorists.

“The general threat level to this country has not changed. It is still 'severe'. So it is important that we consider all options to protect our assets and infrastructure.”