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Police guard put in place after Town Hall gun threat
POLICE will stand guard at an Oxford planning meeting for the first time in living memory on Friday after a gun threat was made to council staff.
Police officers are being drafted in for the planning review committee meeting to quell any trouble while councillors decide on the plan to build student flats on part of St Clement’s car park.
Oxford City Council revealed a man went into the Town Hall earlier this month and made a threats about using a gun in relation to the controversial scheme.
The council’s west area planning committee turned down the plans for 140 rooms above the car park on August 15 on the grounds the loss of car parking facilities during the build would harm local trade.
But the decision was “called in” by Labour group members, and councillors will look at amended plans, which include a proposal for phased development – meaning some car parking will kept on the site during the build – on Friday.
City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “About two weeks ago a man came into the Town Hall and made a threat against reception staff.
“The man became very angry about the St Clement’s planning application and used threatening words and behaviour. The incident was reported to the police who are investigating the threats made.”
She added: “The council has given careful consideration as to whether any additional security should be in place in order that councillors, officers and members of the public attending the meeting feel re-assured. There will be a police presence to ensure there is no threat to security or a breach of the peace.”
An email to councillors had initially suggested a bag search would be carried out after the threat on September 11, but the council changed its policy after discussions with police.
Police spokesman Chris Kearney said police would search bags if they had suspicions about an individual. But he added the initial proposal for searches on the door had been a council suggestion, and would not be carried out by police.
Mr Kearney said: “Our presence at the meeting will be to ensure there is no breach of the peace and that the meeting runs without incident.”
No arrests have been made in relation to the original threat.
Council leader Bob Price said he had never known the council to need a police presence at a planning meeting in his 29-and-a-half years on the authority.
But Green Party councillor David Williams, who attended the August meeting as a substitute for fellow party member Elise Benjamin, questioned the seriousness of the threat.
He said: “I have a suspicion that there’s a bit of security hysteria here. I think they are worried about people reacting to the decision.
“If we have security guards at the entrance to the Town Hall then what message does that send?”
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