POLICING the building of Oxford University’s animal research centre cost taxpayers more than £16m, figures reveal.

Harassment and intimidation from animal rights activists towards contractors led to extra officers being drafted in to provide security during the construction of the Biomedical Science Building, in South Parks Road.

Some workers received threatening letters from extremists, and a number of builders wore masks to protect their identities.

Police also had to deal with hundreds of demonstrators who staged city-centre protests against the building in 2005 and 2006.

A Freedom of Information request showed the Home Office handed over £16.3m to Thames Valley Police for operations concerning the building between financial years 2005/6 and 2008/9.

The figure equates to more than £4m a year.

Oxford University declined to comment on the figures, but a spokesman said: “The University of Oxford constructed the Biomedical Sciences Building with a very simple aim: To rehouse animals used in potentially life-saving biomedical research in a facility that would first be better for those animals, and secondly better for world-class science that could save and improve human lives.

“We were simply going about our lawful business.

“The University is grateful to Thames Valley Police for work over several years in protecting our staff and students, facilitating lawful protest, and helping prevent actions outside the law.”

A court injunction placed an exclusion zone around the building in November 2004, banning protests within 100 yards of the site.

Campaigners were also barred from “assaulting, harassing, molesting or threatening” university employees, students or contractors, taking photos of them or publishing their names and addresses.

Protests were only permitted opposite the laboratory once a week, on Thursdays.

The Home Office figure includes the cost of policing an animal rights protest in Cornmarket in February 2006, which was held at the same time as a pro-testing march near the lab.

Police spokesman David Staines said: “Central Government arranged funding for this initiative in 2005, so that the impact on local policing in terms of resourcing and cost was minimised.

“The Home Office released information regarding the amount of funding supplied to Thames Valley Police to finance the operation.

“Thames Valley Police don’t propose at this point to go into any further detail as this is an ongoing operational matter.”