Ring of steel

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at a questions and answers session at Ponds Forge Leisure Centre hosted by The Star's editor Jeremy Clifford
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at a questions and answers session at Ponds Forge Leisure Centre hosted by The Star's editor Jeremy Clifford

A SIX FOOT security fence will go up around Sheffield City Hall next month as part of a police operation surrounding the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference.

Police leave is being cancelled and neighbouring forces drafted in as commanders plan for all contingencies over the weekend of March 11 to 13 when demonstrations are expected in Deputy Prime Minister’s home city.

Up to 1,000 officers will be on call on what is expected to be the busiest day, the Saturday.

Estimates of the cost are currently around £500,000, but it is acknowledged that this could rise to more like £2m depending on how the South Yorkshire force assesses the required scope of the operation over the next two weeks. It is liaising with protest groups.

Supt Martin Scothern, who is leading the operation, said: “We are aware of the intention of some groups to protest during the conference.

“However, at this time, we have no specific information that suggests that the protest will be anything other than peaceful.”

At the same time, police say they are preparing to respond to any situation. They will have officers on motorcycles, bicycles and horses as well as on foot. As roads are closed and a fence goes up for the weekend and the days before, they say they aim to keep disruption to a minimum while protecting the right of democratic protest.

The conference will attract between 1,500 and 1,800 delegates, although the number of visitors will go much higher when other people such as guests and media are take into account.

Virtually all hotel beds will be taken, demand heightened by the world short track ice skating championships at the Arena the same weekend.

Against the huge logistical exercise surrounding the conference, the council was emphasising this week the benefits to Sheffield’s economy – an estimated £2.5m spending on hotels, shops, restaurants and other activities – and its profile as a major city and a conference destination

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