Docklands to get check-points

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The Independent Online
CHRISTIAN WOLMAR

Transport Correspondent

A ring of steel guarded by armed police officers is to be drawn round the Isle of Dogs in London's Docklands, similar to the one in the City of London, within the next few weeks.

The decision to introduce the scheme will raise civil liberties issues for the 17,000 residents as their cars will be filmed every time they enter the area.

Only four check points are needed to guard the three square miles of the Isle of Dogs, where London's new business district has been built. Developers have been pressing for security to be tightened after last month's bomb which wrecked half a dozen office blocks and killed two people.

Developers and commercial property landlords have been arguing that the City is much safer than Docklands because it set up its own ring of steel three years ago following the Bishopsgate bomb. The London Docklands Development Corporation, the quango which has poured more than pounds 1bn of taxpayers' money into the area, felt it was essential to improve security to fill the remaining empty property.

There will be check points on the two main and two minor roads into the area. Traffic will be filtered through in single file in order to enable number plates to be filmed by a close-circuit TV camera. A source within the LDDC said: "The cameras are such high resolution that they can spot whether you had a shave that morning."

The scheme has been drawn up from a consultant's report commissioned by a working party from Tower Hamlets council, the Metropolitan Police and the LDDC and will be paid for by all three bodies along with local businesses.

About pounds 1m is expected to be spent on the cameras and about half a dozen police officers are expected to be needed to guard the checkpoints which are likely to be operated only part-time.

Already many cars going into Docklands are being stopped and even buses entering the private Canary Wharf development are being checked by security staff.

Local residents are fiercely opposed to the scheme because of fears over traffic congestion. Kevin Young, chairman of a local residents group, said: "I travel every day into the City and the ring is causing terrible delays there. In Docklands, traffic trying to get in will feed back onto the already very congested roads in the area."

He pointed out the LDDC, the planning authority for the area, is not democratically elected: "It's a quango and they won't consult with us properly. They'll just put the bollards up and say it's for our own good."

Residents are also worried about the civil liberties implications. Mr Young said: "Hardly anyone lives in the City so that's not a problem. But here you've got thousands of residents and they won't want their every move filmed."

Eric Sorensen, chief executive of the LDDC, confirmed that plans were at an advanced stage but had not been finalised: "If we go ahead, which is very likely, we will probably introduce the scheme in early summer," he said.

He stressed that the LDDC was keen on avoiding traffic problems but said: "We need to make businesses and residents in this area confident that measures are in place to prevent a repeat of last month's bomb. People have to get used to being filmed. Already there are lots of cameras on the Docklands Light Railway."

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