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London's ring of steel to expand

The Corporation of London is to enlarge its "ring of steel" security zone to the west of the City, as police continue to crack down on the threat of further IRA bomb attacks.

The new scheme extends the traffic restrictions and police checkpoints set up after the IRA bomb attack on Bishopsgate in February 1993. It was agreed by Corporation councillors at a meeting at the Guildhall yesterday and will run for a trial period of six months starting early next year.

The plan would extend the existing cordon to cover 75 per cent of the City, including St Paul's Cathedral and the Barbican. The Old Bailey, which was the target of an IRA bomb in the early 1970s will also come into the security zone for the first time. The perimeter will run along Farringdon and New Bridge streets in the west, and West Smithfield, Beech and Chiswell streets in the north. Four new police checkpoints will also be set up at Queen Victoria Street, Ludgate Hill, Holborn Viaduct and Aldersgate street. It will involve 14 changes including the creation of new access points and the closure of many road junctions to vehicle traffic. Existing signs will be masked off and timber baulks and plastic barriers will be erected as a short-term measure.

The pounds 250,000 scheme was proposed and backed by the City of London Police, which has seen the existing cordon contribute to a 16 per cent reduction in crime in the City since it was first erected in July 1993.

At yesterday's meeting, the Corporation was quick to point out that the new proposals will help ease congestion, reduce air pollution and make London's financial heart a safer place for pedestrians.

Michael Cassidy, chairman of the Corporation's Policy and Resources Committee said that since the last cordon was erected there had been a 40 per cent reduction in the number of road traffic accidents.