The scheme, which will involve closing 18 entry routes and restricting access to eight 'scanning' points, including one for buses and taxis only, will be installed this weekend. It has been prompted by the two large bombs in the past 15 months, but the decision to impose such a radical scheme so quickly has taken London by surprise.
Police have powers to set up an experimental scheme for six months and extend that for six more. But if it proves successful, the City Corporation will have to obtain parliamentary legislation to make it permanent.
Cars passing through the eight access points will be subjected to searches by police who will sometimes be armed, but Owen Kelly, the City of London Police Commissioner, said most vehicles will be waved through.
Although the reason for the cordon is to cut the risk of IRA attacks, Mr Kelly emphasised that there had been a lot of concern to 'improve the environment of the City by making it easier and safer for pedestrians'.
He said the City Corporation and the police had been working on a scheme for some time, but had wanted to give no advance warning in case the IRA tried a last-minute attack. Initially, there will be no permanent barriers. The corporation said 'the scheme could be changed within a week if there are problems'.
The scheme, generally welcomed by businesses, is set to meet ferocious opposition from neighbouring boroughs and motoring organisations.
Gwyneth Deakins, chairwoman of the policy strategy committee in Tower Hamlets, which borders the City, said: 'It's an act of incredible arrogance. We're in favour of traffic management schemes and sympathise with the need for increased security measures. But the City Corporation is acting as if it was on a planet of its own and not in central London.'
The Association of London Authorities said: 'I don't see how there will be anything but chaos on Monday morning. Already if a lorry breaks down, there is almost a gridlock.'
But Michael Cassidy, chairman of the corporation's policy and resources committee, said: 'Our computer models show there will not be a problem. On some routes . . . capacity will actually be increased.'
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