Sedgefield battens down as the Bush machine rolls into town

Parking around the village green in Sedgefield is not normally an issue. It could be more difficult this week. On almost every lamp-post yesterday, notices warned that no cars would be tolerated between 8pm today and 5pm tomorrow. The message was reinforced by officers knocking on doors up and down the main street: remove your vehicle or pay the price.

The arrival of President George Bush to this former coalfield constituency has put in train a security operation unseen in living memory in Co Durham. Police in stab-proof vests and fluorescent jackets have been patrolling the streets in a highly visible show of strength. In the shadows of the town's delicatessens, craft shops and country inns, plainclothes officers lurk.

Drains have been sealed off with tar, manholes inspected and ventilation shafts blocked with rubber seals and wedged shut. All police leave in the area has been cancelled and officers drafted in from the Northumbria and Cleveland forces to make up the 1,300 needed here for "special duty".

Yesterday, Special Branch officers and members of the US Secret Service made a sweep of the town in a £1m security operation for a visit likely to last only a couple of hours. "All this disruption for nothing," said Bill Sanderson, a builder caught up in the security sweep in his car outside the 14th-century church of St Edmund's, which dominates the village green. "I don't know why he's coming here, and if it means all this fuss and bother for the rest of us he should stay away."

Security will remain high between now and tomorrow when hordes of anti-Bush protesters are expected to descend to greet the President and Tony Blair when they arrive for lunch, possibly to be taken at the 200-year-old Dun Cow Inn where Mr Blair has entertained President Jacques Chirac of France and the former French prime minister Lionel Jospin.

Nobody at the pub with three AA diamonds was willing to talk except to say they had been told to say nothing. But police were present when new kitchen equipment was delivered on Tuesday. Presumably the gleaming equipment would be needed to prepare something suitable in keeping with the usual £15.95 lunch menu of tomato soup or chicken liver paté for starters, rump steak or roast turkey for a main course, and sticky toffee pudding or Christmas pudding for dessert. But there was still an air of excitement among the 3,000 villagers that the "most powerful man in the world" was travelling to their home.

Sedgefield, where Mr Blair has been MP since 1983, is a better-off area than many of the surrounding former pit villages dotting the countryside. Bob Wilson, a lorry driver, said: "It's good for the status of the area to have such high-profile visitors despite the security. There has been a lot of police activity, but nothing to stop the locals getting on with their lives."

Carrie Ashton, 26, said: "I think it's exciting. It's not every day the most powerful man in the world comes to your village." She works in Katie's Kitchen, a delicatessen selling cheese, cold meats and health foods in the village centre. But a few doors down from the Dun Cow, Peter Coo, a 57-year-old psychologist who has refused to let police inspect his home before the visit, proudly displayed a range of "Stop Bush" posters in the window of his elegant three-storey townhouse. "I'm very pleased to welcome Mr Bush to our town, but I feel strongly that the office he represents leaves a lot to be desired," he said. "This is just a photo opportunity to boost his election campaign for next year and if it was possible to me to provide a voice to the American people I would say it is time for them to wake up to the politics going on in their name. They are not fighting terrorism; they are creating terrorism and it saddens me our local MP is so involved in this.

"Sedgefield is split; there are those who support the Prime Minister and his policies but I believe an awful lot of people have been appalled by the events of the past 12 months. They are unhappy about the war in Iraq, they are unhappy about its aftermath and they are unhappy about the alliance between Britain and America. A lot will make their concerns heard on Friday."

Another Sedgefield resident, Colin Stratton, said: "This visit is all a complete disgrace and unnecessary. It is a waste of good public money, spending millions on bringing Bush to Durham. That money could have been spent on useful and productive things, like crime prevention. God help this country if something happens elsewhere while 14,000 police officers are babysitting Bush."

The nearby village of Trimdon Colliery, where Mr Blair has his constituency home, has also been affected by the 21-hour road closure. Police wrote to residents saying, where possible, limited access would be given to allow people in and out of their homes.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution