The barrier will be closed from 9:30am to 7pm everydaySophie Huskisson

A new anti-terrorism barrier, which will prevent vehicle access to King’s Parade, became operational on Thursday 16th January and is to be closed from 9:30am to 7pm every day.

The barrier, which is situated between Cambridge Chop House and Cambridge Wine Merchants and crosses King’s Parade towards King’s College, includes a 3 metre swing gate and security barges on either side, which leaves a 1.2 metre gap for cyclists on the King’s College side of the street.

Several groups spoke to Varsity about their concerns regarding the barrier, which follows earlier concerns raised by Liberal Democrat councillors about the infrastructure implemented by the Labour-led City Council.

On the first day of Lent term yesterday, Varsity spoke to several students on King’s Parade. One student from Christ’s said he was “frustrated” that the barrier is going to “restrict movement and cause congestion, making it more difficult for cyclists.”

Mila and Luc, two second-year students from Churchill, who walk along King’s Parade everyday to lectures, said “it looks terrible, and could have been made of something less jarring - the yellow sticks out.”

Particularly when going into Bene’t street, cyclists cut across the pavement. Mila joked that they were “breaking the law.”

King’s College, as the only college to be within the area enclosed by both the new barrier and traffic barrier in front of Great St. Mary’s Church, are “very concerned about the effect of the barrier,” according to King’s College Bursar, Dr Keith Carne.

Speaking to Varsity, Dr Carne suggested that the barrier “will cause difficulties for vehicles trying to turn adjacent to the Corpus Christi clock and to cyclists trying to negotiate a narrow route past the barrier”.

Dr Tim Flack, Senior Tutor of King’s College, told students in an email that “the barrier is likely to be a hazard to cyclists”, advising students to dismount and push their bike along the pavement rather than cycling through the gap in order “to avoid accidents/injury”.

There is a 1.2m gap for cyclists on the King's College side of the roadLois Wright

Cambridge Schools Eco Council has joined Cycling organisation, Camcycle, in objecting the barrier, arguing that “at a time when the threats of the climate crisis are greater than ever before” they wish to “encourage people to cycle more” but that this infrastructure “make[s] it harder for them to do so”.

John Richards, a Public Realm & Project Delivery Team Leader at Cambridge City Council who is leading this project, explained that the 1.2 metre gap “is to national cycling standards and is consistent with other cycling gaps around Cambridge”.

Richards argued that the time of the closure should mitigate cyclist congestion, “we’re closing the barrier at 9:30am on a morning because of 9 o’clock lectures. The flow of cyclists on King’s Parade reduces a lot after 9 o’clock.

“It is not an ideal arrangement and one that we shall seek to improve should the scheme ultimately become permanent, but we don’t anticipate it will lead to the problems that some appear to fear”.

Former King’s College JCR President, Sophie Georgescu, said “the problem is the idea that anti-terrorism security can simply be imposed upon communities because it’s perceived to increase our safety. No one who uses or lives on King’s Parade had the ability to stop this barrier from going up.

“I also think it is a massive concern for disabled access as there will be a bottleneck created and it will be more difficult to get through in a taxi to the front of kings, or to get through in a wheelchair if there are lots of bikes and people bottlenecked on one end.

“It very much feels like what the Council has perceived is most threatening to us is not actually the everyday concern of the students who live on King’s Parade! I think they would be much better using their time and money to support the homeless people who live on King’s Parade, for example-if you want to better a community, you should listen to all residents and members about what they need and want on a daily basis.”

Another student at King’s, who wishes to remain anonymous commented that “it’s a beautiful street and the design is really ugly”. The student, a third year who lives on King’s Parade opposite King’s college, questioned whether “it will make moving my things out of college more difficult when the year ends”.

Local businesses are concerned about the barrier's locationSophie Huskisson

Local businesses, whilst recognising the terrorist risk on King’s Parade, are concerned that the location of the barrier will cause a “backlog” of pedestrians and cyclists, creating a bigger security risk.

Concerned that the new infrastructure could cause accidents, Max Freeman, Director of Cambridge Chop House, said: “in summer, when footfall goes through the roof on King’s Parade, i just think people will be knocked over. I’ll be surprised if there isn’t a fatality on that corner- either a car hitting a pedestrian or someone hitting a cyclist or a cyclist hitting someone.

“To say it’s for public safety is actually a misnomer because all it’s going to do is create a kill zone- because in front of the corpus clock and my restaurant, that area gets very congested anyway.”

Brett Turner, Chairman of Cambridge Wine Merchants, similarly criticised the location of the barrier, deeming it “illogically thought out” because “that kind of protection is supposed to be installed on the outside of a ‘danger zone’”.

Both local businessmen suggested that the infrastructure would be better located at the corner of Trumpington Street and Silver Street, just outside of the Eve and Ravenscroft store.

Richards said that Police have raised concerns about crowds outside Corpus Clock but that King’s Parade is the primary concern. He added that Bene’t Street is used to access the Grand Arcade car park, so it is difficult to place the barrier further along Trumpington Street.

However, he said the Police and County Council are “supportive” of the infrastructure, which has followed a Road Safety Audit undertaken by the County Council, adding that the Council intends “to work with stakeholders and the public to monitor the installation and review any issues arising from it”.


Mountain View

Controversy over planned counter-terror barrier on King’s Parade

Cambridge Liberal Democrats, however, have questioned whether people’s views have been listened to. Councillor Jamie Dalzell said: “It is deeply frustrating that none of the concerns we raised at several Council meetings last year have been listened to and the Labour group have pressed ahead with this poorly planned project”.

Lewis Herbert, Labour and Co-op Councillor for Coleridge Ward, said that the new infrastructure on King’s Parade arises as “a wider review is underway of movement and public realm in the city centre to develop cycling and pedestrian space, including options on reconfiguring access routes and restricting vehicle access. The King’s Parade barrier is going ahead for security reasons, and not specially part of that.”

The barrier is intended to be similar to the National Barrier Asset modular infrastructure system which is managed by Sussex Police and has been deployed at temporary events elsewhere in the UK, including the Edinburgh Fringe, Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park and Manchester’s Christmas Markets.

The King’s Parade barrier will initially be ‘temporary’, installed for a period of 18 months whilst more permanent options are explored.

Many have taken to social media to criticise the aesthetics of the infrastructure, variously describing it as a ‘monstrous carbuncle’ and a ’sad addition to the King’s Parade streetscape’.

Herbert said the Council is seeking a long-term solution for King’s Parade which “will enable both a high standard of design assisted by being partly below ground, and aesthetics more consistent with its surroundings, and be subject to further public consultation”.

The barrier, road layout modifications, and signage cost an estimated £70,000, covered by Cambridge City Council and the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

Cambridge City Council says the infrastructure is necessary due to the number of pedestrians on King’s Parade, particularly during the summer, which makes the area a potential terrorist target. This follows advice from Counter Terrorism Security Advisors who identified King’s Parade as a potential terrorism target in Autumn 2018.

The Cambridge Independent has since raised concerns about the quality of the infrastructure, with the high-security gate being secured by “a pretty low-tech five-digit combination lock costing about £60 from a hardware store.”