Ring of steel goes up on Brighton seafront ready for Labour conference

Posted On 24 Sep 2015 at 4:59 pm

The ring of steel is going up on Brighton seafront as preparations for the Labour Party conference gather pace.

The event is expected to generate an estimated £15 million for the local economy with hotel and guest house rooms booked up for the coming week.

As a result, some people coming to the conference are staying as far away as Gatwick.

Brighton Centre new

The Brighton Centre

And Sussex Police said that the force had spent the past year planning the security measures that are being put in place.

The force promised to keep disruption to a minimum for the people who live and work in the area, while doing all they could to keep everyone safe and facilitate peaceful protest.

More than 10,000 people are due to start arriving in Brighton on Saturday (26 September) for the four-day annual conference which starts on Sunday (27 September) and ends on Wednesday (30 September).

The party’s National Women’s Conference is due to take place on Saturday.

The Brighton Centre will also host about 140 stands during the conference which is expected to attract huge media attention to the city for the third time in a few weeks.

It follows new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the TUC on Tuesday last week (15 September) and the Rugby World Cup matches at the weekend, including Japan’s unexpected win over South Africa.

Howard Barden

Howard Barden

Even the police in Brighton and Hove have been in the limelight, with ITV screening its three-part documentary The Nick earlier this month.

Howard Barden, head of tourism at Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “The media impact for Brighton and Hove is probably unquantifiable but we have the opportunity to showcase our city.

“It’s very exciting. We are pretty experienced at doing these types of events. And we’re very competitive in the market. This is a prized event.”

Mr Corbyn is due to speak on Tuesday afternoon, addressing his party conference for the first time as leader.

The People’s Assembly is expected to hold a demonstration outside the Brighton Centre from 10am on Sunday.

The group plans to unfurl a banner applauding the 48 Labour MPs who voted against the Welfare Reform and Work Bill and listing the 185 Labour MPs who abstained.

Inspector Niall Griffin, who has helped lead the planning of the policing operation, urged any groups planning a protest or demonstration to get in touch.

He said: “Sussex Police is trying to make sure there’s a safe environment for the conference to take place and that it the least inconvenience to people living and working in the city going about their business.

“If there are protests, we aim to facilitate them safely. If people are planning any protest we’d like them to contact us so we can help them.”

Inspector Niall Griffin

Inspector Niall Griffin

Inspector Griffin said that police would manage the flow of exhibitors as they arrived and left Brighton, with all lanes open as usual. And only the layby in front of the Brighton Centre would be closed to traffic. No pavements were being closed, he said. A few will be narrower.

All the exhibitors would be in the Brighton Centre this year. In previous years some have taken stands in the exhibition hall at the rear of the Hilton Brighton Metropole.

The Metropole is the headquarters hotel and, like the Brighton Centre, has its own “ring of steel” with security firm GS4 checking passes and carrying out searches.

It means that the ticket office will be closed to people calling in person although customers are being encouraged to buy tickets for concerts and other events online or by phone.

Mr Barden said that he had been having regular planning meetings to prepare for the conference for some time.

And Inspector Griffin, the deputy planning co-ordinator at Sussex Police, said: “My role commenced about a year ago and then I had a small team that started around Whitsun time.”

He said that his focus was on the three Ms – minimising, mitigating and managing risks.

“There is,” he said, “a contingency plan if anything does happen. We’ve tested those plans with everyone involved – the party, the hotel, the Brighton Centre – in a table-top exercise.”

Naturally he hopes not to have to test those plans for real. He was reluctant to reveal the number of police officers involved or the cost at this stage. But the Home Office, he added, provided a grant to foot the bill.

It will also be payable when the Liberal Democrats and the TUC return to hold their annual conferences in Brighton next September and when Labour returns the year after.

But the immediate focus is on making sure this year’s event is a success.

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