Tough security measures will be taken within days to protect Preston’s main shopping street from a terrorist attack.
Heavy wood and metal planters will be installed along Fishergate this week to prevent vehicles targeting Christmas shoppers.
The authorities are stressing the move is NOT in response to a specific threat.
But Preston City Council leader Peter Rankin insisted: “The safety of our residents and visitors is extremely important to us and we support whatever action is necessary to assure it.”
The measures are being brought in after talks between police and both the county and city councils.
The heavy planters, which will be spaced along the length of Fishergate, are intended to reduce the space for vehicles to mount the pavement and be driven into pedestrians.
The move comes after a series of sickening attacks in London and across Europe where cars, vans and lorries have been used to bring carnage to the streets.
One such attack, in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas in August, claimed the lives of 14 people when a van was driven onto the pavement, mowing down shoppers and tourists.
It was the eighth such attack on pedestrians in Europe during 2017. There were two others in 2016.
The Preston defences will be temporary measures and will be replaced by more permanent defences next year.
A County Hall spokesman assured the public last night: “The move follows discussions with Lancashire Police to reduce the risk of a serious incident taking place, however it is not in response to a specific threat.”
Preston is the latest city to install security buffers in a bid to prevent a vehicle being driven at pedestrians.
Potential targets like Manchester’s Christmas Markets have been protected by a ring of concrete barriers.
“The UK threat level is severe, so it’s right that we do something,” said Coun Keith Iddon, LCC’s cabinet member for highways and transport. “It’s important though that this is proportionate and still means that we can carry on with our daily lives.
“We’re going to position these planters so that people on the pavement can still get around easily, while helping to reduce the chance of an incident taking place.
“The planters will help to protect pedestrians. Thousands of people come into Preston every day and we have a responsibility to make sure that they can come here and have a safe and enjoyable experience.”
The work to install the new features will be carried out outside peak times.
Preston Council leader Coun Rankin added: “We take the advice given by Lancashire Police very seriously and understand why these measures are being taken across the UK.”Terrorist attacks using vehicles as weapons have claimed 130 lives in the past 18 months across Europe.
In total there have been nine such incidents, seven of them bringing death to the streets.
The worst atrocity came in the Promenade des Anglais in Nice in July 2016 when a lorry was driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day near the seafront. The attack claimed the lives of 86 pedestrians and left 458 injured, many of them seriously.
In December 2016 shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin were mown down by a man who shot a lorry driver, stole his vehicle and ploughed into crowds, killing a further 11 and injuring 56.
Terror came to the streets of London in March for the first of three such attacks, when a four-by-four killed five pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then stabbed a police officer to death outside Parliament before being shot dead. 49 were injured that day.
Two weeks later an attack by a man in a hijacked lorry in Stockholm killed five and seriously injured 14.
In June a second attack in London, this time on London Bridge, killed eight people and injured 48, 21 critically. Three atttackers used a rented van to mow down pedestrians before going on a stabbing frenxy in Borough Market before being shot.
Less than three weeks after that, also in London, a man in a van ploughed into worshippers outside a mosque in Finsbury Park, killing one man.
On the same day a botched suicide ttack on the Champs-Elysees in Paris left just the attacker dead. He had driven a car packed with explosives into police.
Six people were injured, but none killed, when a car was driven into a group of soldiers, also in Paris.
And in August a rented van drove down the busy Las Ramblas in Barcelona, careering into groups of pedestrians, killing 13 and injuring more than 50 others.