Chorley G7 Speakers' Summit: huge security operation begins as borough prepares "to wow" its VIPs

A security ring has been thrown around Chorley’s Astley Hall as last-minute preparations step up ahead of the G7 Speakers’ Summit in the borough this weekend.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 6:35 pm

Chorley MP and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is getting ready to welcome counterparts from around the world - including US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelsosi - to the town he has represented in Parliament for almost 25 years.

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Chorley to lay on traditional Lancashire spread for G7 Speakers' Summit

The main part of the event will be staged at the recently-refurbished hall, with the historic venue hosting a series of discussions on Saturday about how to maintain the balance between open democracy and secure legislative buildings.

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Officers are already standing guard around Astley Hall (image: Neil Cross)

However, it was the security surrounding the event itself which was preoccupying the authorities on Thursday, with police involved in painstaking searches of the grounds - including divers delving into the lake in Astley Park.

Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley admits that it was a surreal sight - but says he could not be prouder of the borough getting its moment in the global spotlight.

“I’m sure London is far more used to these things - sealing manhole covers and making sure routes are all safe and secure.

The idyllic setting of Astley Hall is being combed to ensure it is secure for its high-profile guests (Image: Neil Cross)

“But there are lots of people involved behind the scenes in the preparations - not just the police and security [teams], but also the catering. There are a lot of people to be looked after and entertained - and we are doing our best to make sure nothing is forgotten.

“We’re also doing everything we can to make sure Chorley looks its very best, [because] we’re on the world stage.

“I fully expect [the guests] to be given a typical Lancashire welcome,” Cllr Bradley said.

Astley Park will remain open to the public during the event, but the area around the hall is cordoned off and businesses in the vicinity are closed until Sunday afternoon.

Divers have been delving into the lake in Astley Park (image: Neil Cross)

As the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed earlier this week, the dignitaries will be treated to a menu of Lancashire delights during their three-day trip - including butter pie and, of course, Chorley cakes.

Deputy council leader Peter Wilson expects that they will be as impressed with the stunning setting for their deliberations as they will with the food served up to them.

While there are still several weeks of refurbishment work to come in some of the internal areas of Astley Hall, the parts of the building that will be on display to the guests have been restored to their previous grandeur.

A last-minute spruce-up of the grounds of Astley Hall (image: Neil Cross)

“All the exterior is done - all the render has been removed and gone back to [how it was originally],” said Cllr Wilson.

“Six rooms inside have also been completed - including the great hall, dining room and the old drawing room.

“It's all looking very special - we’re hoping that it’ll wow them.

“To be able to showcase Chorley during an international conference of such standing as the G7 is wonderful - it’s never happened before and it’ll probably never happen again. It is that one-off moment in time.”

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Levels of security usually associated with capital cities have been deployed in Chorley ahead of the G7 Speakers' Summit (image: Neil Cross)