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Designing out terrorism in crowded places

Design quality has been placed at the heart of planning for security in draft counter-terrorism guidance from the Home Office.

Canary Wharf Station. Photo by Joe D. Miles

Safer places: a counter-terrorism supplement, which was out for consultation over the summer, seeks to ensure that counter-terrorism features are included in building and public space designs from the start to protect them from attack.

Eight years on from the 9/11 attacks on New York City, the guidance says the threat from terrorism remains “severe”, meaning that an attack, which could occur without warning, is “highly likely” on crowded places.

The guidance stresses the importance and cost-effectiveness of designing in counter-terrorism measures into new buildings from the start. But it says that in doing so, “we should not lose sight of the overall aim of creating great places where people want to live, work and play”.

It says that there is no “one size fits all” answer to designing for counter-terrorism: different sites present unique challenges that need bespoke solutions. And it stresses joint working from planners, designers, security advisors, engineers and developers to create solutions.

The guidance seeks to avoid intrusive retrofitting (as happened with the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square and the Palace of Westminster). It shows that it is possible to create attractive public spaces and deliver security benefits at the same time.

Brian Quinn, a CABE Space advisor, praises the City of London, which has thought beyond specific sites and reconfigured street networks. “Counter terrorism measures in these new spaces have been incorporated in new seating, public art and planting.”

Safer places: a counter-terrorism supplement incorporates urban design principles and points to guidance such as the Department for Transport’s Manual for streets. The final guidance will supplement Safer Places, the anti-crime good practice guidance published in 2004.

CABE was a member of the working group advising on the guidance.

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