PLANS for anti-terror blocks to be installed permanently in York city centre have been approved - after councillors heard terrorist groups are turning their attention on “soft targets” outside London.

And a senior councillor said it is essential the safety measures are put in place as soon as possible.

A counter terrorism specialist told councillors that nationally there is a 90 per cent chance the next attack in this country would involve the use of a vehicle as a weapon and a 70 per cent chance of a bomb inside a vehicle being used.

Many cities and towns are installing hostile vehicle mitigation measures, the meeting heard.

Shaun Tunstall, counter terrorism security advisor, told councillors at a meeting: “The likely targets for an attack in this country are crowded places - areas where there are many members of the public present, particularly soft targets - are being looked at by the terrorist groups at the moment.

“Having had some difficulty carrying out attacks in London, they are now turning towards softer targets throughout the country.”

In York, the decision means

- parts of the city centre will be closed to traffic, except emergency services, from 10.30am to 5pm

- fixed bollards will be installed at the end of Parliament Street

- the council will work with counter terror experts to review safety measures before this Christmas

- the council will buy moving bollards to install in the city centre and at York Racecourse

But resident Roger Pierce asked councillors why some areas - such as Petergate, Duncombe Place and Goodramgate - were not going to be protected by new security measures.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne said: “As we heard from the counter terrorism advisor, it’s essential that we put these measures in place as quickly as we can.

“It’s important to stress that this is very much as you’ve heard part of a wider picture.

“We need to walk before we can run, this is very much the most central area and the busiest part of the city. We are working with the counter terrorism unit to identify any other areas that need protecting and we will consult before those measures are extended.

“The new measures won’t be in place before Christmas this year - the arrangement we had last year and we have had for several years for St Nicholas [Christmas] Fair will be in place.

“We have had temporary blocks and locking bollards - that arrangement will continue until such time as we have ordered the permanent features that will work automatically.”

A future council meeting will look in greater detail at the plans and how much the sliding bollards will cost.

The area protected will include Parliament Street, Davygate, St Sampson’s Square, High Ousegate, Spurriergate, Coney Street, Finkle Street, Church Street and Jubbergate. Permanent “hostile vehicle mitigation measures” will also be installed at the racecourse entrance at the junction of Racecourse Road and Knavesmire Road.

Plans for a drop-off point in St Sampson’s Square for Dial and Ride services and a proposal to change the taxi rank on Piccadilly into blue badge parking were also approved at the council executive meeting on Thursday evening.