High Profile Site Security "Needs a Major Re-Think," Says UK's Leading Enforcement Agency

High Profile Site SecuritySecurity enforcement around major industrial and commercial sites of national importance requires a major re-think, according to the UK's leading High Court Enforcement Agency, Shergroup.

As direct campaigners become more expert in mobilising public opposition and taking aggressive direct protest, the threat from a wide range of sources including eco warriors, industrial squatting and disruption to national utilities such as energy, water, and gas is escalating, and Shergroup warns that the commercial costs to the nation of such actions could be "astronomic."

Alan Smith, Chief Operating Officer at Braintree, Essex-based Shergroup, who has responsibility for security, says diverse protest groups are now using Parliamentary campaigns, the courts, the planning process, and the media to back up their site-specific campaigns.

"Concerns about global warning and related direct protests mean millions of pounds worth of property may be at risk as increasingly sophisticated campaigners focus on new targets.

"These may include coal power stations, the new generation of proposed nuclear stations, the third runway at Heathrow, or other vulnerable sites that are crucial to the national economy, but which may be perceived as causing environmental problems."

Shergroup's highly-skilled team was on the frontline at a recent high-profile eviction triggered by the slump in economic markets, leading to industrial squatting, where redundant workers bedded down on site and refused to leave.

A recent unforeseen sit-in at three factories across the south of England when Visteon, a vehicle parts company's American owner, pulled the plug, plunging the company into administration with the loss of many hundreds of UK jobs, was an expensive example of how redundancies can spiral into industrial action.

Angry Visteon staff held unscheduled rooftop protests at the factory site in Enfield and the dispute spread to the Basildon site - requiring the company to call in Shercurity at the eleventh hour to help vacate the site and restore calm.

"With the numbers of people being laid off showing few signs of declining, we can expect many more of these direct action campaigns," says Alan, who is calling for a more considered approach to high-profile site management.

"Security expertise should be brought in right from the start, especially where the threat from disruption to production or damage to property is high.

"We at Shergroup urge the management of these sites to make the shift from a focus on physical evictions, once the site has been occupied, to a more strategic undertaking of mission analysis, gathering intelligence and using the latest technology and equipment.

"Because of the specialist nature of many of these targeted sites, huge costs are incurred if protestors are allowed to get on to them. That is what happened at Visteon in Enfield and Basildon and that is what is likely to happen with increasing frequency in other areas of the country.

"Companies bring management consultants on to sites when they think there may have to be redundancies, but we think that security experts also need to be at the site at that same stage, to accompany management consultants if necessary, so we can give a full risk assessment and position ourselves as an integral part of the solution."

Alan's message is that too many high-risk sites are still marked by a short-term lack of investment and an unwillingness or inability to look at the larger security picture.

Alan adds, "The risk of any disruption to our country's energy is very real, and we need to be planning for such a scenario well in advance.

"These disruptions are not always caused by redundancies. Energy and environmental issues may also trigger major and expensive on-site confrontations."

Shergroup faced that scenario at a Northamptonshire power station, where eco protestors climbed up and locked on to a 650-foot chimney to make their point.

Says Alan: "Our people had to spend two-and-a-half hours climbing up the hot, dusty chimney to remove the protestors from a dangerous situation.

"Of course, the turbine had to be shut down and closing it stands to cost in excess of £250,000 for each day it is not in production."

Alan's concerns come as global warming and its consequences for security, for jobs and the potential for disrupting lives may mean millions of pounds worth of property could be at risk.

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