Public gallery to be shut as council braced for second protest at Peterborough Town Hall

A few of the protesters outside the Town Hall
A few of the protesters outside the Town Hall

Fears of a second protest at the Town Hall have prompted Peterborough City Council to close the public gallery for tomorrow evening’s full council meeting.

The council, which adjourned last Wednesday’s meeting for a week due to a vocal protest against Cllr Andy Coles, said a second protest on Wednesday (July 26) could be even more disruptive.

The protest in the public gallery

The protest in the public gallery

However, visitors to the Town Hall will be able to watch a live stream of the meeting from another room in the building.

Mayor of Peterborough Cllr John Fox, who is in charge of the meeting, said: “Based on information from officers and the police, I feel I have grounds to expect a similar protest at the reconvened meeting on July 26.

“There is no evidence that the circumstances around the protest have changed - if anything it may be on a larger scale. I believe that there is a strong possibility that the demonstration will be equally, or perhaps even more, disruptive.”

The protesters last week filled the public gallery and called for Cllr Coles to resign.

Cllr Coles is the former Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire who resigned from that role following the screening of a Channel 4 investigation which claimed he had a relationship with a young activist while working as an undercover officer.

The Channel 4 programme screened on Friday, May 12 centred on an investigation into the activities of undercover police officers in the 1990s who infiltrated a group of animal rights activists.

The programme interviewed a woman who is taking legal action against Met Police and her allegations against Mr Coles.

Mr Coles, the Conservative city councillor for the Fletton and Woodston ward and former city council cabinet member for children’s services, was present at last week’s meeting.

A peaceful protest was held outside the Town Hall prior to the meeting starting, at which time protesters filled the public gallery in the council chamber.

Police attended and tried to calm the protesters, but the mayor called the meeting to an end soon after.

Cllr Fox added: “It is with the greatest reluctance that I have taken the decision, under my inherent powers as chairman, to exclude the public from the council chamber and public gallery at the reconvened council meeting.

“I have come to this view after very carefully weighing up the needs to secure the safety of the public and members, and the need to ensure that the legitimate democratic processes of the council are not further frustrated.

“In forming this view I have taken the advice of officers, the police and the council’s legal officer.

“I am mindful that this is a very unusual step. In order to ensure that the public have access to the proceedings as they occur I have given instructions that arrangements for a live stream of the meeting to take place in the Bourges-Viersen Room for the public to view.

“Accredited members of the press and councillors’ guests will be permitted into the chamber as usual.”

The live stream will also be available to view on social media.

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