Plans to re-open public gallery at Peterborough Town Hall a year after it was first closed

Plans have been revealed to re-open the public gallery at Peterborough Town Hall a year after it was first closed.

Peterborough City Council has been shutting the gallery in the Council Chamber since last July when a protest against Cllr Andy Coles led to a meeting being adjourned for a week. When the meeting was held a week later the council paid a private security firm to help keep the peace.

Police in the public gallery during a vocal protest against Cllr Andy Coles

Police in the public gallery during a vocal protest against Cllr Andy Coles

Since the public gallery has been closed with the council streaming the meetings in a room inside the Town Hall and on its Facebook page.

Tonight's meeting - which will see a new mayor chosen, and the new cabinet revealed - will follow the same format, but it is hoped to have the gallery re-opened for the Full Council meeting in July with a transparent screen put up to stop people from falling over the edge.

An email sent to councillors by Rachel Edwards, council head of constitutional services, states: "As you will be aware the decision to close the public gallery was made following a council meeting on 19 July 2017 because of a significant disturbance which made it impossible for the council to conduct important business.

"Following this the police voiced concerns about the safety of the public gallery. Specifically, that if any further disturbances were to take place, the current layout and design of the public gallery made it unsafe to attempt to clear the area. Having received this advice, the public gallery was temporarily closed.

"We can now confirm that a full survey has taken place and a contractor has been appointed to carry out the necessary structural improvements, enabling the public gallery to re-open. We have been informed that this will take around 10 weeks to complete and will hopefully mean that the public gallery will be open by the next council meeting in July.

"In the meantime this evening's meeting will be broadcast via a video link to the Bourges Room in the Town Hall and, due to the success of the live recordings, the residents of Peterborough are able to watch proceedings Facebook Live."