Protecting public spaces

The Government is consulting on a new duty to protect public venues from terrorist attacks.

The past year has seen significant changes to the way we go about our daily lives, with a renewed focus on making places as safe as possible for our communities to visit and work.

But as we start to return to the public buildings, outdoor spaces and leisure venues we have all missed so much over recent months, we are also reminded of the need for continued vigilance and mitigation in response to wider public safety and security concerns. 

The Government recently launched a consultation on a new statutory ‘Protect Duty’, which seeks to improve the safety and security of public venues and spaces – such as government buildings, parks, pubs, schools, universities, hospitals, shopping centres, public squares, music venues and sports stadiums.

Protect is one element of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. The new proposals are aimed at learning lessons from recent terrorist attacks, and follow discussions with victims’ groups such as the Martyn’s Law campaign. 

The consultation suggests that there is already good work being done by many organisations to help prevent future attacks, but notes there is currently no specific legislative requirement to consider or implement effective security measures by those operating sites and places open to the public.

The consultation seeks views on a number of issues, but the proposed duty will inevitably have a number of implications for local authorities – not least as owners and operators of publicly accessible venues and spaces in their own right. 

The first key question is who the proposals should apply to – it will be critical to find an appropriate and proportionate threshold. 

The consultation proposes that the duty should apply to venues with a capacity of 100 or more, and organisations employing 250 staff or more operating at publicly accessible locations; and should be used to improve security considerations and outcomes at public spaces – potentially bringing large numbers of venues within scope. 

For those affected, the proposals suggest the duty would require risk assessment and mitigation, including using ‘reasonably practicable’ security measures, such as training and planning for an attack. 

For public spaces, local authorities and partners could be required to: develop local plans to mitigate risks; implement proportionate measures; and work with key partners – for instance, the police – to consider how a security plan would operate in priority local areas. 

These issues raise queries about how risk assessments would be undertaken and by whom, how mitigation measures would be funded where deemed necessary, and the difficulties in identifying where responsibility for certain public spaces falls. 

Finally, the proposals suggest that an inspection regime is likely to be required to ensure that those covered by a new duty are meeting their requirements. It is likely that this role will be imposed on local authorities, prompting further questions about resourcing and sustainability.

We all want to make our local spaces as safe as we can for our residents and visitors, and it is important that a new duty strikes the right balance between protecting our communities and the risks posed. 

The consultation runs until 2 July and we are keen to hear your views. If you would like us to raise issues on your behalf and/or would be interested in participating in a focus group, as a regulator or a duty holder, please contact

See for the Protect Duty consultation, which closes on 2 July


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