The city centre of Sheffield could be plunged into chaos by watertight security arrangements planned for the three-day G8 summit of the world's richest nations between May 15 and 17. Police have so far refused to go into detail about the effect of their arrangements to safeguard Ministers while in Sheffield.
However, it has emerged that a section of the city centre will be effectively closed down while one high-profile meeting takes place.
The Lyceum Theatre has cancelled an evening show following discussions with police and Sheffield Council and it is understood several roads in the area, including Surrey Street and Norfolk Street, will be sealed off. The scale of the security arrangements became apparent when Lyceum officials told Woodseats Musical Group that the premises would not be available for one evening of its six-night run planned for May. The semi-professional group has sunk £52,000 into the production and says the decision could potentially cost it £18,000 in lost ticket sales.
That could leave the group struggling to break even. Spokesman Alan Brailey said: "They have said they are closing the theatre because an event for the G8 will be held nearby.
"We asked why they were closing and they said they were not prepared to take the risk. "Our costs remain the same, however. The scenery is costing £5,000 and the costumes £6,000 but we don't get a sixth of that back because we are losing a show."
The group is now checking whether they have any right to compensation because of problems caused by the G8. It is expected the Home Office will meet the cost of the security operation for the summit, though they were still in discussions with South Yorkshire Police.
Other traffic restrictions in the area are also expected, the authorities having to guard against both the threat from terrorism and from protesters.
People planning protests are already using the Internet to exchange information. Officially, police will not comment even to confirm which areas of Sheffield will be used for G8 meetings. It is likely, though, that other meetings will take place in the city centre and that similar restrictions will be imposed.
All leave for South Yorkshire officers has been cancelled for the period foreign dignitaries will be in Sheffield, confirming the force will be working to its maximum capacity.
The summit was arranged while Brightside MP David Blunkett was serving as Home Secretary and the decision to host the event in Sheffield was regarded as a major coup for the city. The G8 countries are the world's most influential powers and are: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, the United States and Russia.
Sheffield will host a meeting of home affairs and justice ministers, the international equivalents of Britain's Home Secretary, making the event an obvious target for terrorists. One role of G8 countries is to work together to try to minimise the threat from terrorism by introducing tighter security.
A South Yorkshire force spokesman said: "We are working to ensure all the gatherings of home affairs and justice ministers pass off smoothly and with the best possible security and safety, as would be the objective with any large- scale event.
"In terms of the detail of how we will achieve that, I am not at liberty to say. "Given the fact that senior ministers will be in Sheffield on those dates, then clearly we have a duty and an obligation to safeguard their ability to take part in the Government-organised discussions that will be taking place," he said.
23 March 2005