Road closure plans for demonstrations in Dewsbury spark anger

WORK WITh US: Kirklees division Chf Supt David Lunn.
WORK WITh US: Kirklees division Chf Supt David Lunn.

PLANS to close key town centre roads ahead of two demonstrations have angered retailers.

Police and Kirklees Council have spent months planning for a national demonstration by the far-right English Defence League (EDL) and a counter demonstration led by the Trade Union Council (TUC) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) tomorrow.

Worried traders have been repeatedly assured that any disruption will be kept to a minimum.

But this week, it emerged that 13 town centre roads and three car parks will be hit by closures.

Chf Supt David Lunn said: “Inevitably and unfortunately there will be disruption in Dewsbury on Saturday, but we are planning to keep that to a minimum. The town is still open for business.

“What I am asking is for people who are not associated with the protests to stay away from the demonstrations so that the police operation can run smoothly and there can be as little disruption as possible to the businesses and regular visitors to Dewsbury.”

Dewsbury Retail Forum chairwoman Tas Marshall said she had been inundated with complaints when leaflets detailing the road closures were handed out by community rangers on Wednesday.

“They’ve listed all these road closures then said to carry on as normal,” she said. “Retailers are asking how they can carry on as normal if they can’t get into work or take deliveries?”

Batley and Spen MP Mike Wood (Lab) wrote to West Yorkshire chief constable Sir Norman Bettison this week asking him to stop the EDL from marching in Dewsbury. He said an EDL demonstration in Cleckheaton in March had led to trouble spilling over into Heckmondwike and Dewsbury.

“This history of trouble, attacks and arrests must dispel any claim the EDL has to a legitimate right to march,” he said.

But police argued the EDL was staging a static demonstration, not a march.

Chf Supt Lunn said: “The police have a duty to facilitate peaceful protest, which is the lawful right of those taking part. “We have a great deal of experience in West Yorkshire in policing demonstrations of this type and I can assure you that detailed planning has been ongoing for many weeks.”

He said there would be significant number of police and staff from partner agencies in Dewsbury and surrounding areas.

He added: “By working together, we can all ensure this event passes as peacefully as possible and quickly return our town centre to normality for the businesses and residents who use it.”

EDL supporters are expected to start arriving in Dewsbury from 11am and will be escorted to two town centre pubs by police. They will hold a demonstration outside the town hall with speeches between 1pm and 3pm.

Supporters of the UAF and TUC will gather in Cliffe Street car park from 11am before a demonstration in Foundru at 1.30pm. They say the celebration of multi-cultural Dewsbury, backed by faith leaders, will be a peaceful show of anti-racist unity.

Streets which could be closed when necessary by police between 6am and 6pm tomorrow are: Dewsbury Ring Road (between A644 Webster Hill and Halifax Road), Wellington Road (between Eightlands Road and Nelson Street), Wellington Street, Bond Street, Wellington Road East, Longcauseway, Crackenedge Lane (Longcauseway to Sharp Street), Wakefield Old Road, Manor Street, Town Hall Way, Corporation Street, Foundry Street and Sharp Street. Old Wakefield Road car park will be closed and sections of the train station and Cliffe Street car parks will also be closed.