Luton’s Irish community is up in arms about the last-minute cancellation of the traditional St Patrick’s Day float parade through the town centre.
Bollards blocking the usual route will remain raised on Sunday following a 2012 agreement between Luton Borough Council, Bedfordshire Police and other agencies about emergency access only.
Rejecting a plea from council leader Hazel Simmons to relax the restrictions for the parade Chief Supt Mike Colbourne wrote: “I have spoken not only to officers involved in local policing and community issues but also relevant staff regarding the PROTECT element of our Counter Terrorism Strategy.
“On balance and further to information I have been provided with... I would not be in favour of relaxing the control of access arrangements that have been negotiated and agreed.”
Luton’s St Patrick’s Festival chairman Michael Maguire said he was “disappointed and disheartened” by the news, particularly as the council’s safety advisory group had given them the go-ahead last year.
He said: “It was very short notice to change the route to accommodate vehicles and floats.
“We were told the measures would be introduced but were given the all clear by the group in September. This was changed in January.”
Members of Luton Irish Forum described the decision as “ridiculous”.
A council spokesman explained that the bollards, installed last year, “promoted pedestrian safety by enforcing a pre-existing traffic order preventing vehicles using this busy shopping thoroughfare between 10am and 6pm. “The traffic regulation order which enabled the bollards to be implemented came at the direct request of the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police on safety grounds.
“We have been working with the Irish Forum to discuss their options.”
While the council is responsible for maintenance, Beds police are in charge of access control.
LIF chief officer Noelette Hanley hopes the town centre will still have a festive atmosphere.
She said: “The parade will be all walking and cycling, starting at Manor Road then coming along Park Street, George Street, Upper George Street, Alma Street, Manchester Street and back down George Street to Market Hill.
“Entries include a farming pageant with local school children, county associations, Claddagh Gales, the Emerald, Bedfordshire University and Harpenden Pipe Bands and much more.
“We’re having a DJ at Market Hill from 10.30am to noon and The Devine Family are playing live at the Town Hall from 10.30am to 11.30am.”
A police spokesman told the News the bollards “remain primarily to ensure the safety of members of the public in the pedestrianized area of the town centre.”