PROPERTY JOURNAL

How will protect duty affect public premises?

Draft legislation will require owners and operators of publicly accessible locations to be prepared for potential terrorist attacks. What action can they take now to ensure they are ready?

Author:

  • Andy Williams

15 December 2023

Aerial photo of the O2 in London

Many property management professionals are aware of the draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill that will place a duty on any person responsible for qualifying public premises or events to take certain steps to enhance security and minimise the threat of terrorism at publicly accessible locations. 

Some readers will also have taken part in the initial consultations on the draft in February 2021, which received 2,755 individual and organisational responses. These helped establish a baseline for what the legislation should include, and which kinds of premises it should cover. 

But organisations are still closely monitoring the progress of the bill – also known as Martyn's Law – named after Martyn Hett, a victim of the 2017 Manchester Arena bomb – so they can prepare to comply with any potential requirements arising from future legislation. 

Terror concerns prompt legislative proposals

In recent years, the UK has suffered a number of terror attacks in public places, including the Manchester Arena attack, the bombings at Parsons Green Underground Station and stabbings on London Bridge all in 2017. 

London Bridge was the focal point of attack again in 2019 and there was also a terror attack at the Manchester Arndale Centre. In addition, in 2020 a terror attack took place in Forbury Gardens, Reading. These examples all show the importance of protecting publicly accessible locations. 

All of these attacks took place after the Manchester Arena bombings. Figen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett was killed in that attack, has been calling for the introduction of Martyn's Law after realising that more was needed to be done to ensure the protection of the public.

Additional support for the legislation was provided by the chair of the Manchester Arena Inquiry, Sir John Saunders, who in volume one of his report criticised the lack of a duty to identify and mitigate the risk of terrorism and provide adequate protection to the public. 

Any premises in which qualifying activities take place would be covered by the legislation, including:

  • entertainment and leisure venues
  • retail, food and drink outlets
  • museums and galleries
  • sports grounds
  • public areas of local and central government buildings
  • visitor attractions
  • temporary events
  • places of worship
  • healthcare facilities
  • education premises.

Any qualifying activities – including temporary events – must have a defined boundary for the relevant premises, which allows the capacity to be determined. 

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Requirements defined by size of premises

The proposal at present is to split any qualifying premises and events into two separate tiers:

  • Standard tier: this would include premises with a capacity of more than 100 but fewer than 799 individuals. Responsible persons will be required to undertake effective but simple measures to ensure preparedness and increase protective security
  • Enhanced tier: this would include any premises with a capacity of more than 800 persons at any one time. Employers will not only have to meet the requirements of a standard-tier site but also comply with additional stipulations – yet to be determined, but including an element of personal responsibility on individuals. 

Premises and events in both tiers will be required to register with a regulator; though at the time of writing the identity of this regulator has yet to be confirmed.

As currently proposed, smaller premises within larger properties will have to adhere to the relevant legislative requirements. 

For instance, a shopping centre with a capacity of more than 800 would count as an enhanced premises, but if it also contained a cinema with a capacity of 800-plus and a large store with a capacity of more than 100, they would also have to adhere to the enhanced- and standard-tier requirements, respectively. 

Inspectorate set to enforce compliance

To ensure compliance with the legislation, it is proposed that there will be a specific inspectorate set up to help qualifying premises fulfil their legal requirements. Premises and events that fail to work with this inspectorate would face potential sanctions, such as:

  • enforcement or improvement notices
  • financial penalties
  • closure.

The size of these financial penalties would depend on the tier of the premises or event in question:

  • standard tier: maximum of £10,000
  • enhanced tier: potentially a maximum of up to £18m or 5% of the person's qualifying worldwide revenue, whichever is the greater. 

Property managers can make simple preparations

At present, the bill is in draft form so these requirements may well change. But there are still some simple preparations that those responsible for public events and venues can make to ensure that, when and if the legislation is passed, there is a smooth transition from normal operations to compliance:

  • read the government-produced documentation and guidance notes surrounding Martyn's Law which are all available here
  • download the Protect UK app
  • regularly engage with your local counter terrorism security adviser
  • ensure that all your standard operating procedures (SOPs) are up to date, regularly reviewed and fit for purpose and that all site teams are familiar with these SOPS and what to do in the event of an emergency
  • review emergency plans, business continuity and disaster recovery plans to ensure they are fit for purpose and regularly tested; a dedicated staff member should be responsible for them, but plans must be understood by all
  • carry out regular emergency response practice tests and procedures, and keep written records of such practices and tests.

'There are some simple preparations that those responsible for public events and venues can make to ensure compliance'

Final provisions to be determined

The Commons Home Affairs Committee published a report on the bill on the 27 July 2023. While acknowledging the importance of the bill's aims, it raised serious concerns around the proportionality, potential costs to business, the absence of an appointed regulator and potential effect on reducing terrorist threats.

The report also agreed with the Regulatory Policy Committee's rating of the bill as not being fit for purpose.

With this in mind, the legislation is likely to be amended significantly as it continues its passage through Parliament. Assuming it does so, the bill is likely to be enacted in 2025, after which there should be a grace period to enable all premises to ensure they are compliant. 

However, the property management sector – and especially those firms with large portfolios of qualifying premises – will have to act quickly to do so. 

While employers should not take any major steps before the final provisions of any new legislation are clear, it will be sensible for firms to be sure that they currently have appropriate security measures in place with the ability to adopt any new required measures as and when applicable. 

 

Andy Williams is associate emergency planning director and events compliance manager at Savills

Contact Andy: Email

Related competencies include: Risk management

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