Speaking to a Planning magazine reporter following the arson attack on South Oxfordshire DC's offices John Silvester, former President and current Communications Manager for POS, said "Planning is a front line activity dealing with often controversial issues. As a consequence those affected can get very emotive and potentially volatile. There is the sad case some years ago of an Enforcement Officer being shot and killed."
Silvester continued, "Planning managers must undertake regular health and safety audits and adjust their procedures as and when needed in response to actual or possible threats. POS has no statistics as to how often planning officers are threatened; but it is alas commonplace, however, actual bodily harm does appear to be relatively rare."
Silvester added "I am personally aware of one situation in Surrey where we had to put in place a raft of special measures including stab vests, coded messages, private security assistance and hire cars, all in response to violent threats from travellers on an unauthorised site. I too, as a chief officer, was once threatened by hospital staff, that I would not get treatment should I visit, if a staff car park was not approved - it having been delayed for an ecological assessment."
John Silvester Mike Kiely
Mike Kiely, also a former President of POS and the current Chair of the Board of Trustees, commented to the reporter that the South Oxfordshire incident highlighted that planning officers "need to take the necessary precautions in the course of their work when feelings run high".
Kiely, the Director of Planning at Croydon LBC, added that councils should also have up-to-date plans in place to miniomise disruption to their services when their buildings are put out of use, such as in South Oxforshire. The effect of arson, terrorist attacks or riots in putting council offices out of use also needs to be anticipated to minimise disruption to local servcies, said Kiely.