07 February 2020 20:34
THE EVACUATION of Festival Place has been officially confirmed by the fire brigade as a hoax. LIVE UPDATES: Hampshire Fire and Rescue confirmed the news to the Gazette after the shopping centre was evacuated earlier this afternoon. All fire engines have stood down from the scene. The centre has since been re-opened. Police said bomb disposal experts found that the device wasn't "a danger to the public".
A statement from Hampshire Constabulary said: "We were called just after 3pm this afternoon to a report of a suspicious package being found in a toilet at Festival Place, Basingstoke. "Officers attended and put in place a 100 metre cordon. "The Explosive Ordnance Disposal team was called in and safely recovered the item, which was assessed as not being a danger to the public "This was a multi-agency response to safeguard the public and we are grateful for people's patience this afternoon. "The cordon was lifted as soon as possible." The shopping centre was re-opened to the public just at around 6.30pm, after three hours. Shops were forced to close and people had to leave the centre, with swimmers at the Basingstoke Sports Centre spotted outside with foil blankets and no shoes. Sniffer dogs were spotted at the scene shortly before the cordon was extended from 100 metres to cover the whole of Festival Place.