A MAN was arrested last night following a security alert which forced the evacuation of Huddersfield Town Hall.
Organisers of the Mrs Sunderland Music Festival had to abandon the day’s programme following the incident yesterday afternoon.
Anti-terrorist officers were called in to investigate a suspicious package as the incident unfolded.
The six-hour drama ended around 8pm when police declared the package harmless.
A Huddersfield man in his 60s was arrested in connection with the incident around the same time.
He is being questioned by police today.
Earlier dozens of young musicians from the festival had joined Kirklees Council staff in a mass evacuation after the package was discovered.
And it meant the festival – celebrating its 122nd year – had to be halted for the day.
Police were called in and the town hall was evacuated just after 2pm when a suspicious package addressed to the Head of Council was discovered unattended on a counter.
The musicians, festival organisers and town hall employees had to wait at the evacuation point outside Huddersfield Library while specialist officers arrived from Wakefield to deal with the package.
A police spokesman said: “Specially-trained officers were called in to examine the package and inquiries began in the Huddersfield division to trace a suspect”.
Eye-witnesses said they saw bomb disposal experts entering the building.
The festival was abandoned for the day shortly after 4pm. Several music groups and an orchestra due to perform were told not to turn up.
The cancelled classes will not be re-scheduled.
Councillors at a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Huddersfield Planning Sub-committee were also evacuated.
Three of the four fire doors in the council chamber were locked as 50 councillors, officials and residents tried to escape at 2.45pm.
The meeting was cancelled at 4pm.
Michael Hampshire, chairman of the festival, said: “We are sickened. We do the festival for the children and people come from a very long way.
“It has been a nightmare but people have taken it very stoically”.
They and council staff had not been allowed back into the building to collect belongings including car keys.
A dinner planned for the hall was moved to the George Hotel last night.
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said that town hall staff thought the package suspicious and alerted the police, who evacuated the building as a precaution.
It was the second time in 24 hours that police had attended an incident at the town hall. On Wednesday evening they were present when 70 protestors were barred from attending the budget meeting at which Kirklees Council voted to slash spending by £31m.
The fire alarm sounded when Charlotte Barker, 15, of Thirsk, was eight bars into her cornet solo of The Shepherd’s Song.
“The alarm went off and I was going to ignore it. Then someone shouted: ‘You need to evacuate’ so we all left. My music was still on the stand on the stage,” she said.
See tomorrow’s Examiner for the latest festival results.