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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 November, 2003, 11:05 GMT
Security alert closes Bluewater
Bluewater shopping centre
A section of Bluewater's upper floor was closed for three hours
Part of a busy shopping centre was cordoned off for three hours and a controlled explosion carried out by army bomb specialists after a security alert.

Staff and customers were led from from an area of Bluewater, near Dartford in Kent, after a member of the public reported a possible suspicious package at 1615 GMT on Saturday.

Traffic to the shopping centre was restricted but shops outside the cordoned-off section on the upper floor's Thames Walk area remained open.

A Kent Police spokeswoman said: "The military carried out a controlled explosion on a bin, which is normal practice.

Police are satisfied the safety of the public and the staff was kept to an absolute priority
Kent Police spokeswoman

"There was nothing of concern found in the bin."

The area was cordoned off between 1700 and 2000 GMT, when shoppers were allowed back in and traffic restrictions lifted.

The spokeswoman said: "Police are satisfied the safety of the public and the staff was kept to an absolute priority and disruption was kept to a minimum.

"Despite this being a mistaken alert, we are grateful the public are vigilant enough to raise any concerns with the relevant authority."

Bluewater was built in 1999 and when it opened claimed to be the largest shopping and retail centre in Europe.

Built in a disused quarry it contains three malls, which offer more than 320 stores and nearly 40 bars and restaurants.

It stretches across more than 240 acres with 13,000 car parking spaces and took 300m and three years to build.

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