Reid Architecture has drawn up draft guidelines on how cargo holds at airports can be designed to counter terrorist attacks
Despite the wave of security measures at airports after 11 September, the practice believes that cargo areas may still be vulnerable.

Recommendations include replacing slow-moving roller-shutter doors at cargo sheds with automatic doors. These would close as soon as a forklift truck entered, so that unauthorised people would have less chance to follow them into a restricted area.

The report also suggests the creation of "cargo villages" linked to the airport by a rapid transport network, which would be easier to secure from the public. A less extreme version of this plan would be to ensure that masterplans do not locate public areas next to cargo holds.

A third recommendation is to build cargo sheds a metre off the ground, as has been done at some airports, to create an additional obstruction to entry.

There are ways of making airport facilities more secure than they are

Peter Farmer, associate director, Reid Architecture

The report comes after concerns were expressed at a recent conference of the Air Cargo Forum in Hong Kong. Peter Farmer, associate director at Reid, drew up the report after studying European airports and will now send it to aviation clients.

Farmer said: "There are ways of making airport facilities more secure than they already are. The nature of the cargo hold means that it is potentially a weak spot for security."

Reid, which changed its name from Geoffrey Reid Associates on Monday, has been closely involved in design measures to combat terrorism. The firm is part of umbrella organisation the British Airports Group, which has been advising US airports on security. US authorities believe that the UK has a high level of expertise after learning the lessons of the 1988 Lockerbie crash.