A BUFFER zone is to be set up at the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Mattock Lane, West Ealing, to stop vigils being held outside the building.

The decision means anti-abortion and pro-choice campaigners cannot stand within 100 metres of the clinic.

The Good Counsel Network, which holds daily vigils outside the centre, denies harassing women.

Ealing councillors unanimously voted in favour of it after women complained of intimidation by protesters.

There was applause in the cabinet room following the decision, though a protester interrupted the meeting.

Richard Bentley, Marie Stopes UK managing director, said: "This is a landmark decision for women.

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"This was never about protest. It was about small groups of strangers choosing to gather by our entrance gates where they could harass and intimidate women and try to prevent them accessing healthcare to which they are legally entitled."

More than 300 people wrote to the council describing the pro-life protesters as intimidating and harassing, while those against abortion have said women are not being offered enough alternatives.

A report presented to the cabinet concluded that, following unsuccessful attempts to negotiate an informal safe zone near the clinic entrance, a public spaces protection order was appropriate.

Council leader Julian Bell said: "I believe this is something that's long been needed.

"I'm a practising Christian and I think it's important to recognise this is about protecting women from harassment and intimidation."