Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006
Newbury Bypass protest 1996.
Photo: Nick Cobbing

Road Wars

Newbury Bypass: Battle-lines Drawn

Ian Freeman introduces the contesters in the Third Battle of Newbury.

Squall 11, Autumn 1995, p.61.

Great end to the transport debate wasn’t it? Seven months after calling a twelve-month halt to the Newbury by-pass for a “review”, just half an hour before he was shuffled out of the transport office, Brian Mawhinney gave the go-ahead for Costain to start ripping up the land once again. Costain just happens to be one of the biggest donors to the Tory Party, which just happens to be in debt. And who looks after Tory Party funds, or lack of? The new chairman. Who? Brian Mawhinney of course.

So, into the job of commander of the combined corporate forces of environmental destruction comes the cycling baronet Sir George Young, who has vowed to continue the road scheme. Then, as the European Court decides Britain is contravening its habitats directives and sends notice of its actions against the British Government for failing to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment, he calls another six month halt, this time to re-tender the contract.

Whichever way you look at it, the end of the road is nigh.

Which, come to think of it, kind of presupposes the end of the debate. Doesn’t it?

European Directives didn’t stop the destruction of Twyford Down, however. The extent of the land threatened with destruction at Newbury involves three Sites of Special Scientific Interest, including the River Kennet (one of the cleanest in the country), areas of woodland and wetland and habitats of supposedly protected species.

Independent traffic studies indicate that the by-pass would only remove about 15 per cent of the traffic problem from the centre of Newbury. Due to traffic increase it will become as congested as the current situation in only five to seven years. It is a monster of blind economics that is being pushed along by property developers and sold to the local people as the only solution. But it is still unlikely the road will be defeated by the European Court.

In fact there is every possibility that the initial contractors, Mott MacDonald, could move in and start trashing soon, so ending the European case anyway, ie. no endangered environment - no case. Buildings on the route have been demolished and engineers have been sniffing around.

But have you been down to the woods lately? On Snelsmore Common a camp has been established for over a year now and you can lounge around on an extensive system of walk-ways connecting several lush tree dwellings. Meanwhile, down by the river bank, a delegation from the so- called ‘University of Road Protest’ on the proposed A30 down at Fairmile, near Honiton, has thrown up a tree village in under a month. And, although at the moment the ground is dry, as soon as it rains it will be no place for foot nor machine. Hence their ground benders are on stilts, and they’ll probably be there until the amphibious cherry-picker is invented. Kennet is possibly one of the most defendable bits of woodland in the country. And there’s more!

The ‘Third Battle of Newbury’ is a growing collective of local people providing excellent support and getting numerous pledges to stop the bulldozers. Together with Friends of the Earth they are doing good works at all levels whilst working on alternatives. If ever there was a chance of stopping a road with direct action, it’s here at Newbury.

There are on-going actions against Costain and Mott MacDonald; they keep leaving their files in the most obvious of places, like their offices! Why not give Mott MacDonald’s project Manager, Chris Hodges a ring on 01962 866300 ext 168?

Meanwhile the pro-road group, comprised of the Local Council, the Tory MP and Vodafone - the town’s largest employer, are busy churning out misinformation in their campaign. At the same time they are quite openly buying and selling land around the proposed route making fortunes in the aggregates and motorway services boom. The slavering packs of property developers are falling over themselves to do deals to destroy the land. Having bought up local and national politics and politicians, they have the power to use all the resources of the state in protecting their feast.

The armies of the Council of England were halted at Newbury once before when, in 1643, the king was prevented from returning to London. Whilst the people were preoccupied with the visible head of state, Cromwell was busy changing jobs and signing deals with his sponsors.

So, what’s new? Well they’re calling it the proposed route of the A34. All sound systems to the front, it’s time for a party!

* To join the 'Beat the Bulldozer' pledge contact the 3rd Battle of Newbury: 01635 45544 / 45545

* For more information on this and other road schemes contact Road Alert: 01635 521660

Related Articles
IF YOU NEWBURY LIKE I NEWBURY - report from the 3rd Battle of Newbury - Squall 12, Spring 1996
NEWS OF THE SKEWS - a look at the Daily Mail's hysterical coverage of Newbury - Squall 12, Spring 1996
NEWBURY BYPASS: Battle-lines Drawn - Ian Freeman introduces the contesters in the Third Battle of Newbury - Squall 11, Autumn 1995
Pro-Newbury Bypass Lobby Grows - Momentum is gathering for the Newbury Bypass - Squall 10, Summmer 1995
For a menu of many other Squall articles about the Anti-Roads Movement, including protest camps, Reclaim The Streets and more click here