A round-up of some of the road and development protests across the country.
Squall 8, Autumn 1994, pp.18-19.
"The scene was bizarre, and horrific as chainsaw men again attacked the branches of the remaining trees, and bailiffs (called ‘safety advisors’?!) began to forcibly drag protesters from trees.” (Attempted fourth eviction of the Whitecroft site, Solsbury Hill, on the outskirts of Bath, 19th July ’94)
In Squall 7 we reported how the Bath/Swainswick A46 bypass was in its initial phase of construction amidst a growing campaign of daily peaceful direct action and growing media interest.
Over the Summer, the Solsbury Hill Action Group have faced increasingly violent evictions, particularly from the occupied tree-huts on the Whitecroft (broadleaf woodland) site and from the watermeadows, south of the hill itself, which have now been completely bulldozed. The Whitecroft site was eventually taken by the DoT and Amey construction on July 20th and resulted in 34 arrests.
Worse, however, was to come in August when, and while the protesters were away participating in a local green fair, a mob of farmers attacked the campaigner’s camp with pitchforks and scythes. Members of the Batheaston Freeholders Association, a self-elected body of men who proclaim to represent the parish, set light to protester’s belongings after dousing them in diesel. Tents, tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping bags, cameras, ropes, clothing, passports and radios were destroyed in the blaze. Also missing are two pet geese and two small pigs.
“It was manic, vigilante stuff,” said one eye-witness. “The protesters gave everything, they have been left with nothing.”
The police are investigating the incident and if anyone can help with information phone Road Alert on 0272 246 199.
The protesters remain committed to fighting the bypass with continued actions and other peaceful protests but the August attack has set back the campaign. To offer assistance to Solsbury Hill Action Group and the Save Our Solsbury campaign phone 0225 481995.
Worsening security guard hostility and a high police presence now surrounds the campaign against the proposed M65 route at Preston. This Summer has seen eviction after eviction of protesters from buildings along the route and the eviction of 40 tree-huts and bender camps.
The last tree hut was taken after a 17 day siege and a High Court possession order. The wood, once occupied by the protesters, has now been completely trashed.
Hostility and increasing security guard violence is being documented by protesters who hope, once enough material is collected, to pursue an almighty legal campaign of injunctions, suing and prosecutions for assaults that have occurred.
Media interest is high: the four main TV channels have all taken an active interest with a documentary expected from ‘Public Eye’ (BBC2) on security guard violence. Contact: 0772 323531.
“It’s like the DoT have got a map of Britain, put a dot on every Site of Special Scientific Interest, joined up the dots and said ‘right, that’s where we’ll have our trunk roads’.” (Jai from Road Alert, August ’94.)
The DoT were certainly playing dot to dot when they proposed a route for the Newbury A34 bypass. The road, which is currently out to tender and with predicted construction start date of January ’95, will steamroller its way through twelve miles of some of the most beautiful countryside in Berkshire.
Included on its list of destruction are protected areas, ancient woodland, nature reserves, the site of the first battle of Newbury (1643), the River Kennet and the River Lambourne. No adequate Environmental Impact Assessment has ever been done on the route, despite this being a requirement of European Community law.
The campaign against the bypass, called the third battle of Newbury ‘A Road to Ruin’, is currently building support and drawing attention to the environmental destruction.
The route has been severely criticized by many bodies, particularly the Landscape Advisory Committee, commissioned by the DoT to inspect the route: “....this will undoubtedly prove to be one of the most environmentally contentious proposals in recent history.”
English Nature, state nature conservation watchdog, confirmed the Rivers Kennett and Lambourne as sites of special scientific interest. The reason for the designation is, they say, in recognition of their richness in wildlife. The inclusion of these rivers as nature reserves would bring the number of SSSI to be destroyed up to four!
The National Rivers Authority has also been vocal in the proposed Newbury bypass lodging a protest with the DoT.
Dr. Norman More, former Nature Conservancy Chief Advisory Officer, described the proposed route as “vandalism of the first order… if they (Newbury’s protected places) were to be destroyed without an Environmental Impact Assessment being carried out”. Contact: 0635 46524
One more area of outstanding beauty which the DoT have chosen replace with a road is on the Pollock Estate, Ayr.
The proposed M77 route has, as in the Newbury case, not had an Environmental Impact Assessment carried out on it. Earth First!, who currently have a permanent camp on the estate, say any assessment would definitely condemn the proposals.
The majority of the route is currently out to tender but has had advance work carried out on two of its 11 kilometre length.
Eight metre high embankments made from steel and pulverised fuel ash line the beginning of the route. The DoT plan to fell thousands of mature trees, many over 200 years old.
Pollock became famous in conservation legislative terms when, in 1939, Scotland’s first conservation agreement was drawn up for the estate.
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS), who do not own the land, were made trustees when the Late Sir John Stirling Maxwell - the original owner, a founder of the NTS and Chairman of the Forestry Commission - put requirements on the Trust to preserve Pollock Estate in perpetuity as an open space, or parkland, for the benefit of the people of Glasgow. The NTS waived this agreement in 1974 by giving the DoT and planners agreement for the land to be used in the form of a veto on the planned development. Contact: 041 552 8776 or 041 636 1924.
Another dot not missed, this time Cardiff Bay where the Government (in the guise of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation) plan to construct a barrage across the bay and transform the existing salt-water mud flats into a fresh water lagoon. Road Alert describe the development plans as “the first ever TOTAL obliteration of a SSSI by a single development”.
The barrage, currently in its initial stages of construction, will destroy the habitats of thousands of species of birds, fish and insects as well as creating a highly toxic environment in what has been described as a highly delicate ecosystem.
The Cardiff Bay Development Corporation claim the barrage will make the bay more attractive to business and industry and they consider the mud flats to be “unsightly”. The area has been proposed a ‘Special Protection Area’ since 1981. SPAs are the strictest form of environmental protection that exists in Europe.
The Campaign against the Cardiff Bay Barrage run regular demonstrations and actions from their base in Cardiff. Contact: 0222 383363 or 0222 237320.
For a menu of many other Squall articles about the Anti-Roads Movement, including protest camps, Reclaim The Streets and more click here