Road Wars - SQUALL'S road protest round up and down the country
The Third Battle Of Newbury Pitched Against Vested Interests
Squall 9, Jan/Feb 1995, pg. 17.
The six lane, £66 million Newbury by-pass, with its linked £24 million junction, is a significant proportion of Brian Mawhinney’s £300 million saving on this year’s road budget. Put on hold for a year, Roger Higman of Friends of the Earth believes that “The political embarrassment of another Twyford Down was too much” and “would have made Twyford Down look like a dress rehearsal”.
The campaign against the road, known as the ‘Third Battle of Newbury’ has gained support from many professional bodies and people, including a powerful lobbying force from Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.
The planned route (and remember - it has only been put on hold for a year) will destroy 12 miles of unspoilt countryside, including up to six Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
The postponement of the road has provoked a ferocious response from the pro-road contingency. This group who imaginatively call themselves ‘By-Pass Now’ includes David Rendell (Lib-Dem MP), Lord Caernarvon (who lives in Hampshire - Newbury is in Berkshire), and a number of business people including Sir Gerald Whent, the head of Vodaphone (recently prosecuted for speeding at 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. “My speed was safe and my means were adequate,” he said in his defence).
At a meeting of Newbury District Council, a motion was passed to donate £8,000 (of tax-payers' money) to By-Pass Now. One member of the council, some of whose land had been compulsory purchased by the DoT for the project, was not allowed to speak or vote on the issue because he had ‘a financial interest in the matter’ - he is opposed to the road. By-Pass Now have a meeting with Brian Mawhinney on the February 15. It is suggested that the ease with which a relatively small campaign group have got access to Dr. Mawhinney ears, is more a little connected to the fact that an MP and a Lord are among its members.
The Third Battle of Newbury are currently drafting a report to the District Auditor regarding the legal aspects of public money being donated to By-Pass Now. By-Pass Now are solely concerned with the financial benefits that a new road would bring. “The whole thing is not about relieving traffic congestion. It’s about money and profits, particularly for the businesses involved in By-Pass Now,” says Letty, one of the protesters at the site.
Road Wars - SQUALL's road protest round up and down the country - other stories from this issue - No M77 battle hots up in Scotland - 'free state of Pollok' / Policy Shift or Shifty Policy? / A30 Honiton-Exeter on the back burner / No M65 Campaign - Up in the air and facing the flak.
For a menu of many other Squall articles about the Anti-Roads Movement, including protest camps, Reclaim The Streets and more click here