1 October 2021Review

Pluto Press, 2021; 256pp; £16.99

Roads, Runways and Resistance is infused with a sense of urgency in terms of the climate crisis.

Underpinned by 50 original interviews with activists, policymakers and lobbyists, Steve Melia surveys key campaigns against government transport policy over the past 30 years. These range from the anti-roads protests of the ’90s to the fight against airport expansion and the Extinction Rebellion (XR) mass actions of 2019. His review includes the fuel protests of 2000, which nearly…

1 December 2018Comment

Our columnist points the finger!

This morning I was prompted by a post on Facebook to listen to LBC talk radio. My friend Caroline was advising friends that she was invited on to talk about cycle lanes.

I never listen to talk radio and I’ve even given Radio 4’s Today programme a wide berth after finding myself shouting at the radio so many times. I mean, I do have hypertension and this is not doing the blood pressure any good. I’ve long since stopped watching Question Time for the same reason.


1 August 2017Review

PM Press, 2016; 96pp; £10.99

As a non-motorist by choice, I found much to like in this slim book, once I’d got past its very dull title. It’s written by a Swedish group whose name – – translates roughly as ‘fare dodge now’. To my mind this would have been a very much snappier title.

According to Wikipedia, ‘Planka Nu is a network of organisations promoting tax-financed zero-fare public transport...The campaign has received much attention because [it] encourages people to fare-dodge, aiding its…

1 December 2016News in Brief

Combe Haven Defenders (CHD) have exhausted legal action against the Queensway Gateway road which will wipe out the Hollington Valley wildlife site in Hastings, East Sussex.

On 9 November, the court of appeal refused to allow a judicial review of the planning permission for the road.

Preliminary results from CHD’s monitoring show that NO2 pollution levels are already above the legal limit, even before the new road brings 10,000 more vehicles a day.


3 April 2014News

Judge Crabtree warned us that while judgements in magistrates’ courts usually take between 45 minutes and two hours, this one was likely to take considerably longer. He was right; his judgement took three-and-a-half hours. But it was a judgement worth waiting for.

Six activists were being prosecuted for ‘aggravated trespass’ for occupying trees along the route of the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road in January 2013 (see PN 2554, 2566).

The first two hours or so of the hearing in…

18 February 2014Feature

Prosecution suffers numerous defeats in Combe Haven trials

Grannies Are In Action (GAIA) set up a ‘car wash’ in the
floodwaters of Combe Haven, East Sussex, on 12 January.
Photo: Marta Lefler

Over half the charges against Combe Haven Defenders (CHD) anti-roads protesters have been dropped or abandoned, or have resulted in not guilty verdicts, in the four trials so far concluded. At the time of going to press two trials were still underway, continuing into early February.

CHD, an East Sussex anti…

1 September 2013Review

Microcosm, 2013; 160pp; £8.99

While ‘[m]any people believe that America’s addiction to automobiles is a cultural problem’, in reality – as cartoonist Andy Singer explains in this wonderful ‘pictographic examination’ of the American transport system – the country’s ‘automobile addiction has more to do with politics, government agencies, and the [US] tax structure’.

Indeed, in the 1920s, most North Americans lived in cities, many of which had great public transit and inter-urban rail systems, leading the president…

8 June 2013News

Anti-road protesters in Hastings are celebrating the release of embarrassing secret information about the £100m Bexhill-Hastings link road (BHLR), and the dropping of charges against many direct actionists.

Out of a total of 17 activists awaiting trial for nonviolent direct action, 13 had been charged with ‘obstructing an enforcement officer engaged to execute a high court writ’. On 15 May, these charges were dropped, leaving the 13 charged only with ‘…

11 May 2013Feature

The anti-roads campaigners take on the department for transport over Combe Haven

PN co-editor tummy-to-tummy with the forces of the State Photo: Marta Lefler

In the unlikely event that anyone were to ask where I was when I heard that Margaret Thatcher had died, I’ll be able to say that I was attempting to get into the department for transport (DfT) to search for secret documents.

Specifically, I was at their London HQ for ‘Operation Disclosure’: a two-day attempt by the anti-road group Combe Haven Defenders to find and distribute the DfT’s secret…

8 March 2013News

Combe Haven Defenders, the Hastings anti-roads group trying to stop the building of the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (see PN 2554), have moved their focus from the actual site of the road-building (in East Sussex) to a demand for transparency from the department for transport (in London).

The DfT were forced by a freedom of information request to release their (unenthusiastic) recommendations on the Link Road, but the document was redacted, with sections blacked…

4 February 2013Feature

PN’s Gabriel Carlyle reports on the sometimes shambolic, always peaceful and often heroic resistance to the tree-felling in Combe Haven for the Hastings-Bexhill Link Road, and the lessons learned.

‘I think we may be about to get steamrollered.’

Fellow activist Emily Johns and I had just returned from a packed public meeting in Crowhurst, the small village northwest of Hastings that would be severely affected by the planned Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR). In the final evaluation the participants had been near-unanimous in saying how energised they felt by the meeting. One man even said that he’d never felt more optimistic about our prospects for stopping the road.

1 December 2012News

Tories resuscitate long-dead road schemes.

Zombie roads hungry for public money gather outside the office of Hastings MP Amber Rudd, 30 October. Photo: Milan Rai

On 30 October, campaigners against the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR) staged a battle between ‘road busters’ and ‘zombie roads’ outside the office of Hastings MP Amber Rudd.

Combe Haven Defenders wanted to highlight her role – and that of the chancellor, George Osborne, to whom she is parliamentary private…

17 October 2012Review

Peter McManners, Fly and be Damned: What Now For Aviation and Climate Change (Zed, 2012; 168pp; £14.99

Fly and be Damned is nothing if not ambitious. It outlines what the author, Peter McManners, believes are measures which could usher in 'the third golden age of aviation'. An era where we could enjoy all the advantages flying brings without destroying the climate. He argues that the technology to make this possible could be developed if the aviation industry was incentivised to do so.

The key to facilitating change, McManners argues, is to make the necessary resources available to the…

17 October 2012Feature

A Hastings Alliance speech at the Combe Haven Defenders' camp.

For those who know the valley – and the smaller valleys that feed into it – you will already appreciate the peacefulness of the places, and a sense of remoteness that is utterly amazing considering that just over the hill is a population of 140,000 people.

You'll also know that the valley contains records of human habitation going back 4,000 years, with evidence of bronze age settlements, Roman pottery and Saxon trackways. The valley was certainly part of the theatre of…

17 October 2012Feature

A warning of things to come: a temporary anti-road camp on the South Coast

At the end of September, a new local campaigning group calling itself 'Combe Haven Defenders' staged a weekend camp on the site of the proposed Bexhill-Hastings Link Road on England's South Coast. The temporary camp brought together 200 people with a shared concern for saving the valley and a willingness to explore the possibilities for action.

It also attracted a lot of media attention, including the Sunday…