Recent months have seen an upsurge in activity within the road protest movement, particularly in Scotland, reinforcing existing camps and campaigns - such as the ongoing occupation of Bilston Wood since 2002 and a legal challenge brought by Friends of the Earth to the extension of the M74 - and establishing new camps such as Dalkeith, near Edinburgh and, in southern England, at Camp Bling in Southend.
The Dalkeith bypass was first discussed in 1992 and approval was finally given in 2005; construction is due to begin this summer. The route will cut right through the park and, under threat of eviction, protesters have been staying close to trees used by rare bats in an attempt to prevent them being cut down. Dalkeith Park is an area rich in wildlife and flora, and used for recreation by thousands of residents and visitors alike.
In mid-January a specialist police team, supported by Sheriffs and ordinary coppers, moved in to start clearing the first of four Dalkeith sites occupied. The first eviction reportedly passed off without incident or injury, though by the end of the month there had been eight arrests. The eviction of the fourth and final site was well underway as PN went to press.
South of the border, members of campaign group Parklife, Camp Bling residents, and supporters from the wider anti-roads movement, have been steadily building their campaign against the controversial F5 dual carriageway scheme, planned for the A127/A1159 Priory Crescent, in Southend on Sea, Essex. The focus on protecting Priory Park, where an internationally renowned historical burial ground is located.
On 23 January a small group occupied the Cambridge-based Regional Government Office for the East of England, in advance of recommendations to be made on funding for the controversial stretch of dual carriageway by the Regional Partnership Group.
Peace News had a chat with their support team outside the building on the day, and was told the occupiers were in good spirits and still waiting for the police to figure out what to do to deal with the lock-ons! Watch this space...
Not so long ago...
On the historic side of things, January marks the tenth anniversary of the Newbury Bypass protests, during which more than 800 people were arrested attempting to stop the project's completion. Alternatives were proposed but summarily rejected.
Was the project a success? No! According to a report by West Berkshire council, traffic and congestion grew within five years of its completion.