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 ‘aggravated trespass’.
Hastings resident Rosa Canadas, 33, an environmental educator, said: ‘In a week when carbon dioxide levels have reached 400 parts per million for the first time in 3 million years, it is governments and corporations who should be in the dock for failing to tackle the massive threat of climate change.’
The peaceful protests against the BHLR have resulted in 29 arrests but no cases have come to trial yet.
On 29 April, the department for transport (DfT) was forced by the information commissioner’s office to release its previously-secret recommendations regarding the link road.
This was the result of months of campaigning by the Hastings Alliance, the Campaign for Better Transport, and Combe Haven Defenders, culminating in a two-day attempt by campaigners to enter the DfT offices in London nonviolently to get the documents themselves (see PN 2557).
Peace News co-editor Emily Johns reported to Charing Cross police station on 21 May to discover whether she was being charged in relation to her participation in the nonviolent ‘document search’ on 9 April.
Emily was told to come back in a month as the police were ‘still gathering evidence’.
Among other things the uncensored documents reveal that the DfT fudged the question of whether or not public money should be used to fund the link road, noting that one ‘emerging option’ was to ‘decline funding approval’. (The other ‘emerging option’ was to approve funding.)
The DfT also noted that ‘possible, alternative road-based solutions ha[d] not been fully worked through and tested’ at the time of the decision.
The BHLR was assessed as being of ‘low or medium value for money’ – and was therefore not a project that the department would normally consider funding.
The DfT also concluded that East Sussex county council had ‘significantly overstate[d] the benefits of the scheme’, ‘double count[ing] productivity improvements’ and exaggerating the number of jobs that the project would create.