Newbury Bypass opens
(from SchNEWS Issue 192, Thursday 19th November 1998)
"I'm devastated. The opening of the road was the most awful day of my life, but the protests at Newbury stopped the Salisbury bypass being built and made government cut its roadbuilding plans."
Janet, a local resident
The Newbury Bypass finally opened in secret at 1.15 am on Monday.
The nine mile road initially priced at £74 million, had soared in cost as some £24 million was spent on security guards and #2.6 million on policing, as the site became the scene of this country's biggest ever campaign of direct action against a road scheme. The authorities reacted with 'Operation Prospect' using the full force of the Criminal Justice Act to stop the protests with over a thousand arrests and strict bail conditions banning people from the site and effectivily stopping them protesting.
Even on the day of the opening no expense was spared. Two people who had gone for a picnic at the old Rickety Bridge site, suddenly found themselves surrounded by 6 cop vans, 2 cars, 2 motorcyclists a video surveillance team with a helicopter buzzing overhead to see what was going on!
As for the cost to environment; how do you count the cost of devastation to nature reserves, sensitive eco-systems, archaeological sites and water meadows. "Instead of wonky lanes, gnarled trees and ricketty bridges over streams and canel, the surrounding landscape has been engineered into smooth, anywhere-ville embankments, concrete structures and giant culverts."
And this is just the beginning. Liberal Democrat MP and Bypass apologist David Rendell promised once the road was built, there would be no infill development - so what's all this then?
Stax Properties have put in a planning application to build a warehouse distribution point on a green site. Vodaphone want to build a new HQ on 42 acres and are threatening to pull out of the town if they don't get their way. They've refused a move to the old cruise missile base at Greenham Common because it is not prestigious enough and fears of security because of the womens peace camp still at the base (basically a caravan with a couple of women living there). And at Trenchwood there are plans to build a new village with 1,800 houses on 352 acres.
And this is just the beginning.
So despite claims from the Highways Agency that the road will cut journey times through Newbury by two minutes off-peak and 15 minutes during rush hours, if these applications get the green light, it will be back to square one for the towns transport problem.
One ex Newbury protestor who went to see the new road told SchNEWS, "The tree I was in during the evicition was still there, next to the road at the old Sea View Camp. It was the only thing that lifted my spirits. The landscape has changed beyond recognition. I feel gutted, it really has happened."
£100 million for nine miles of road - what could have been done with that money to alleviate Newburys traffic problem? 70% of Newbury's traffic is local so wouldn't the money be better spent on a package of local traffic reduction measures. What about improving public transport, cycle routes, schol buses, car-share schemes all of which Independent transport consultants showed could solve the town's traffic problems far better and more cost-effectively than a bypass.
To coincide with the opening activists occupied the Brighton offices of Mott Mcdonald's, the scumbag civil engineers who designed Newbury Bypass and contracted the companies responsible for the roads construction. Other projects include building power stations in Indonesia, Iraqi civilian airstrips, Sellafield and Dungeness, as well as the road throughTwyford Down. Over twenty activists strolled passed security and the receptionist (who cried 'I should have guessed this was going to happen today') and barricaded themselves into the finance office by re-arranging the furniture. After sending the staff home, and rummaging through the files, the computers' hard drives mysteriously 'malfunctioned'. There were no arrests. Nice One! The road may be complete, but the campaign ain't!
Third Battle of Newbury 'End of the Road Reunion' Sunday 10th January 1999. PO Box 5642, Newbury, Berks RG14 5WG Phone 07000 785201 http://www.gn.apc.org/newbury/