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Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 14:41:33 +0100
From: Cornerstone Resource Centre


So incensed were the residents of Peacehaven by the government's proposal to build 113 commuter belt houses in their valley that they decided upon direct action as a possible first resort. Earth First!ers however took a back seat to act merely as catalysts while the Mayor, leader of the town council, councillors from all parties, teachers, families and veterans in their 80's signed up to a pledge to "lock on and be arrested". This came as a result of a meeting where local activists were invited to discuss tactics - a unanimous decision was taken for a bulldozer pledge to be circulated.

The valley that lies on the north edge of Peacehaven is a mixture of wooded areas, pasture and scrub land with a wide range of flora and fauna. The eastern valley is an SCNI with the west and north bordering on the downlands designated AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The 'Save the Valley' campaign stated that no sufficient environmental assessment was done, not to mention the social impact of new families nesting in an area short of schools, employment, water supply and sewage systems and killing the only remaining recreational space.

Feeling outraged by the decision of the Environment Secretary, John Prescott, to overturn the council's ruling against the new homes, the local community took their battle to the High Court and took the direct action pledge to Prescott. The pledge stated, " We all hope that the High Court will overturn this undemocratic decision, but if it does not, we the undersigned are prepared to take on nonviolent direct action." After a two day hearing the judge ruled that Prescott had clearly failed to abide by the government's own guidelines in giving permission for 113 homes to be built on a greenfield site. This is the first time the government has faced - and lost - a High Court challenge to a greenfield housing decision.

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