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Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 12:21:08 GMT
Subject: SchNEWS 288, Friday 22nd December, 2000


Wheels of Fortune

"Politicians are in danger of forgetting the lesson of the 90s, when large scale road development played very badly with ordinary people. Communities and environmental groups will now take on the Government over every inch of tarmac." - Lynn Sloman, Transport 2000.

So you thought the Battle of Newbury, Twyford Down and Fairmile had forced the government to halt its construction programme for new roads? Well now roadbuilding is back again to haunt us. Last week John 'Two Jags' Prescott announced the transport budget for local authorities for the next five years. Four billion pounds - nearly half the total - is to be spent on roads. That's enough to build forty more Newbury bypasses. It looks like it's time to dust down yer D-locks and take out yer tunnelling tools again.

The protests against the new programme have already started. In a pre-emptive strike, besuited protesters stormed the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions in London, and locked themselves in the offices of ministers Michael Meacher and Lord McDonald. The car park was blocked by a group linked with arm tubes and security doors were locked shut, preventing Prescott from parking either of his two Jags.

It's not all bad news. £4.4 billion is to be spent on improvements to public transport and providing more support for pedestrians and cyclists. But hidden in the small print of the Fat Controller's timetable are plans to build a new Worcestershire Wyre Piddle Bypass, a new stage of the Leeds Inner Ring Road, and the East Leeds Link Road. Seventy seven more schemes are in the pipeline for funding in the next five years.

Bob the Builder's corporate chums will be jumping for joy at the news, but it certainly won't be a Christmas number one for residents in Salisbury, where plans for the bypass which Labour scrapped when they came into office have now been dug up and repackaged. Or in Lancaster, where the Lancaster Western bypass would trash the Lune Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), or Carlisle, where the privately-financed Northern Development Route will destroy a section of Hadrian's Wall - a World Heritage Site.

A New Battle of Hastings

One of the prime candidates for future funding is the planned Hastings Bypass in Sussex. Despite a load of greenwash about tough measures to reduce environmental impact, the bypass would destroy two SSSI's and pass through an area of outstanding national beauty and the environmentally important floodplains of the Rother and Brede Rivers. And consultants evaluating the project warn that it may actually increase unemployment in Hastings which is not one of southern England's most prosperous areas.

That's not to say there might not be economic benefits. It's just that it's large corporations which stand to gain, with precious little expected to 'trickle down' to the resident Hastings' community. As at Newbury, construction of the Hastings bypass will open up the way for in-fill development, with business parks and housing estates already planned for neighbouring greenfield site areas. As at Newbury, the bypass would become one part of a larger national road scheme - a long-distance south coast link-road leading to Folkestone and Ashford. And as at Newbury, public debate about the Hastings bypass is being heavily manipulated by business, the local media, and the three main political parties, all of whom strongly support the road. All this despite surveys which show most local people would prefer better public transport rather than new roads.

Bypassing Logic

Meanwhile, plans for a big-budget Hollywood film drama, starring Sigorney Weaver, of the UK anti-roads movement have been put on hold. If you've been lamenting the lack of excitement in your life since events at Newbury, or if you weren't there at all, it looks like we'll all have a chance to bag a starring role as the real-life drama unfolds once again....

Transport 2000 12-18 Hoxton St, London, N1 6NG - tel: 0207 613 0743

Road Raging - essential direct action guide to stop road building -

"Copse" - Kate Evan's cartoon book of road protesting. Send SchNEWS a cheque for £12

South Coast Against Roadbuilding -

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