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Granny Tree

The Granny Tree by Martha Lefler

Back to work on the BHLR

After a few days of Christmas and New Year rest and recuperation for some and I imagine, urgent strategy planning for others, work on the BHLR has begun again, with chain saw crews, police, private security guards, engineers, tree and nature protectors and road opponents returning to their pre-holiday positions, writes HOT’s Zelly Restorick.

Tree protector

Tree protector

Having felled most of the trees at the Sidley end of the road plan, the chain saw crews appear to now be concentrating on trees in Crowhurst, currently around the Upper Wilting Farm area.  Wherever the chain saw crews go, the police, the private security guard company and stewarding employees follow, aware that tree protectors may well appear, engaging in peaceful protest by climbing trees or sitting in front of the diggers.

Over the holiday period, a peaceful, non alcohol and drug-free camp has been built at Adams Farm at Crowhurst, situated along the proposed route of the road, where people have built tree houses and a tunnel with the aim of stopping the chain saw crews from chopping down more trees.  The guidelines of the camp are printed on the Combe Haven Defenders’ website [see link below].

The camp has been regularly visited by members of the newly formed Police Protest Team (the first in the country).  I’ll be interviewing a member of their team and finding out more about them in the next few days.

Digger sitting

Peacefully protesting protectors Photo Martha Lefler

When I visited the camp, I asked two policemen what constitutes ‘peaceful protest’?  What exactly is the definition of ‘peaceful’ in the eyes or words of the law?  What is the definition of ‘protest’?

‘It’s all subjective’, they said, adding that HMIC has produced a guideline for the police called ‘Adapting to Protest’ [see link below].

That’s the thing about the law, it seems to me… it’s all subjective.  Open to interpretation, depending on who’s doing the interpreting.

Since work began on 14 December, a small number of people have been arrested and subsequently released, either charged with ‘aggravated trespass’ or cautioned, although one person refused to accept a caution and appeared at Hastings Magistrates’ Court earlier this week.  Local writer, Rosamond Palmer, has been charged with ‘obstruct[ing]/disrupt[ing] [a] person engaged in lawful activity’ and ‘resist[ing]/obstruct[ing] [an] enforcement officer …To which she has pleaded not guilty.  Her trial has been set for early August.

‘I won’t condone our council tax being squandered on a road that will make our local traffic problems worse’, states Ms Palmer, ‘and destroy a beautiful valley.’

A few days ago, she, along with other local grandmothers, climbed into trees along the disused railway line at Adams Farm for a photo shoot, to show their support for the campaign and to dispel any rumours or imaginings that those protesting against the link road fit a certain stereotype [see main photo].

Copse destroyed

Trees felled to make way for the BHLR

A spokesperson for the Combe Haven Defenders, one of several local groups opposing the Road, said, ‘The second Battle of Hastings has now begun in earnest. We intend to do everything in our power to peacefully resist this Road, and urge all those concerned about the environment, the countryside, or the public purse to join us.”

Last week, the Defenders’ issued a press release claiming that ESCC met and agreed additional funding for the road at a meeting which was closed to the public.  I have written to Peter Jones, leader of ESCC and Chair of the Cabinet to ask if this is true.  I’ll let you know what he says when I hear from him.  I’ve delivered the letter by hand to his home address, which I found on the County Council’s website, so I’m certain he’ll receive it and will have an opportunity to respond.

Nick Austin, local amateur archaeologist and researcher, states that the link road will pass directly through the area where Harold and William’s soldiers fought the famous 1066 Battle of Hastings and that he has the evidence to back this up.  We will find out soon if the Battlefield Trust are going to investigate his claims.  [If it turns out to be true, I sincerely hope from my heart that Combe Haven Valley won’t turn into the amusement park and car park monstrosity that can be found at Lands End in Cornwall.  I visited there for the first time a couple of years ago, imagining beautiful natural scenery and wildness and found myself walking for minutes through an American style car park and entering a Fun and Attractions Park, which personally made my heart sink, although I’m aware that others might well be celebrating the opportunities for amusement and entertainment.]

Personally, I wish we could lose the aforementioned ‘battle’ vocabulary and references and leave them in our historical past. I think it’d be wonderful if Combe Haven Valley remained as it is, ‘a place of tranquility’, as stated by ESCC – and a place of peace rather than war, confrontation and battle… and that we all moved on beyond battlefield terminology, adapting a new 21st Century lingo and state of mind.

Am I a daft dreamer?  An idealist?  Is it time for us to evolve and change and move forward to a new way of doing and seeing things?  It’s up to all of us – we all have a say in things, although I’m aware that nature and the other non-human species of Combe Haven Valley have no say in things at all.

Camp guidelines Combe Haven Defenders website.

HMIC Adapting to Protest link.

For previous articles on the BHLR by HOT writers, please use the HOT search engine, including the words ‘Bexhill Hastings Link Road’.

Posted 11:39 Wednesday, Jan 9, 2013 In: Campaigns

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