Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Trees cut down

Felled Bexhill trees

Protecting what you care about

Last Friday, tree felling started in preparation for the Bexhill Hastings Link Road, with crews working over the weekend, cutting down a swathe of trees parallel to London Road in Bexhill. At the same time, protectors of the natural environment, who oppose this road and the planned national road building programme of 190+ roads through England and Wales,  joined together and did what they could to protect what they value.  HOT’s Zelly Restorick was there as an independent campaigner.

The difference between the involvement of those protecting nature and those working on the road project is that the former are giving their time and energy for no money or pay, involved only because they care very deeply, sincerely and genuinely. Everyone else is an employee with a boss, orders and hierarchies above and below them. And if by any chance you have the impression in your mind that the protectors and campaigners are ‘the great unwashed, the tree-hugging hippies and the unemployed’, please think again.  I met people from all walks of life, all ages, male and female and across the financial spectrum.

Watching the trees being relentlessly sawn and falling to the ground, I felt nauseous. Personally, my heart bleeds at the thought of more of our natural environment being destroyed and replaced with a road. More noise, more pollution, more busyness and traffic.  I feel a gut instinct to protect the peace and tranquillity of such places – and the trees and other non-human species, who do so much for humanity with so little acknowledgement or appreciation.  They just do what they do – and a side effect is helping us to survive.

Do you, like me, find it hard to imagine that some decision making people somewhere discussed the best place to build a road and decided it’d be through a designated area of tranquility and remoteness?  Near to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? A Site of Scientific Interest?

My own desire to protect Combe Haven and other natural areas from development is because I want there to be places like this everywhere – that can be freely enjoyed. Areas of beauty and peacefulness, where I don’t have to endure the noise of humanity’s pressure and tension.  These places are incredibly uplifting, energising – and valuable to us as humans.

Tree leaves

Sunlight through trees Photo by O Tookey

Researching the rights of trees and nature, I came across a case, Walton v the Scottish Ministers, Supreme Court, 2012, where the judge said that Walton had the right to stand up for nature, as nature couldn’t speak up for herself and protect her rights.

‘This piece of natural territory and the species within it have no means of taking this step on their own behalf, any more than any other wild creature.  If its interests are to be protected, someone has to be allowed to speak up on its behalf’.  These people have a right to stand up for nature.”  (UK Human Rights Blog, David Hart QC]

This decision is based on the Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment.

There is also a government ‘Natural Environment White Paper’, which ‘places the environment and the value of nature at the centre of the choices our nation must make.

‘By properly valuing nature today, we can safeguard the natural areas that we all cherish and from which we derive vital services.  Whether we live in the city or the countryside, natural systems support us.  The natural environment becomes degraded when people lose their sense of contact with it.  Human health and happiness suffer.  This White Paper aims to strengthen connections between people and nature – to the benefit of both.

‘The Government wants this to be the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than it inherited.’

In fact, many environmental laws are emerging throughout the world, as people strive to protect nature from those who want her presence on the planet eliminated.

I know there are people out there who want the road or at least an alternative to what they currently have.  Speaking to those who’ve crossed my path, the main reasons seem to be the amount of traffic, adding considerable time to morning or evening commuting – or concern about too many vehicles passing through a quiet village. However, I also spoke to the local residents where the trees were being felled, who expressed their distress about the wildlife, their loss of privacy and view, their fears of pollution and noise.  And to people who thought the road building plan had been cancelled – and those who thought it wasn’t a good idea, but there was nothing they could do about it now – and those who wanted to do something, but felt too worried or scared to get involved for fear of the repercussions and consequences of disagreeing with the government, the council, the police or the firm of private security guards hired by ESCC or any of the authorities.

In my own experience of the past few days, I found it very disconcerting and frightening to see people looking at me as if I was a possible threat – and to hear that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.

I tried to speak  to some of those involved in working on the road project.  Although some responded, others wouldn’t talk to me or acknowledge my presence, wouldn’t say their names, ignored me, lied to me – and it felt like I was being viewed with suspicion.  It made me wonder what they might have been told in their briefings.  Yet in all the time I was on the various sites, I heard no talk amongst the protectors of any violence or of any intent to cause harm to anyone.  The only goal was to protect what was cared about and valued.

And amongst all this clamour of human voices, stand – or stood – the trees – and all the other species who currently inhabit the targeted areas of development, who have no choice, no voice, no vote, no say in the matter at all.


Butterfly on log Photo by O Tookey

Nature doesn’t recognise boundaries or ownership – these are human concepts.  A bird doesn’t know it is flying through UK air space; a tree isn’t aware that their roots are in Sussex soil; a butterfly doesn’t realise it’s crossed over a parish boundary.  They inhabit another world, beyond the human, homocentric one.

Many people seem to be unaware of what the environmental biodiversity on the planet does for us humans, to keep us alive and maintain the delicate balance.  These species have a right to life too.




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Posted 11:39 Wednesday, Dec 19, 2012 In: Campaigns


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. David Stevenson

    I think it is significant that it is called a “Link Road” rather than a “By-Pass”. If it was a proper by-pass, that is, from the A259, Barnhorn Road, west of Little Common to the A259, Rye Road, east of Hastings, then, there might be a case for it. That way, it would take traffic out of Little Common, Bexhill, St. Leonards and Hastings. This link road will just create more traffic at already inadequate junctions, that is, London Road/A259 in Bexhill and The Ridge/A21 at the north of Hastings. Yet another mistake being made by politicians.

    Comment by David Stevenson — Saturday, Dec 22, 2012 @ 15:40

  2. Alison Cooper

    This is a very good pIece Zelly…thank you for your love and time….I may use some of this to write to MP…cheers alison x

    Comment by Alison Cooper — Wednesday, Dec 19, 2012 @ 20:48

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