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Six NGOs give the link road the thumbs-down: from left, Stephen Joseph (CBT), Chris Corrigan (RSPB), Stephanie Hilborne (Wildlife Trusts), Andy Atkins (FoE), John Sauven (Greenpeace) and Ralph Smyth (CPRE). (Photo: Adrian Arbib/CBT)

NGOs back link road protests

Leading figures from environmental, conservation and transport NGOs have visited Combe Haven on the route of the proposed Bexhill-Hastings Link Road to meet protesters and express support for the growing movement of opposition, HOT’s Nick Terdre reports.

Yesterday – Sunday 27 January – senior staff from the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Friends of the Earth (FoE), Greenpeace, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Wildlife Trusts took a walk across waterlogged fields and calf-deep patches of mud to meet and talk to peaceful resisters dug in at Camp Decoy.

It was quite a coup for CBT to bring together six leading NGOs to put the spotlight on the controversial project. Unfortunately the media was poorly represented, with only BBC South-East, in addition to HOT’s reporter.

Camp Decoy, situated on the route of the road at Decoy Pond Wood, is the last remaining camp after two others, Three Oaks and Adam’s Farm, were dismantled by bailiffs, private security guards and police earlier in the month. Eviction of this camp began this morning. Seven people arrested during the previous evictions are due in court this week.

Vandalism!

The chance to see Combe Haven on a sunny winter’s day confirmed the visitors’ concerns about this ‘road to nowhere’.  “Coming here emphasises just what criminality, almost, it is to drive a road through this beautiful landscape which is so important to wildlife, when all the economic analysis, as we know, says it’s hardly going to create any jobs or wider economic benefit anyway,” Andy Atkins, executive director of FoE, told HOT. “It’s vandalism!”

Building the anti-road campaign is the way ahead, according to John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace. “The activists who are here are doing a fantastic job, they’re real heroes,” he said. “They need support from more people, we need to get the message out there, we need to talk to our members and supporters and we need more people to come down.

“I think that is what will really change the situation – if we get thousands or tens of thousands of people engaged in the campaign, then I think we can stop it.”

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, was unconvinced of the supposed benefits claimed for the road. “I don’t see the point in trashing countryside like this for the possibility that there might be jobs, we know that’s not going to happen,” he said. “We also know that this road is simply going to shift the traffic jam, so why are we trashing countryside like this for benefits that just won’t happen?”

“The thing that impresses me most is to see how many people clearly care an awful lot about the wildlife in this area,” said Chris Corrigan, RSPB’s South-East regional director. “It’s fantastic to see, really inspiring.”

ESCC in court

While some protesters have been cautioned and others charged, legal action is also under way to stop the road. This follows Bexhill resident Michael Bernard’s request to English Heritage to investigate evidence that the Battle of Hastings took place in Crowhurst Valley on the route of the road.

While English Heritage is following up the application, Mr Bernard asked East Sussex County Council (ESCC) to halt the road-building work and when they refused to do so, made an urgent application for a judicial review of the decision. The court, while turning down his request for an emergency injunction to stop the road-building, said it would consider the judicial review application on 1 February, giving the council until then to respond to Mr Bernard’s concerns.

The matter is likely to be discussed at ESCC’s cabinet meeting at Lewes Town Hall tomorrow, Tuesday 30 January, athough press staff were unable to confirm this.

The link road is by no means a done deal!

 

Posted 19:54 Monday, Jan 28, 2013 In: The HOT Planet

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