Alliance against road building
Alliance against road building
Welcome to the Road Block e-bulletin, and Happy New Year to all road campaigners.
Road Block predicts that 2006 will be a year of some significant roads cuts!
We'll see what happens with the crucial Regional Funding Allocations (see
In 2005, we saw the government give the go-ahead to some huge motorway widening schemes on the M27, M1 and M62 totalling over £1.3 billion, more local authority roads, the Tyne tunnel, and it persisted in pursuing the monstrous 51 mile M6 Expressway plans. Meanwhile the Scottish Executive has gone roads crazy (M74, Dalkeith and Edinburgh), and a huge M4 toll road is planned across the Gwent Levels in Wales.
However, in 2005 the resistance to this madness started to grow... In January 2005 Road Block was launched, an alliance to support and advice community anti-road groups and activists. We are now in touch with approximately 60 local groups, and find more all the time. Road Block believes that strong independent community groups, united and learning from one another, is the best way to stop roads and force a change in transport policy. Fighting a road in isolation is demoralising and unlikely to succeed against such strong opponents. This crucial unity was started in 2005, and will be strengthened in 2006 until we see all these roads stopped. We also saw two roads protest camps set up at Southend in Essex and Dalkeith near Edinburgh. These camps are still there, and need support.
2006 has opened with the realisation that the Newbury Bypass, (one of the most contentious roads of the mid-1990s) has led to a 50% increase in traffic in/around Newbury without properly tackling congestion or significantly shifting people to public transport (see story below). With road transport contributing so much towards CO2 emissions, it is critical not to keep repeating the same mistakes, and to end roadbuilding and encouraging traffic growth.
This year the e-bulletins are going monthly, and the next e-bulletin deadline will be 9 February, so please send us your campaign news before then.
(1) Transport and climate news Regional Funding Allocations (RFA) - stopping roads; Local Transport Plan settlement; Roads costs rocket sky-high; Planning process speed up
(2) Campaign updates Newbury Bypass (Berkshire); Heysham - M6 Link (Lancaster Northern Bypass); A14 Ellington - Fen Ditton 'Improvement' (Cambridgeshire); M6 Expressway (Staffordshire); Titnore Lane (Sussex); Thames Gateway Bridge (London); Connecting Derby; No Widening M1 - Sheffield; Mottram - Tintwistle Bypass (Peak District); A391 St Austell to A30 Link (Cornwall); Dalkeith Northern Bypass (Midlothian); A3 Hindhead (Surrey); ; Roads lobby in the North East; Glossop Spur Road (Tameside); A127/A1159 Priory Crescent, Southend (Essex); Durham Northern Relief Road; Shrewsbury Northern Relief Road (Shropshire); M74 (Glasgow); Kingskerwell Bypass (Devon); M66 (Manchester); Weymouth Relief Road (Dorset); Brownhills Eastern Bypass (Walsall)
(3) Events - Carbon Dating lobby - 1 March; Climate change
camp - 26 Aug - 4 Sept 2006
(1) TRANSPORT AND CLIMATE NEWS
Regional Funding Allocations - stop roads for the next 10 years!
Whilst the Regional Funding Allocation rumbles along unnoticed in the background, major decisions are being made in each English region about whether roads get government cash, or public transport schemes. We shall know in the Spring, after the government has received priority lists from the regional cabals at the end of this month, what they have decided will get the limited cash for the next ten years! You wouldn't have heard about it, but extremely dramatic lobbying has been going on behind the scenes, and it is a very cut throat business. Roads such as Southend, Weymouth, Durham, and Westbury have been in and out of the lists several times.
Local Transport Plan settlement
In Dec the DfT sent out comments to all 85 local authorities who had submitted draft 5-year Local Transport Plans (LTPs). Hidden in the 25 page letters was a ticking off at the "unrealistic numbers" of Major Schemes (mostly roads) that had been included, and a warning that any proposals "should include the thorough consideration of alternatives (including a realistic 'Do Minimum' case) and supporting demand management measures". Road Block has a list of all the Major Schemes that were included in the provisional Local Transport Plans. Please contact us for a copy. Councils were also told that reducing CO2 emissions "was not dealt with well in many plans". The DfT has allocated £209 million to develop 44 Major Schemes it has already approved, and has promised another £200 million to new Major Schemes for 2006/7. The announcements on these (including Lancaster and Brownhills) will be made following the receipt of regional advice (see above). If you would like a list of the new schemes the DfT is considering, please contact Road Block.
Roads costs rocket sky-high
Using figures of the latest roads costs obtained in a 19 Dec Parliamentary Question by Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, Road Block has calculated that trunk road costs have increased an average of 67% since they were first approved. Meanwhile government funded local authority roads have increased by 45% since government approval. Some schemes are doubling and tripling in cost. The tables are on the Road Block website here:
or find out more on the front page of our website. Road Block did the same calculations last year, based on July costings, and found that trunk road costs were then going up by 53% and local roads by 40%. Meanwhile, displaying breath taking hypocrisy, the government has scrapped several tram schemes on costs grounds, whilst roads costs are going through the roof in comparison. Merseytram is taking the government to court about the funding refusal.
Planning process to be 'streamlined'
Calls to 'speed up' the planning process are coming thick and fast (CBI, Darling, Rod Eddington, Treasury) - see RB bulletin 16 Dec and http://www.roadblock.org.uk/press_releases/2005-10-18B.htm. Now Gordon Brown and John Prescott have appointed the notorious Kate Barker to lead a new inquiry to consider how "in the context of globalisation, planning policy and procedures can better deliver economic growth and prosperity alongside other sustainability goals". Barker conducted a Treasury driven review on how to speed up the delivery of new housing which has been roundly criticised. Changes to the planning process will effect big controversial projects like new road schemes and nuclear power plants and will, without doubt, not be in the favour of 'inconvenient' residents and environmentalists. We are often 'blamed' for the delays by scrutinising dodgy projects, when it is usually the government who create delays, botched Inquiries (see Thames Gateway Bridge below), and sit on decisions for years. It is very important that any proposed changes to cut out objectors involvement are resisted. Watch this space...
(2) CAMPAIGN NEWS
Newbury Bypass (Berkshire)
On the 10 year anniversary since work/protests started, an emotional reunion took place at Newbury on 7 Jan, with a symbolic tree planting near the route, a list of the over 30 protest camps was read out, and a candlelit vigil was held at Donnington Castle. At the same time the true extent of the enormous traffic growth caused by the bypass was revealed within a traffic study done by WS Atkins for the local council (Newbury Movement Study).
Figures revealed that overall traffic levels (on the bypass and in town) had increased 48% from 1997 to 2003, with traffic levels south of the town increasing 86%. This is against a national average increase of about 5% for the same period! Also levels of traffic on the bypass had already exceeded 2010 projections by 2003! Not only that, but the rush hour congestion is worse than it was before the bypass. The report also revealed how heavily car dependent Newbury is, with poor public transport. This news was covered on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme and the 1pm national BBC TV news.
See also Guardian article at http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,7843,1683144,00.html
A little video of the reunion is also online at
Award winning film "Wild Horses of Newbury"
Heysham - M6 Link (Lancaster Northern Bypass) - URGENT
Lancashire County Council have issued a Planning Application for the road
with a deadline to object by 23 Jan . Objection letters are URGENTLY needed
to have the application 'called in' for a full inquiry. Please write quick
letters. Details are here http://www.heyshamm6link.info/html/whats_new_.html#planning
or on the Take Action pages of our website. This
road has been selected as a 'regional priority' and is critical to stop. The
government will announce its decision on approval in the Spring. The road
would damage Green Belt, and pass close to the homes of 1000s of people.
A14 Ellington - Fen Ditton 'Improvement' (Cambridgeshire)
On 11 January, a High Court Judge ruled that a Judicial Review of the £500 million A14 Ellington - Fen Ditton Improvement had failed. This important case was brought on behalf of the A14 Offords Action Group by a local resident. The judge has delayed a decision on costs, but if costs are awarded to the government, Nita Tinn stands to be personally liable for £20,000. She took the action because she feels so strongly that the Highways Agency has not properly consulted villagers along the route. Residents claim that the route proposed by the Highways Agency is substantially different to the route they were consulted over in 2001, pushes the road 1km closer to the village, and that the 2005 consultation was simply about whether the scheme should be four or six lanes. They argue there should be further consultation on the route. The Judge ruled that as the preferred route still had not been announced, there was still a chance for locals to influence the route choice. Also, that the residents could not rely on documents hidden by the Highways Agency and revealed only through the court case, as evidence of 'legitimate expectation' to be consulted. The new route features a 1.2km long, 13m high viaduct within half a mile of the Offords village, and residents living in Offord, Buckden and Hilton will suffer large increases in traffic noise as well as adverse impact on landscape character. See http://www.offordsa14actiongroup.co.uk for a report of the legal case.
M6 widening / M6 Expressway (Staffordshire / Cheshire)
The first direct action protest against the 51 mile M6 expansion happened on 13 Jan with a protest about exclusion from the consultations. Despite 98% of over 9500 consultation respondents saying they wanted no road, the government are still ploughing ahead with this scheme (see RB bulletin 29 July and RB press release ). The Highways Agency (HA) held two exclusive invite-only 'stakeholder' seminars in Staffordshire and Cheshire on 10 and 13 Jan. Residents groups were furious as they were not invited, and after requesting invites, were refused entry. At the Cheshire meeting, three residents walked to the front of the meeting, with gags over their mouths, and remained throughout with signs denouncing the meetings. The HA apparently described three options: 'broadly symmetrical widening', 'broadly parallel widening' and the Expressway which would be ' broadly adjacent'. Of great interest were the 'conceptual' junctions which showed the massive land take needed. The HA refused to discuss a third option of no expansion, or the issue of climate change. The HA will report to the government by early July, and Dr Ladyman (roads minister) has said he wants a decision by the summer about whether to widen or build a new road, with no roadbuilding not being an option. There will be a Group Against Motorway Expansion (GAME) public meeting on 18 Jan as the resistance builds up. See http://nom6e.blogspot.com/
Titnore Lane (Sussex)
The Protect Our Woodland (POW) group were able to persuade the Development Control Committee not to approve the planning application for the Titnore Lane housing development and access road, by informing members that devious unelected officials were knowingly feeding them incorrect information - justifying this deed by stating that to have given the correct information "would have introduced an element of unnecessary confusion to the meeting". The Committee have refused to approve the plan until they see the correct information.
Thames Gateway Bridge (London)
Objectors to the Thames Gateway Bridge (TGB) have uncovered proposals by Greenwich Council to widen Knee Hill, causing irrevocable environmental damage to the ancient woodlands bordering Knee Hill. Increasing capacity on Knee Hill would further increase traffic travelling between the Thames Gateway Bridge and the A2 through what is a residential area. Residents have pledged to "vehemently oppose this to the end". The discovery was made in a TGB update by Bexley Council. The next phase of the TGB inquiry is due to start at Charlton Athletic Football Club on 21 Feb at 10am. The Inquiry had to be adjourned last year as Transport for London (TfL) admitted their traffic counts were wildly out, and had to remodel the economic, traffic and environmental reports. Ken Livingstone has had to agree to an extra £15,000 to Objectors to respond to their mistakes. TfL have also had to raise the planned tolls on the bridge by 50% in peak times, and cut the area within which local residents qualify for a discount! See RB bulletin 27 Nov and http://www.nobridge.org.uk/
The council advertised minor changes to their road scheme on 9 Dec, with a 21 day consultation period. However these alterations were listed to be heard by the Planning Control Committee, and recommended for approval, on 22 Dec, i.e. before closure of public consultation! Derby HEART managed to serve an emergency High Court Injunction on the council preventing them from hearing the matters before the closure of public consultation. Approval of planning decisions before closure of consultation, has been a regular problem in Derby, by the arrogant and road obsessed city council. Unfortunately the road has been selected as a regional priority. However, the government will have to make a decision on the go-ahead in the Spring, with the costs having gone up hugely.
No Widening M1 (Sheffield)
The campaign handed in a petition to Sheffield City Council and addressed the full council for three minutes, explaining the reasons behind our opposition, with people in the public gallery addressing further questions to council members. As well as raising the issue to the council, the campaign has been on the local TV news and in several local papers. Seeds for Change ran a free workshop on campaign strategy and how the group works together. It was a very useful day and Seeds will run similar workshops for other roads groups - see http://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/free. Other areas are also setting up No Widening M1 groups, which is fabulous!
To get more involved see www.nowideningm1.org.uk or phone 07759 851073
Mottram - Tintwistle Bypass (Peak District)
The Draft Orders for the Mottram-Tintwistle bypass are due to be published 24 January, which means a Public Inquiry this year. If you can help local campaigners with their response or would like more information about the scheme, contact Emma on email@example.com. See http://www.saveswallowswood.org.uk/
A391 St Austell to A30 Link (Cornwall)
Knowing that time is running out on this scheme (costs have gone through the roof, and it is not being selected as a regional priority), County Council Officers have urged Councillors to rush through a Planning Application, in a desperate attempt to look like the road is going somewhere. This trick is being played out by desperate local authorities around the English regions. The application will be published at the end of the month, and is a scandalous and huge waste of local taxpayers money. The road is being resisted by residents group PAAL.
Dalkeith Northern Bypass (Midlothian)
Protesters are still in place in their tree-sit camps on the route of the £30 million A68 bypass (see RB bulletin 5 Nov and 16 Dec), and have now dug a network of tunnels to aid their resistance to eviction from Dalkeith Park. Evictions and tree felling could take place any time. Activists met with representatives of the National Eviction Team, an English bailiff firm hired to evict the protesters (http://www.mleyshon.co.uk/company.shtml), to discuss safety and establish a protocol for when eviction takes place. This scheme has been resurrected from the 1990s, and the Environmental Impact Assessment is over 10 years old! Loads more info at: www.save-dalkeith-park.org.uk. To get on the eviction email tree send your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org . To contact the protesters directly, call 07783 904369, and updates are posted daily at http://scotland.indymedia.org
A3 Hindhead (Surrey)
The Highways Agency have rejected the idea of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funding for this £320 million tunnel through the Devil's Punchbowl Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The South East Regional Assembly had drafted its regional priorities list on the assumption that it would not be funded out of the south east regional budget... meaning that £320m worth of schemes will have to be cut...
Roads lobby in the North East
Regional paper, the Newcastle Journal, is running a daily and hard hitting campaign in favour of widening the Newcastle Western Bypass and against the Highways Agency blocking planning applications which would contribute to increased congestion. Members of NECTAR and the Tyne Crossings Alliance have been co-ordinating a letter-writing counter-campaign, with some success.
A127/A1159 Priory Crescent, Southend (Essex)
In a Written Answer on 19 Dec, the latest costs of all road schemes in the country (available from Road Block), were revealed. Buried in there was the startling revelation that costs for this 870m stretch of road had leapt from £3.5 million at first approval in 2000, up to £11m in 2005, and now stand at £27m! In the regional cost estimates the scheme is costed at £21m... Meanwhile Camp Bling is still there, with local residents determined to stay put until the funding bid for the road is rejected. See www.savepriorypark.org for more info on the campaign.
Glossop Spur Road (Tameside)
Tameside and High Peak councils have granted themselves planning permission, despite objections from the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA). The PDNPA objection was based on concern about the impact of increased traffic flows on the Park. Campaigners also objected that the Environmental Statement was deficient and that local councils were failing in their Section 62 duty under the Environment Act 1995. Attempts to have the decision called in by the GONW and GOEM failed, and the application is upheld. Having granted themselves permission, the Councils are now in stronger position to obtain regional funding. For background see http://www.roadblock.org.uk/action/glossopSpur.htm or email Emma on email@example.com to get involved.
Durham Northern Relief Road
The Durham Northern Relief Road has been left out of the latest list of transport priorities for the North East region up till 2016. An earlier ranking exercise gave the road a low priority, as being at odds with government policy. Government feedback on the draft local transport plan suggested that alternatives to the road had not been properly considered, and "lacks consideration of stronger demand management as an alternative". All in all, the road seems to be dying except as an option smuggled into feasibility studies for road charging (TIF - Transport Innovation Fund), a prospect already causing public concern and political unease.
Shrewsbury NW Relief Road (Shropshire)
Shropshire County Council is due to publish the much-delayed consultation report at the end of the month. It has still to decide whether to include the road in its LTP. Meanwhile, the road is selected as a regional priority, and has been sneaked into a council's TIF study into road charging (as Durham above).
The fantastic fundraising efforts of the JAM74 Alliance continue for the legal challenge to the Scottish Executive's decision to over turn the independent inquiry inspector - see RB bulletin 17 June. A "Septathalon Challenge" is being organised along the proposed route of the road, utilising seven different forms of transport, including bikes, buses, trains and tricycles! See www.jam74.org
Kingskerwell Bypass (Devon)
The Adjudication Panel for England have allowed an appeal against the Teignbridge Council Standards Committee ruling suspending Parish Councillor Paul Bright, who represents the anti-bypass Kingskerswell Alliance (see RB bulletin 16 Dec). The Adjudication Panel tribunal is listed for 1 March.
It will be ten years from the first eviction of the No M66 Campaign in February. To mark this, there will be an exhibition about the No M66 Campaign from 22 February to 20 March at the Basement Social Centre, Lever Street, Manchester. The M66 was a motorway around the north east of Manchester, now called the M60. The campaign lasted for over a year, and there were three camps on the route. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Weymouth Relief Road (Dorset)
Scheme costs seem to be a bit of mystery here... Dorset County Council tell the government the scheme will cost £54 million, yet in November 2005 they estimated privately it would cost £77 million. When they desperately appeared before the transport select committee inquiry into the Olympics, they begged for £100 million. Meanwhile the council met with the Countryside Agency to try and appease them, as they are objecting to the Planning Application. However the CA are not convinced that the road is justified on traffic grounds, as well as going through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Brownhills Eastern Bypass (Walsall)
Stonnall Campaign Against Roads (SCAR) fund raising sub committee is working hard, with a Brass Band Concert in February, a Cheese and Wine Evening in March and a Folk Night in April. Meanwhile the group are awaiting a decision from the government on whether to award funding for their scheme, whilst it has unfortunately been selected as a regional funding priority. SCAR now has a new website at www.stonnall-scar.co.uk
STOP CLIMATE CHAOS LOBBY OF MPs FOR A CARBON BUDGET - 1 March
The Stop Climate Chaos event will be a cross between lobbying and speed dating - called (can you guess?) Carbon Dating. It will take place in Westminster Central Hall in London. The idea is that up to 2000 people will come along, and meet various MPs for short periods of time, by moving from table to table - in the style of speed dating. Except for the topic of conversation will be climate change. This will give MPs a chance to meet the broad spectrum of people who are concerned about the issue, and give you a chance to meet with various influential MPs to make your feelings heard. Ten anti-road group representatives can attend. Please contact email@example.com for a place. See http://stopclimatechaos.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org for info
Climate change camp - 26 Aug - 4 Sept 2006
A huge camp for action around climate change is being planned for the North of England at the end of next summer. See http://www.climatecamp.org.uk and email email@example.com if you want to get involved in working groups.