Alliance against road building
Alliance against road building
It has been an eventful year for road campaigns. One of the best successes
of 2006 was the dropping of the 51 mile M6 Expressway - a brand new parallel
tolled motorway snaking through the Cheshire and Staffordshire countryside.
Well done to the GAME group, who are now also fighting the proposed widening
as well. Another great victory was for Norfolk campaigners who successfully
argued for cheaper safety measures on the A47 Acle Straight, rather than
a new road in the Norfolk Broads National Park.
Unfortunately they government are still ploughing on with many other road schemes, waving the bulldozers in at High Low Newton Bypass in the Lake District and the Tunstall Bypass in Stoke to name just two. Every single road that experienced cost escalation has had its cost increase approved. The new regional funding structure created much confusion with, unfortunately, most of the money spent on roads rather than public transport.
Climate change rose even higher up the political agenda with the publication of the Stern report and from now on all road schemes coming forward must have the cost of the CO2 emissions factored into the cost benefit analysis. The Eddington report emphasised climate change yet concluded that even when this was costed in, it was still in the economic interests to build more roads and expand airports.
Next year will see a rewriting of much transport policy in the light of Eddington, a new Climate Change Bill (thanks to excellent campaigning from Friends of the Earth) and a Planning Bill (see below). One thing is certain, things aren't going to be quiet... and Road Block will certainly make sure it isn't!
There will not be an e-bulletin in January, but the Road Block bulletin will return in February. Road Block wishes you a happy Christmas and a wonderful low-carbon 2007!
(1) Transport and climate news:
The Activists' Legal Project provides advice and information to activists involved in social and environmental campaigning and protest. The ALP website has just been relaunched with revised and updated guides to your rights and the legal consequences of protest, nonviolent direct action, and much more.
Heysham to M6 Link (Lancaster) - ACTION
The controversial Heysham to M6 Link road has been passed to the Government Office North West ( GONW) to decide on a call in for an independent public inquiry. GONW has received "several hundreds" of letters, but has not yet made a decision. M any thanks to those who sent emails. If you haven't, there's still time. Please email GONW and demand that it calls the scheme in for an independent public inquiry. And copy to Ruth Kelly, Douglas Alexander and Geraldine Smith MP. You can do so easily from the Road Block website here: http://www.roadblock.org.uk/action/heysham.htm . Meanwhile, at a recent showing of Al Gore's film “An Inconvenient Truth”, the leader of Lancaster City Council, agreed that climate change was a serious threat and that the City Council was committed to intervene to address the problem and reduce the scale of the threat. At the same time he repeated his support for the Heysham M6 Link. See http://heyshamm6link.info/
Weymouth Relief Road (Dorset)
In the three week objection period Dorset County Council received over 4000 objections to the new planning application (see RB bulletin 30 Nov 06)! The local newspaper tried to blame the large response on Road Block, but the vast majority of the objections came locally. Also, crucially, Natural England (the national environmental watchdog) maintained their objection to the scheme. Their objection is that the road scheme is not a justified intrusion into the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as the road would actually increase congestion and traffic in Weymouth. The new design would actually mean more damage to the AONB as there would be a new junction in the lovely Bincombe Valley. Most of the route remains unchanged, going through Southdown Ridge in the Area of Local Landscape Interest, the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve and Ancient Woodland in Two Mile Coppice in the Lorton Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Newbury Bypass (Berkshire)
A fourth report has come out which concluded that traffic is as bad, if not worse, in Newbury since the infamous bypass. The latest report is by Trafficmaster, which concluded that the congestion on the A339 is the third worse in the country! We don't like to say we told you so, but....
The first report which found the high traffic growth, and showed how Newbury hadn't benefited from the bypass, was in 2004 by Atkins for West Berkshire Council. The second and third reports used Highways Agency one and five year evaluation studies and were produced for CPRE and the government's Countryside Agency in 2006. The congestion in town was always mostly local traffic and the bypass has made no difference to congestion, in fact causing traffic to rise. Accidents have also increased.
Harlow North (Hertfordshire)
Planning Minister Ruth Kelly has responded to the East of England Panel Report into the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), and has unfortunately over turned the Panel's recommendation to reject the massive 10,000 housing development north of Harlow. "The value of the whole Examination in Public process has been entirely undermined" said Nigel Clark Secretary STOP Harlow North. The housing plans include a proposal for a controversial northern bypass to create a car dependent area. See http://www.stopharlownorth.com/
Norwich Northern Distributor Road (Norfolk)
Ruth Kelly also rejected the Panel's proposal that traffic should be reduced, but instead proposes to reduce the rate of traffic growth! She accepted that wish lists of road schemes that the East Regional Assembly had proposed should not be included in the Plan. This undermines the Norwich Northern Distributor Road which Norfolk County Council hoped to see listed in the 30 year Plan. See http://www.norwichn25.org/
A14 Fen Ditton – Ellington (Cambridgeshire)
The Highways Agency are now re-consulting on three different route options (of course there is no 'no road' option) after the successful High Court challenge by local residents (see RB bulletin 31 Oct 06). The costs of the scheme have gone up from £490 million to £6-700 million, depending on the route chosen! Local residents are investigating whether the most expensive (but least environmentally damaging, going through a landfill site) route has been costed correctly. See http://www.offordsa14actiongroup.co.uk/
Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (Sussex)
East Sussex County Council report that the planning application for the scheme has been delayed for a second time. Originally scheduled for May 06, it is now expected to be submitted in ‘Spring’ 07. Costs are rising in any case, but the delay is bound to lead to further rises. Of course this at least means a further breeding season in the threatened Combe Haven valley, much of which is made up of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and gives an extended opportunity to enjoy the tranquillity of a very special and beautiful place. The coalition of local environmental and community groups which make up the Hastings Alliance are fighting hard to stop the hugely environmentally damaging scheme from going ahead, and are about to publish a report that shows that alternatives to the road have not been properly investigated. With much of the valley flooded at this time of year, there’s nowhere more beautiful for a winter walk (with care, and wellies) if you’re in the area. (OS Explorer sheet 124 ‘Hastings and Bexhill’). See http://www.hastingsalliance.com/
M6 widening (Birmingham to Manchester)
A group of students from Stafford College have produced an excellent and inspiring video for the campaign here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLTEWDZt_Ts . Meanwhile the Highways Agency are busy preparing the Business Case for widening, which should go to ministers to decide in February. See http://nom6e.blogspot.com/
Southend Priory Crescent (Essex)
Protestors at Southend on Sea's " Camp Bling" mark 15 months of successful occupation on the route of the A127/A1159 proposed road widening this Saturday 23rd December. Numerous events are planned at the protest camp over the holiday period including a solstice celebration, and festive activities. Check out the 'events' page at www.savepriorypark.org and visit the camp if you can!
Brownhills Eastern Bypass (Walsall)
Walsall Council have advised local group SCAR that they are presently researching and determining an alternative alignment of the route and hope to have outline details early in 2007. SCAR Group are anxiously awaiting this announcement before deciding what action will be required. See http://www.stonnal-scar.co.uk/
SEMMMS, Stockport Relief Road
At over £60 million per mile under Private Finance Initiative it looks as though the SEMMMS roads can't possibly go ahead. It remains to be seen whether Stockport Council will stop paying out vast sums to consultants for this doomed road - transport consultants alone were paid £1,389,355 in 2005/6 and up to October this year had received £255,437. Councillors state privately that this road can not go ahead and have done for some time. How they can continue to condone this appalling waste of taxpayers' money on consultants remains a mystery? The road will damage the beautiful Goyt Valley. See http://stoptheroad.org.uk/
Kingskerswell Bypass (Devon)
Local Torbay Conservative Party Candidate, Marcus Wood has posted comments on his internet blog stating his view that the answer to solving the Torbay housing crisis is to develop Kingskerswell! He wrote: "The answer to me is obvious. The Kingskerswell bypass, if given the go-ahead, will throw up parcels of unviable agricultural land all round it which could easily provide the escape-valve for pressure for building land; in addition to the brownfield sites we already know about". This is exactly what the campaign have suspected all along, and here is the proof!
(3) TAKE ACTION - http://www.roadblock.org.uk/action.htm
* Ask for a full public inquiry into the Heysham to M6 Link (Lancaster) - for more info see news item above. To send email see http://www.roadblock.org.uk/action/heysham.htm
* Tell the Transport Minister to scrap the roads programme. Road Block has printed 1000s of postcards to send to Douglas Alexander telling him that roadbuilding fuels climate change. You can either download the cards from our website here - http://www.roadblock.org.uk/ - or you can email us to saying how many you would like (send us a donation later to cover the postage), or send us an SAE telling us how many you would like. Write to us at: Road Block, 12-18 Hoxton St, LONDON, N1 6NG.
* Sign the Downing Street online petition against roadbuilding - " We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to scrap the £12 billion road building programme and invest the money in public transport and making cycling and walking more attractive, to reduce CO2". Currently we are the 85th petition on the website - I am sure we can do better than that! Sign up here - http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/endroadbuilding/
* Email David Cameron about the Conservatives supporting roadbuilding -
* Keep government open - defend the Freedom of Information Act. Journalists and groups like Road Block and many local groups find the FOI Act essential for getting hidden information from government, councils and quangos. The government is proposing to limit the time spent on answering FOI requests, and the number of requests anyone can put in. Sign the petition here: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/freeinformation/