In the '80's the volume of traffic passing through Newbury in Berkshire was arouund 50,000 vehicles per day and congestion was a seriosu problem despite the A34 bypass. In 1982, four possible routes fro a new bypass were proposed.
A public consultation was undertakne which included exhibitions of the possible routes as well as the distribution of brochures and questionnaires. In 1984, the Department of Transporrt annouced its recommendation of the western route - this meant building an additional 13.4km long section of the A34.
Many locals believed the bypass wouldn't solve the traffic problems, partly because alot of traffic was local. THey thougght other methods could solve the problem e.g. traffic calming measures, bus lanes and park and ride schemes.
There were many environmental concerns over the route:-
- The route would cross 3 SSIs (Snelmore, River Kennet and River Lambourn)
- IT crosses 6 county wildlife sites and the Rack Marsh nature reserve
- 10,000 trrees would be felled
- Habitats for protected species such as the Dormouse and Desmoulin's whorl snail would be destroyed.
- It would cross two civil war battle sites and 12 archaeological sites
Campaings Against the Bypass
A group of local residensts formed the Society for the Prevetions of the WEstern Bypass (SPEWBY) - they submitted a report to the consultation in 1982 which described the case against the bypass, and raised public awareness using the media.
In 1994, some residents formed the Third Battle of Newbury Group which gained the support of national organisations like WWF and Greenpeace. They raised awarenss of the case nationally, and got peple across the country to write protest letters to the governemnt. THey also made formal complaints to the EU commission, claimging that the government was breaking EU law by approving the bypass without doing an EIA. However, no laws were broken as the bypass was proposed before the law on EIAs was made.
Direct action protests began in 1994. Protestors from all over the couuntry began to set up camps along the route of the bypass. Some built tree houses and others live in tents. THere were a few incidnets of criminal damage and violence but the protests were mostly peaceful. By Feb 1996, there were hundreds of people in over 30 camps. THey tried to stop work to clear the bypass route by living in trees and digging and living in tunnels, and locking the path of heavy machinery. That month, the protest became the biggest ever anti-road protest in UK history - 8000 people marched along the 3km of the route of the bypass
Support for the Bypass
A large number of local residents supported the building of the bypass and a group formed the Newbury Supporters Association. They gathered a petition of 6000 signatures. The four local councils in the area supporrted the bypass (although some objections were expressed eg Berkshire County Council's archaeological officer raised concerns about the route going across the Kennet River Valley SSSI.
The Local MP DAvid Rendel was a strong supporter of the building of the bypass.
Public Inquiry and Review
In 1988, 147 witnesses gave evidence to a government appointed inspector:- support for the bypass was expressed by the four couuncils and the NBSA, opposition was expressed by SPEWBY, local farmers, the national trust and National rivers authority.
In 1990, the government announced that the bypass would go ahead despite the opposition. THe conflict continued, so in 1994, the Transport minister annouced a review by the Highways Agency where alternativves to the bypass would be considered. It was again decided that the bypass would continue.
After the review, preparations to clear the route began.
THe Hghiways Agency obtained evictions orders to remove the direct action protestors from their camps - this began in 1996.
Two police forces (THames Valley and Hampshire), over 600 security guards and professional climbers were used to remove the protestors and their camps. It took arouund 5weeks to evict all of them and security costs on the Bypass reacherd over £30million - only £7million was originally allocated for this.
Over 900 protestors were arrested.
On Going Conflict
The bypass was completed in 1998, but the anti bypass campagin continues and there have been several reunioin rallies at Newbury.
Campaigners still work to raise awareness of the negative impacts of the bypass i.e pollution in habitats along the bypass route is monitored.
Although the bypass was built, the anti-bypass campaing had some such successes:
- The campaign highlighted environmental issues, so nearly 200,000 trees and shurbs wre planted and attempts to relocate wildlife were made
- The campaign raised awareness of the fact that road building may not be the solution to traffic problems so many new road building schemes have been scrapped