Home | SchNEWS Annual 1997 | Protest Camp Roundup for 1997

Justice? Brighton's Campaign in Defiance of the Criminal Injustice Act

HOW WE PROTESTED in '97

"When will the trees grow back?
When the roots have taken over.
When will the trees grow back?
When the roots come overground."
-
Head Mix Collective

The main objective of any protest site, first and foremostly is to deter the developers from trashing the land. But, if the powers to be are intent on raping the countryside in the name of progress and to line the pockets of the already stinking rich - then the campaign will exist to make sure that it will cost them a fuck of a lot more than if we were not there.

Campaigning on site has increased in popularity over the years, as well as becoming a lot more organized, for instance the use of solar-panelled mobile offices, fully equipped with on line computers, faxes, etc. This is through the recognition of direct actions effectiveness in promoting sustainability. The protest site has become a centre for autonomous living, a community of self governing, mutually supportive activists who share a common goal of defending their place of residence (oh yea.... and the 'occasional' bottle of 'cheap but get you pissed' cider, to lift campaign spirits!!)

Now 'ere's yer fully comprehensive guide to the protests sites of '97- win, lose, or draw!

The year started with the final evictions of the A30 campaign, with the siege of Trollheims battlements and the week long underground hunt for Swampy and co. Rumours are banded around the Ottery office of a camp set up in Manchester.

In stark realisation that CO2 fumes are not solely emitted from cars on roads, protestors took to the trees in what was later to become 'leery' Flywood camp, to take direct action against the proposed second runway at Manchester Airport. Set in the heart of Bollin Valley, Cheshire, Coalition Against Runway 2 (CAR2) was the final resort in attempting to save the 1,000 acres of greenbelt land, despite 20 years of letter writing and a 101 day public enquiry. With 4 miles of razor wire surrounding the now numerous camps along the proposed stretch, security stormed the site on quads at 4am Tuesday 20th May. Fifteen days later the trees were finally emptied, but the last tunneller was dragged out after 17 days underground, making the grand total for the eviction near to 5 million.

More Manchester mayhem was to follow this year. Bluebell Woods, in Longsite, once a beautiful 2.5 acre conservation area of sycamore, ash and ehhm... bluebells, a much needed space of greenery in an industrialised area, is now a building site for student accommodation and a car park for their precious cars. The site was evicted in 2 days. 500 students are to be housed, so the university can pocket the fees the students now have to fork out of their non-existent grants, to get into incredible debt with the banks and student loans, forcing the bright eyed and bushy tailed graduates into a 'flexible' work market of job insecurity, or become a job seeker' and be forced into working for McFuck for tuppence ha'penney an hour - OR ELSE!! (...call me cynical.)

Meanwhile, daaan saaaf, protestors were celebrating in Stringers Common near Guildford in the first of a series of successful direct action campaigning this year. Established in December '96 to stop the A320 road widening scheme, the council (rather than Gov'nt) funded project could not afford the 2.9 million go-ahead. Needless to say this is the price before the protestors moved onto the land. As one resident of the common argues, "The cost of evictions would have made it impossible and direct action has again proved to be a successful tactic in defending our environment."

On March 15th, the first tree house was erected in West Wood, Lyminge Forest, Kent, and work started on the Fawlty Towers tunnels, out in the Badlands. The campaign is in response to our good old mates Rank, who want to turn this beautiful forest into a Centre- Parks stylee Oasis Holiday Village, complete with a leisure dome, 9 hole golf course, rubber lined artificial lake, studio apartments, parking for 3,400 cars, etc. Morals have been boosted throughout the campaign, with bands like Flannel playing on the infamous Site B'stard and Eco-Trip making a sweat lodge and feeding the masses. The camp continues, so watch this space!!

Another successful campaign this year is the Teigngrace site in Devon, home of the Watts, Blake and Bearne open cast quarry for white clay, which is then exported for use in making toilets and sinks. Yep, you've guessed it, they want to expand and be BIGGER so they can have MORE clay for MORE toilets so they can make MORE money. Expanding the quarry would mean redirecting two rivers and trashing many acres of marshland, including a cider apple orchard and badger sets.

The unusual aspect of the AQUA campaign (Anti-Quarry Action) is in its establishment prior to a public enquiry. Enthusiastic campaigners decided to take to the road in September on a 242 mile 'strole' from Devon to the Dept of Environment to hand over a letter to John Prescott, demanding a public enquiry and vowing to tat down the camp if one is granted. 12 days later they arrived only to be snubbed by the DoE who claimed they had no knowledge of the (weary and foot rotten) walkers and instead sent a mere underling out to accept the letter instead of an expected minister. The next day, three (hungover, weary and foot rotten) protestors scaled and banner dropped the 30ft high entrance roof of the DoE , this time demanding their views be heard. Four days later John Prescott announced his decision to grant a public enquiry. "I DON'T BELIEEEVE IT!!!" The camp has now been tatted down for the public enquiry. Nice one !

Another trip up north takes us to the proposed bypass around Bingley, West Yorkshire, where a camp has been set up since June 1996. The campaign held three camps until earlier this year, when the scheme was put on hold until march '98, when a new decision will be made (one of the options being to reduce the road to a single carriageway - how good of them!) Watch this space!

Protestors in Teddy Bear Woods are continuing building their defences after being told that they have until January '99, when evictions will be imminent! The Weymouth Brown Route, as they have now eventually decided to call it, cuts through 2 SSSI's, aswell as ancient burial mounds. Get down there, set up camp and cost the naughty little rotters a fortune!

Up in Scotland Pressmannen Wood still waits on red alert ! The 13,000 year old oak wood in East Lothian has become the potential gold mine for the land owners who want to use the profitable veneer for dashboards in BMW's to export to Germany. Despite buying the land under a Scottish by-law for 1 earlier in the campaign, the camp has been tatted down, but ready for the worst.

While in Ireland, the first ever treetop road protest site was started in North Wicklow. The Glen of the Downs is a steep sided valley containing oak trees aswell as beech, ash and hazel, constituting its status as an Area of Scientific Interest and of National Importance. The proposal? A road widening scheme, expanding the Arklow- Dublin road, aka N11 or Euroroute E01, linking Lame with Paris via Belfast, Dublin, Rosslare and Le Harve. An Environmental impact statement describe the Glen in terms of "considerable botanical, zoological and ornithological importance".

Down in Somerset the Mendips are under attack again, slowly being eaten by an industry intent on expansion. Dead Womans Bottom camp (despite popular belief this is the official location of the site, OS RefST717462) in Nunny Catch nr Frome, was established earlier this year to campaign against the Bulls Green Link Road which will provide direct routes between the quarrys for ARG to carry aggregate for use in making roads etc. The route will cut straight through Asham Woods endangering the rare Greater Horseshoe bat population, and narrowly missing a 6,000 year old Yew tree forest. One protester told SchNews, "The Mendips are being trashed. In the next few years they intend expanding both Whately and Mierhead quarrys, the two biggest open cast sites in Europe, both of which can be seen from the moon, so we intend on staying in this area for sometime. This is our home now."

Wyndham Hill in Yeovil played host to a successful site this year, victorious over a plan to 'develop' the hill into a car-park and link road. A series of tree houses and tunnels, which burrowed straight under an existing car park, was enough to deter South Somerset District Council from any further plans. Another golden handshake to all those involved!

Brighton had its own local camp this year, with our favorite neighbour Farmer Harmer ploughing up his fields in Offham, nestled in the south downs to grow flax, for which he can earn a nice little wager of nearly 600 per acre. The site is a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), consisting of 33 different species of butterfly, rare flowers, scrub and woodland. The initiative to grow the crop came from the Euro-legislation, the Common Agricultural Policy, which dangles incentives, like carrots for donkeys, to farmers for growing the crop in subsidies. The 'Adder Camp' was set up, with protestors and locals alike re-turfing the land behind the tractor. After a temporary victory, Harmer was given permission by English Heritage to return and start up the ploughing. But alas, he was no match for the wrath of direct action - Michael Meacher called the project off, and Offham was victorious again!! Hoobloody-ra!!

A more recent camp set up is in defiance of the proposed 27 mile long Birmingham Northern Relief road. Despite the fact that work is not due to commence until 1999, defences are being built and local support is overwhelming. Get over there and see what's going on!

A more urban campaign takes us to London where trees are being used as theatre props for the convenience of the local council and protestors are adamant to stop this. 76 poplar trees in Canbury Gardens, Kingston were originally planted to obscure the view of a local power station, but now a plush new housing estate has been built and the trees are ruining the quality of life for the residents by restricting their view of the park. Oh... the dilemmas for the council. Permission for the tree execution has been given by the Lib Dem MP Alan MacMillan. Poor Alan had to admit his conflict of interests when it became apparent that while he sits on the Environment Committee that has given the development permission, he also lives on the affected estate. Ohh... the dilemmas!!

Once upon a time site protesting was solely against roads, yer Twyfords, Newburys and Fairmiles. It expanded to airports, to leisure domes etc etc. Now animal rights protestors have taken to the sites, with camp Reno protesting outside Huntingdon Life Sciences, Cambridgeshire, one of the UK's largest vivisection labs. HLS, who at any one time have 62,500 animals being experimented on, have minimal public support due to a CH4 documentary in which it showed 2 members of the company throwing a beagle against the wall and abusing others. On November 8th this year, the camp held a ceremonial bonfire upon which was thrown Christopher Cliffe, the big director blokey of HLS, instead of the old geeza Guy Fawks. Ahhh, may he rest in hell. The council is in the process of taking the landowner to court as we speak for not evicting the camp quick enough. In December, it was announced that the camps have cost HLS 3.5 million. Ah.. Ha!

Peace campaigning this year has stepped up pace. Faslane, who celebrated their 15 year anniversary earlier in the year was at the same time issued an eviction notice in July. The newly formed Argyle and Bute council now want to evict the camp, which overlooks the Clyde submarine base, home of Trident. But morales have been high as people have been flocking back, defences established, actions occurring, music and poetry sounding. The eviction didn't take place (Do they really think they can get rid of us that easily? Ha!") but could happen any day, any month. So be prepared for a short notice trip to Scotland.

Another Peace camp has been set up outside the Alvis factory in Coventry in defiance of their deal in sending tanks out to Indonesia while the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) are busy touring the country with discussions and workshops on all relevant issues.

Though this has attempted to be a comprehensive guide to the sites of '97, there have been many more unaccounted for here, due to various reasons before this went to print (the usual lack of reception to some site mobiles, missing persons, etc.) There was the Radstock Railway line in Frome, the tree village to protect the badger sets in Wales, the various actions and camps set up and organised by Reclaim the Valleys such as Nant Helen in South Wales.

Site-life has become a lifestyle, an army of protestors ready for the worst at any time, on call 24hrs a day. It's not just about a bunch of crusties who can't live in babylon, it has brought in concerned locals, pensioners - all sectors of the community.

Profit yearning, concrete addicts are against a force to be reckoned with. Direct action and residing on threatened land is proving a powerful technique in protecting our countryside against corporate interests.

 


SchNEWS, PO Box 2600, Brighton, BN2 0EF, England
Phone/Fax: +44 (0)1273 685913
email: schnews@brighton.co.uk

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