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Will coaliition plans drive us all round the bend?

The parallels keep racking up - a Tory government in powe intent on pushing through a huge road-building/improvement programme by any means necessar - is SchNEWS looking at a return to the 90s?

Cameron has been saying recently - in any number of those cosy Downing Street chats no doubt, but this time with leading Tory councillors that, 'there's money for roads... for those who shout the loudest'.

With 68 new road schemes currently on the books, the threat of bulldozers now hangs over green fields and forests up and down the country. Road-builders are itching to get their hands on new funding streams made available by Cameron & Osborne PLC (to see them all got to http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/campaigns/roads-to-nowhere/map)

Regional Growth Funds and Community Infrastructure Levies are pots of cash that have suddenly sprung up, encouraging councils and ‘local enterprise partnerships’ to dust off old road schemes.

One proposal is to turn the A303 (which passes within a few hundred metres of Stonehenge) into a dual carriageway. This massively controversial and expensive project was dropped in 2007 after (among other protests) Arthur Pendragon threatened to down a bowl of hemlock. Will Excalibur be enough to stop it now?

Closer to our our own base, the unspoiled areas of Sussex one of the most environmentally damaging schemes of all has been pushed through following a fifteen year battle: the £100m Bexhill Link Road.This will trash one of the most beautiful and tranquil spots in the south; Combe Haven Valley. There's been a long-running campaign against this one, courtesy of the Hastings Alliance. They say "We will continue to make every effort to secure this very special and treasured valley for future generations to enjoy."

Campaigns are also currently underway in Norwich and Bristol (south Bristol Link Road) where roads have yet to get permission. In Norwich, Denise Carlo, of the Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group, said: "The Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NNDR) is a development road which even the major developers say they don't need. The way in which the County Council has promoted it as an access road for a business park to avoid a local planning inquiry makes a mockery of local democracy and accountability.”   

Although it’s only 68 new roads/improvements on the table right now, these are just the opening salvo with more major schemes being planned for the next Spending Review in 2015. And now major roads, or ones that touch motorways will also get to enjoy the reduced Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NOD STRAIGHT INTO PLACE)  planning process. So forget the hard fought public inquiry process, expect the tarmac to start going through immediatley.

Becca Lush, a veteran anti-roads campaigner, told SchNEWS : “The current rush for roads is so depressing, with all the evidence of the last 20 years being ignored. That shows that road building rarely solves congestion, and usually makes it worse as traffic increases faster – as in Newbury. In fact road building usually harms local and regional economies. Transport policy is now driven by the Treasury, obsessively chasing growth and ignoring evidence. Road building won’t benefit the economy or ordinary people; it’ll simply line the pockets of construction companies.”

All of this comes on top of recently announced government studies into the ‘semi-privatisation’ of the motorway/major road network, a kind of PFI for roads rather than those for hospitals and schools which we will still paying off at a ludicrous real cost to final cost-plus-interest ratio for decades to come. This time those getting pig-rich will be the usual road building scum likely backed by investors from oil-rich Gulf states.

Time to dust off the harness and get back into the trees?

There are 4 comments on this story...
Added By: Anonymous - 8th May 2012 @ 12:05 PM
this, and Tulisa's 90's rave #1, it's all coming back, folks...
Added By: Persephone Pearl - 8th May 2012 @ 8:31 PM
My theatre company Feral has made a show about Newbury Bypass, it's on as part of the Brighton Fringe May 18-20 - what a timely moment to revisit the stories of 20 years ago. Would like to use the show as a chance to talk about the current tranche of road plans - so this article is very helpful, thank you. You can find details of the show at feraltheatre.co.uk
Added By: waking up!!! - 9th May 2012 @ 11:27 AM
big up toall the 90,s road protesters,i wasn,t part of it,but,having said that,doesn,t mean i wouldn,t get involved in future,bring it on...
Added By: Coyopa - 12th August 2012 @ 11:34 AM
As part of this year's Uncivilisation festival at East Meon, we're hosting a bunch of events to do with Newbury and the 90's protests in general - from talks and readings by Jim Hindle, Adrian Arbib, Paul Kingsnorth, Jay Griffiths, Andy Letcher and others, to art installations and more meaty discussions about the relationship between art and activism, as well as... well, take a look at: http://www.uncivilisation.co.uk/?page_id=5 - also Persephone Pearl's Feral Theatre and all manner of wild-based shenanigans...

Telling you this not so much to advertise (I think most, if not all the tickets have gone already) but to add my voice in saying that it does seem there's a resurgence in the air (and not just of road-building plans...)

Rise and root.
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Twitter: @SchNEWS