Seven held as Newbury bypass demo boils over

The Sunday Telegraph January 12 1997

Greg Neale

TWO ANTI-ROADS demonstrators were injured yesterday -- one fell from a giant crane, the other was trampled by a police horse -- after protesters attacked a building site at the Newbury bypass, setting fire to contractors' huts and a dumper truck.

Seven protesters were arrested when fencing was torn down and missiles were hurled at police, who said later that £75,000 worth of damage had been done to buildings and machinery.

The protest came as supporters of the controversial road complained that the Government had failed to pay for traffic-calming measures in the town.

Several hundred protesters occupied the building site after more than 2,000 demonstrators staged a march and rally on the bypass route in fog and drizzle.

After cutting fences, protesters pushed aside security guards and scrambled on to a tipper truck, a crane and a bulldozer.

The injured man broke a leg when he fell from the 150 ft-high crane as several other demonstrators bore a flaming torch to the top of the structure.

Friends of the Earth, which had organised the earlier rally, condemned the subsequent violence, but hailed the Newbury campaign as a turning point.

Charles Secrett, the organisation's executive director, told the rally that government transport plans were in disarray. «Because of the Newbury protest, we will never see a road like this go through again,» he said.

«The message to get across to people is that it is worth doing something. You can make a difference and change things.»

Tony Benn, the veteran Labour MP, who attended the rally, praised what he called the brilliant campaign against the bypass.

Earlier, David Rendel, the town's Liberal-Democrat MP, accused ministers of letting Newbury down by refusing to fund traffic-calming measures.

Ministers have given Newbury only £100,000 our of £686,000 councillors sought to stop new local traffic being drawn into the town when the bypass opens late next year.

The money was earmarked for pedestrianising the town centre, cycle lanes and a new road bridge.

Mr Rendel said the decision not to give a full grant was a cynical move by ministers. «They are strapped for cash to finance tax cuts and are making it harder for any future government, because everybody knows Newbury must hace the money.»

Though the bypass would take away most heavy traffic, motorists would be tempted to use the town unless the new measures were adopted.

·Transport campaigners p|an a mass lobby of Parliament next week in support of a move to cut traffic.

The Road Traffic Reduction Bill, which is being introduced by the Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster, would require the Government to draw up plans for a 5 per cent reduction of traffic by the year 2005, and a 10 per cent reduction by 2010.