`Eco-warriors' on alert for Newbury bulldozers

Evening Standard Tuesday 5 December 1995

HUNDREDS of environmental campaigners were on full alert today as bulldozer gangs prepared to hack a path through ancient woodland and Civil War battlefields to construct the Newbury bypass.

So-called «eco-warriors» have set up camp in treetops, defying the snow blowing across the Berkshire Downs, and have burrowed into hillside tunnels. Living in a camp deep in the woods, they have vowed to stop the clearance work for the £100 million six-mile road round one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in England.

One campaigner vowed: «This will put the Twyford Down demo in the shade -- this will be the mother of all battles.» The protesters, many of whom are living off state handouts, have dubbed the coming confrontation the Third Battle of Newbury because the new road will slice through water-meadows and woods where Oliver Cromwell's Ironside troops fought two battles with King Charles's Cavallers more than 350 years ago.

The protesters have watched the machinery gathering and expect the gangs to begin work «any hour now». They believe the £3 million ground clearance contract has been awarded by the Highways Agency to an unknown bidder and was signed last Friday.

Because of environmental legislation, the work must be done before birds begin nesting next spring. The campaigners are digging in for a bitter winter of attrition and vow to «do everything possible» to delay the scheme, which was last week granted an 11th-hour reprieve from the Government's freeze on new roads.

Teams of protesters were stepping up patrols along the route, ready for the first sign of bulldozers starting up. They have set up a «telephone tree» system to alert reinforcement across the country.