Chain reaction puts bypass gains in reverse

The Guardian Tuesday January 16 1996

Owen Bowcott on protest success

RECLINING in cold mud under a contractor's van, Rory Larkin peered out from behind a rear tyre. He was relishing his discomfort.

He had padlocked himself to the exhaust and had prevented the load of chainsaws being used elsewhere on the Newbury bypass.

«If they start the engine, I'll get third degree burns,» the 28-year-old former warehouseman boasted. After two hours, cramped and shivering, he crawled out to a round of applause from anti-road protesters.

Such tactics succeeded in delaying work again on the route after construction teams briefly gained the initiative by commencing operations at several sites.

Trees were felled with chainsaws at Tot Hill, and Great Pen Wood, south of Newbury, before enough demonstrators gathered to disrupt the cutting. At Enborne Road to the west of the town, activists scrambled up willows and ashes to save a copse.

As on Friday, the use of mobile chainsaw crews led to a large number of arrests with 20 protesters taken to Newbury police station yesterday. Most of them were held under the Criminal Justice Act, although one was arrested for assault.

One demonstrator, who gave his name as «Bark» from Belgium, claimed his life had been endangered. «I climbed up a fir tree and the man below put a chainsaw into the trunk.»

At one point security men linked arms forming an empty square while they escorted two men carrying chainsaws across a field full of jeering protesters.

There was also evidence of growing local unease at the construction work. Lady Jeanine Barber and several of her friends who live near the site again expressed their solidarity.

Lady Barber was looking agitated. «A lot of local people are very sympathetic to this protest but they won't turn out.»