Cost of Newbury policing could reach £12m
Police balk at cost of bypass duty

The Guardian Thursday January 18 1996

Owen Bowcott

THAMES Valley police could not afford the cost of policing the construction of the Newbury bypass because the force was misled about when work would start, the chief constable, Charles Pollard, has told the Home Office.

In a letter asking for extra funding, Mr Pollard says the estimated total cost of the joint operation with Hampshire police was now more than £12 million which, he said, should be paid from national funds because the bypass was a national project.

Mr Pollard said that when the force was planning this year's budget, the Government announced that the bypass would not go ahead in the «immediate foreseeable future», and no provision was made for the operation. «Just six months later, that decision was reversed.»

Brian Mawhinney gave the final go-ahead last July, six months before he said he would, on the day he was replaced as transport secretary by Sir George Young.

Friends of the Earth waid the letter showed that the Government pushed ahead with the £100 million project for political expediency rather than transport policy. Tony Juniper, the deputy campaigns director, said: «Not only have we all been misled, we're all now paying a heavy price.»

For the first time since work began, tree felling continued on two sites all day yesterday as protesters struggled to halt the chainsaws.

There were 39 arrests yesterday as more than 300 security staff cordoned off exclusion zones in the woods.

Almost all the arrests were for the alleged offence of aggravated trespass.

At Donington Wood, contractors almost reached one of the semi-permanent camps established by protesters. Nicknamed Pixie Tree Village, the encampment has a tunnel and a post box to receive letters of support, dole cheques and solicitors' summonses.

«If this road is going to be built, it will be built an inch at a time and cost them a fortune,» said Helen Morgan, a local conservationist.

An attempt to call in the Health and Safety Executive to investigate claims that the proximity of chainsaws and falling trees were endangering both security staff and protesters failed to halt work. The inspectorate said it had already discussed safety issues to its satisfaction with contractors before work began.

A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency, responsible for building the bypass, said yesterday: «We are bringing in more security guards and we are happy with the way it has been progressing.

«It gets better and better each day.»

The security sompany, Reliance, said: «It's softly, softly at the moment. If delays continue it is expected that security staff may begin climbing trees to bring down protesters.

«For now they are being left alone as the chainsaws move on to fell unoccupied trees.»