Bypass bridge redesign condemned as illusion of wildlife concern

The Guardian February 23 1996

Sally Weale

ENVIRONMENTALISTS campaigning against the Newbury bypass yesterday condemned a last-minute redesign of the four bridge crossing on the route, accusing the Government of trying to give the illusion that it cared about wildlife.

The Highways Agency earlier announced plans to increase the width between the bridge supports, claiming that it would reduce the road's impact on two sites of special scientific interest.

Friends of the Earth said that is the Government really cared, all work on the £101 million eight-mile bypass should stop until a proper assessment of the environmental damage could be made.

Work on two sites has had to be suspended because baders are using two setts on the line of the road, and the Highways Agency has had to investigate the discovery of a rare snail, Desmoulin's whorl, found in the area.

FoE's deputy campaigns director, Tony Juniper, said efforts to mitigate environmental damage were being made on the hoof. «A quiet deal has been done behind closed doors to give the illusion that the Government cares about wildlife.»

The Highways Agency said the measure had been under consideration for some time and would ensure that SSSIs on the Kennet and Lambourn rivers were not disturbed.

Project manager Mike Norcott said: «There will now be a wider corridor between the bridge supports and river banks within which wildlife can move.»

Thames Valley police said yesterday the Home Office had refused to foot the £2.6 million bill for providing 100 officers at the site each day.