Tallest protest tree felled

The Guardian Wednesday March 27 1996

John Vidal

THE end of the forst phase of the Third Battle of Newbury was reached yesterday as a powerful symbol of opposition was removed and a High Court judge failed to recognise the conservation importance of rare snails found on the bypass route.

In one of the biggest operations so far against the protesters, two «cherry pickers», 100 police and 1,200 secutiry guards were used to bring five protesters and two photographers down from the tallest tree on the route, a 160ft Corsican pine.

There remains one big camp and three smaller ones for the bailiffs to evict.

Any hope that the rare Desmoulin Whorl snail would rescue the protesters was dashed by the High Court ruling that two camps on sensitive sites where the snail has been found should be evicted. But Bailiffs may not be able to use heavy machinery in the operation.

Tree dwellers recognised that their 10-week occupation was nearly over. More than 500 people have been arrested and many have been bailed off the site.

Those left denied that they had been beaten. «It is merely the end of this phase of the campaign,» said a Friends of the Earth spokesman. «The trees have gone, but now we shall protect the air and the soil. Every square inch of tarmac they lay we will dig up again. We have lost the trees not the earth.»