Guards at bypass `fear for health and safety'

The Guardian Tuesday January 30 1996

John Vidal

PRIVATE security guards at the site of the Newbury bypass are living in deteriorating health conditions and an increasingly dangerous atmosphere, according to two men who have resigned in the past few days.

The former guards told the Guardian that pipes have frozen and chemical toilets have stopped working. More than 400 men are having to defecate behind dormitories or in the woods.

«In terms of safety alone that place should be closed down,» said one man, a retired probation officer, who asked not to be named. «The behaviour of people is appalling. I felt sickened.

«The atmosphere of the camp is becoming increasingly paranoid. There is a sense of fear as a culture of potential violence builds up.

«People are looking for action. You are considered a `virgin' if you have not had a `rumble',» -- a physical confrontation with the protesters.

There was as much danger of violence among guards as against protesters. Only the presence of TV cameras and press had restrained it.

He said that when he went to the site he was told he would be a passive observer. «Within three hours I was being asked to pull a woman by her ankles out of a tree.»

Another guard who asked not to be named said: «Someone is going to get really hurt. I have left because I know there is big trouble there.»

Their comments came in response to a Guardian investigation last week of the security operation at Newbury.