Protesters take bypass battle to road builders

The Independent Tuesday 13 February 1996

Danny Penman

Campaigners against the Newbury bypass launched a coordinated series of assaults on the offices of road building companies yesterday during the biggest day of action so far by the protesters.

The offices of Tarmac, in Newbury and Twyford Down, Blue Arrow Recruitment, in Newbury, and Reliance Security, in Southampton, were invaded by scores of demonstrators. Staff at Mott MacDonald, consulting engineer for the bypass, managed to keep the protesters out of their offices at Twyford Down.

At the Tarmac offices in Newbury, staff tried to barricade themselves in to stop about 200 campaigners from overrunning the building. After a 20-minute siege, an unlocked wondow was discovered and about 80 protesters swarmed in and occupied the building.

Filing cabinets and computer databases were ransacked. Many company documents were scrawled with slogans such as «No More Roads» before being placed back in their original files. Several windows were smashed and at least one computer and printer were damaged.

John Davies, a spokesman for Tarmca, which is bidding for the main road-building contract, said the occupation was «totally inappropriate. Even some of the more legitimate protest movements said they didn't agree with the occupation.»

After the protesters were evicted by police they marched on the local office of Blue Arrow, which recruits security guards for the road.

Some searched and mixed up files while others played instruments and ate a carrot cake. Police eventually arrived to evict them.

Twenty miles to the south, a group of about 60 activists broke into the offices of Tarmac, which overlooks Twyford Down, scene of the bitter campaign which spawned the anti-roads movement.

A breakaway movement tried to occupy the offices of Mott MacDonald, which shares the same site with Tarmac. After a series of struggles, the protesters were forced out. From there the campaigners moved on to Reliance Security in Southampton. The company supplies about 800 security guards to help protect the road but were unprepared for their offices to be invaded.

A spokeswoman for Reliance refused to comment on whether they felt embarrassed by the invasion.

Elsewhere, on the route of the road, contractors and security guards called off work for a day's «health and safety training» at their base at Stevenson, near Oxford. Some campaigners are believed to have broken into the secure compound overnight and disabled coaches and equipment.

There was one arrest throughout the day.