Newbury evictions defeat mountaineer

The Times Friday March 8 1996

Stephen Farrell

A PROFESSIONAL climber earning £2,000 a week evicting Newbury bypass protesters from treetops resigned yesterday after being warned that he risked ostracism from the mountaineering community.

Peter Bukowski, 26, from Sheffield, found himself trying to remove a fellow mountaineer from his home city who had joined the protesters at the Snelsmore campsite in Berkshire.

Demonstrators hailed his resignation as a moral victory over constructors building the £100 million bypass. They claimed other climbers working for the bailiffs had deserted the forest site where bulldozers and chainsaw crews carried out a massive clearance programme yesterday.

The hiring of semi-professional rock climbers to remove protesters is a relatively new tactic employed to clear the dangerous walkways 60ft above ground.

Bukowski is an Alpine climber with level two Industrial Rope Access Trade Association grades -- examinations which climbers take to get work as steeplejacks or spidermen on buildings. He said he had given up on his third day because «it was unpleasant. It was stressful. I was getting covered in urine and ravioli they were throwing at me. I'm not morally opposed to the bypass. What I didn't like was destroying people's property and throwing food out of the trees».

After walking through the security cordon he handed over his harness and equipment to his friend Chris Plant, 38, a fellow climber who had arrived with half a dozen friends to support the protesters.

He said: «Not many of them up there are climbers, they are mainly middleclass young adults who haven't got a job. I'm not going to join the protesters. I'm going to go home. I'm going to be glad to get out of here.»

Mr Plant said: «There's a big reaction in the climbing world against working for the bailiffs. We knew a few of them were coming down and were going to be used to get people out of the trees. Peter left the job for his own reasons. Climbing has traditionally been very environmentally aware. We used to have to hold mass protests to get access to common land so I personally feel an affinity with the road protesters.»

Other semi-professional climbers, wearing blue boiler suits, helmets and harnesses supplied by the contractors, continued to work alongside tree surgeons to clear the forest.»

As hundreds of Thames Valley police officers and private security guards ringed off the area, the climbers cut walkway ropes and persuaded tree-dwellers to leave as surgeons with chainsaws lopped branches off around them. Police said that eight people were arrested by 2.45pm yesterday.