Archived press release
Press & Media

Friday (10/1/97) marks the first anniversary of work starting on the controversial Newbury bypass [1]. The battle against the bypass - which has so far seen over 15 million spent on security and more than 900 people arrested [2] - has been the focus of a nationwide anti-roads campaign which has seen the abandonment of over 200 road schemes (saving17 billion) in the last three years [3].

The Newbury campaign mobilised many thousands of people against Government transport policy. 8,000 people attended an anti-bypass rally in Newbury in February 1996 -the UK's largest ever anti-road demonstration. A national public opinion survey in March 1996 revealed that 61% thought that alternative solutions to Newbury's traffic problems should have been tried before a bypass. 53% wanted work to stop on the road immediately[4].

The anti-bypass campaign has had impacts far beyond Newbury:

  • 110 road schemes were scrapped in last November's Budget;
  • the Salisbury bypass - championed by former Roads' Minister, Robert Key - has been put on hold pending environmental considerations;
  • a leaked Government document revealed concerns about future 'Newburys'[5].
  • proposed legislation to reduce road traffic introduced to the House of Commons [6]

Tony Juniper, Campaigns Director at Friends of the Earth, said:

"The campaign against the Newbury bypass has been a tremendous success -and will continue into 1997. The Government is now starting to recognise that simply building more roads is not the answer to the UK's traffic problems and knows that the public want greater investment in public transport and a move towards reducing traffic rather than trying to accommodate it."

A 're-union rally', organised by the Third Battle of Newbury and Newbury Friends of the Earth, is being held in Newbury on Saturday 11 January. People will meet at Newbury Rail

Station from 11am. Speakers include Tony Benn, Charles Secrett, Director of FOE and Jill Eisele from Third Battle of Newbury [7].

[1] On 10 January 1996 around 30 trees were felled by contractors before work was halted at about 9:30 am. These were the first trees felled on the bypass route.

[2] Security costs on the bypass have exceeded 15.5 million (up to December 1996)
(figures from Highways Agency and the Police)
Evictions and security10 million (security/bailiffs etc)
Policing            4.16 million (Thames Valley)
                   0.682 million (Hampshire)
Brays (Detective Agency)0.8 million (surveillance/court cases)
TOTAL           15.642 million

By the end of the main eviction process there had been 748 arrests. The vast majority were for peacefully trying to prevent the destruction of the environment, including 321 for Obstructing the Sheriff and 306 for Aggravated Trespass. By 13 December 1996 this had risen to 914 arrests. Of those arrested:138 had charges against them dropped.
182 were 'cautioned'.
25 are still pending
84 are 'in limbo' - people didn't turn up
428 were found guilty in court
57 were found not guilty

[3] In the last three budgets 236 Road Schemes have been scrapped.

[4] The survey was carried out Survey Research Associates for Friends of the Earth. The figures relate to respondents who had heard about the Newbury bypass protests (82%of the 1539 people interviewed).

[5]The leaked document "Ranking the Roads Programme", was a memo from Hugh Wenban-Smith of the national roads division. Environmental impact of proposed roads was part of the ranking. The Hereford bypass (which is still going ahead) is described in the report as "locally controversial on environmental grounds (another Newbury ?)."

[6]The Road Traffic Reduction Bill is being introduced as a Private Members Bill by Lib Dem MP Don Foster. It receives its Second Reading on 24 January. A mass rally is taking place on 22 January in central London. The Bill, which is supported by over 200 MPs, is being promoted by FOE, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru.

[7] More information on - 01635 550 552.

A detailed briefing of the events at Newbury during 1996 is available on request.

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.


Published by Friends of the Earth Trust