The 'Third Battle of Newbury' is about more than just one road scheme. It seems to be challenging the whole growth-centred model of industrial development that the United Kingdom is following. Can the countryside have a value which is not financially calculable? Where do trees come in the cost-benefit analysis?
The OneWorld news team visited the site of the anti-bypass protest and filmed the scenes for the video clip below. We also spoke to a spokesman for the environmental group Friends of the Earth, and asked him why the campaign mattered.
Chainsaw crews, flanked by 700 security guards, fell the few remaining trees. Meanwhile, some protesters hold out in tree houses, whilst others do their best to stop work on the ground. This is achieved by breaking through the line of guards and trying to climb any remaining trees to protect them from felling. All around cameras flash - the private security guards now record events for possible future use against protesters in court.
Tony Juniper, Deputy Campaigns Director of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, was at the Newbury site in a supportive capacity. Here he talks to OneWorld in RealAudio about the rights and wrongs of British policy on transport and the environment.
What are you trying to achieve by opposing these road schemes?
Well if nothing else we're going to slow them down by months, and that being the case then we're going to have the chance to have a much bigger political debate about the costs of transport versus protection of the environment.
There's a great dilemma in our society between providing the means for people to be mobile and at the same time protecting the atmosphere and the countryside. And we believe that building more motorways is not the answer and even if this does get built, it's very likely to be the last of its kind.
The Government has been ditching some road schemes. Do you think that is as a result of previous protests?
Yes, the protesters have helped the government to bite the political bullet and to cut back the roads programme in the way that it has done. It's now a third of the size that it was in the early 1990s.
They've also been faced with backbench [parliamentary] calls for tax cuts and they've been financing that through the roads programme and that's fine by us.
We live in a democracy. Is the time to oppose the road through electoral means when it is still being planned?
The politicians make great emphasis of the fact that there was a democratic decision to build this road. There wasn't. There was a preferred option put by the Department of Transport in terms of there being a road. The public enquiry was about where it would go.
And the Government got its way. This is the preferred route, this is the route they wanted before they had the public enquiry - and it's the one they've got. There's no democracy involved. This [the protest] is democracy here.
Whose side are the police on?
The police say they're taking a bipartisan view of all this and I think for the most part they have been, although they are obviously under immense political pressure to toughen up and to get tough and crack down on the protesters. So far they seem to have resisted that up to a point but the temptation will always be there for politicians to apply more elbow.
Has there been any violence so far?
There's been very little violence as I understand it. The 300 arrests that have taken place so far have been for criminal tresspass, non-violent peaceful opposition to the work going on. All the times I've been here the confrontations have been verbal and not physical.
So in the future do you plan to oppose any more road schemes that come up?
We'll have to look at the fall-out from this one. The roads programme still has some highly destructive roads in it. There's about 150 Sites of Special Scientific Interest [protected areas] around the country that are still threatened by the Government's roads programme. Three of them lie in the route of this road so there's an awful lot of work to be done yet.
[Back to Newbury bypass factfile]