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BNRR faces fresh eco-protests


ROAD PROTESTERS are threatening to step up direct action against the Birmingham Northern Relief Road after Midlands residents dropped their legal challenge to the project this week.

The protesters, who have already been evicted from tunnels and tree houses at one site (NCE 7 January), said they would now 'pile on the pressure' against the £700M project. They warned 'four or five' new protest camps would be set up on the 43km route over the coming months, and protests are planned for Birmingham city centre.

'We are very clever and we're going to fight on,' said eco-warrior Mark Wilson from the Spinney protest site near Shenstone.

Local residents fighting the road, known as the Alliance Against BNRR, dropped two legal challenges on Thursday. They had planned to appeal against a High Court ruling barring them from seeing the project's confidential 53 year concession agreement.

In a separate action the Alliance had also promised to seek leave to appeal to the House of Lords after losing its challenge to statutory orders authorising the road (NCE 25 March).

BNRR concessionaire Midland Expressway and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Alliance have now agreed to pay their own legal costs and take no further action.

Alliance chairman Charles Bradshaw-Smith said residents were no longer able to face the financial risks of the legal action. But he claimed they would keep fighting the road, set to be the UK's first directly tolled motorway, by lobbying potential investors.

'We will be doing a mail shot which will explain that this road will not relieve congestion and it is far from certain that the business community and commuters will pay the tolls,' he said.

Midland Expressway managing director Tom Smith said he was pleased with the agreement and would now concentrate on moving the project forward. 'Investors will make up their own minds on the basis of a sound economic case,' he said.

Work will now start on the detailed design of the scheme and planning with statutory undertakers. The project is due to start on site in the second half of 2000.

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