ENVIRONMENTALISTS ARE planning a new wave of road protests amid 'grave concern' that up to 100 bypasses are set to be approved by the Government.
Road protest veterans have organised an emergency meeting on 8 July to discuss what action to take in response to speculation that bypasses ditched in the 1997 Roads Review will be dusted off by a Government said to be determined to lose its anti-car image.
The meeting in Birmingham will include representatives from the old regional network of disbanded road protest group Alarm UK, Friends of the Earth and Transport 2000. The plan is to share information, form a national picture of where the bypass threat lies and discuss what action to take to stop them being built.
It is expected that 'direct action' road protest groups, such as those which disrupted construction of the Newbury Bypass and the extension of the M3 across Twyford Down, will also attend.
Former Alarm UK chairman John Stewart told NCE this week that Alarm UK was likely to reform. It disbanded in 1997 claiming victory in helping to shift Government policy away from road building.
But he said: 'I've had very many calls over the last two months from our old network of 250 local groups, from people very concerned about the possible re-emergence of 50 to 100 bypass schemes. We will be discussing various individual schemes and assessing our response. That could range from local community protest to direct action.'
Stewart added: 'We know that 'direct action' protestors have already made contact with each other over the internet and are developing a new protest network.'
Environmentalists are particularly concerned about reports that road schemes such as the Salisbury Bypass, Hereford Bypass, the M4 Relief Road in Wales and other schemes being assessed as part of an integrated strategy such as the Hastings Bypass, will be pushed through.
The meeting will build on recent protest work in Salisbury where the Salisbury Alliance - against the A36 Salisbury Bypass - has been reactivated. This was run down following cancellation of the scheme in 1997. The alliance, made up of 18 environmental organisations, this week wrote to transport minister Lord MacDonald expressing horror at new plans drawn up by the Government Office for the South West for a £27M road building scheme.
The alliance, which views the two proposed roads as a 'bypass kit' for Salisbury, are demanding to know why the plan has been identified as a preferred option.
It claims the Government had stated that the bypass would never be built.
Protest strategies will be shared with the alliance against the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, which has reported there have already been outbreaks of protestors occupying trees along the route. The alliance is planning a series of protests at points along the 43km route every Saturday from 8 July to raise awareness of new protests.
Anti BNRR protestors have held meetings with banks negotiating with the two consortia bidding to build the route, to warn them away from investing in the toll financed project.
'We are convinced this scheme is not a foregone conclusion, ' said Gerald Kells of West Midlands Friends of the Earth.