THE UK'S leading anti-roads group, Alarm UK, this week announced its dissolution, having successfully staged 'a national revolt against road building'.
The news came as the latest government figures for construction orders show that spending on roads has more than halved in the last 18 months (see box).
Alarm UK chair John Stewart told NCE: 'When we began campaigning there were 600 proposed schemes in the Government's roads programme. Now there are 150 and we expect that number to be cut further when the latest review is announced this summer. We have done our job.'
Stewart was so sure of Alarm's victory that he said he could not conceive of the group having to reform. 'Alarm was an umbrella group for more than 250 local groups', he said. 'There are so few road schemes now that I cannot see the need for protests to be co-ordinated.'
The Alarm chief claimed that many in the civil engineering industry had come to terms with the shift away from road-building. Most younger engineers, he said, were much more aware of social and environmental factors than older people in the industry.
Stewart denied that civil engineering firms had suffered as a result of the road protesters actions: 'The smart construction firms were aware of opinion turning against road-building and switched to the rail and road maintenance sectors.'
Stewart also claimed that 'direct action' was not the most effective weapon in stopping road-building. 'It helped speed the process along, but the real thrust came from the actions of local people - many who had never protested against anything in their life - who had become alarmed at the amount of road building that was going on around them'.
Alarm began life as All London Against the Road Building Menace in the mid-1980s, going national in 1991. Stewart claimed that the group's greatest victories included preventing the destruction of the ancient Oxleas Wood in south east London and stopping the Preston and Salisbury bypasses. The greatest defeat he felt came over losing the battle to halt the M11 link road through east London.