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The question: Unpopular projects

Home office minister Caroline Flint said last week that harrassment laws will be tightened to target activists who employ terror tactics such as those against construction companies working at the new medical research laboratory in Oxford. What are your experiences of working on politically sensitive or unpopular projects?

I support the right to legal, peaceful protest but my encounter with Swampy on the A30 dualling at Exeter (his post Newbury phase) reinforced my low opinion of direct action. The campaigners' tactics were at the very least questionable and at worst criminal, and posed a direct risk to health and safety.

One encampment missed the A30 route alignment altogether and set up in a commercial conifer plantation. All this trouble for a scheme that was largely supported by a local community that was tired of fatal accidents occurring on the old trunk road. Tougher antiintimidation legislation cannot come soon enough.

Simon Lawrence, 31, senior engineer, Cardiff

I could tell you, but then I would have to shoot you.

Tom Betts, 31 senior project engineer, Northamptonshire

Building motorways in the 1990's brought almost mandatory obstruction from the green army.

During the advanced works to install an outfall we encountered campaigners who had dug themselves into a network of burrows in the valley side. This was a shame as they were destroying a site of local biological interest. The flora there was to be moved to a receptor site and then replaced on the carefully saved soils of the completed works. The main contract works were lucky to be happening at the same time as Newbury and the second Manchester airport runway. Good local third party relationships ensured that the rest of the project passed without further incident.

Andrew Powell, 41, senior group engineer, Manchester

While working on a motorway widening project several years ago a resident near the works was kept awake at night by the reversing sirens on the lorries. He decided to make a point by firing a shotgun at us. Luckily the pellets hit the back of a tracked excavator and no one was injured. The resident was taken away to help police with their inquires and we were warned for removing our high visibility jackets while running away. I also had a job reclaiming abandoned deep mine sites in the Welsh valleys.

When talking to local residents over the age of 40 they said that closing the pit was the best thing for the valley as the jobs were so terrible that too many of their friends and family had been killed, injured or were dying of lung disease. People under 40 though it was the worst thing to happen, as they had no jobs to go to.

Anon I have always ensured that any project I am involved in has the fundamental support of local politicians and the backing of fellow professionals to ensure any opposition to a scheme can be argued against with confidence.

Any illegal action by interest groups can never be justified.

Charles Brewerton, project engineer, Brighton

Given that they are politically sensitive, I cannot tell you David Cormie, 26, project Engineer, Warrington

Would you like to take part in The Question?

If so please email: bernadette. redfern@construct.

emap. com

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