Meanwhile Down in the West Country

This year protest has been growing in the West. The main action has been directed against roads. The road building programme could hit the West badly, opening up its wild parts to industrial development. However the concentration on roads must not let us forget the other crises being created for the West by its economic development.

Mendip Hills, Not Mendip Holes

One of EF!'s longest running campaigns has been against quarries in Somerset. Actions in early '92 and '93 by (the now defunct) South Somerset EF! and many local people resulted in an application to expand Whatley Quarry being turned down. The application would have meant the Quarry ending up twice the size of Shepton Mallet. As per usual the company, ARC, has waited until things cooled down and then reapplied. They hoped that protest would not kick off again. Wrong again.

 

In late June the Quarry entrances were blockaded and locked up by around 30 activists from Yeovil FN and Avon Gorge EF! - all before 9 am. A number of people invaded the quarry and work crews frantically gathered laid explosives. At one point 73 trucks were waiting to get in, and around half that number trying to get out. The convoy of activists left before lunch only to pop up at the Wells Relief Road. The clearance contract had yet to be let out and the marauders were met with just one digger, many relieved the boredom by pulling survey stakes, creating a cute little bonfire.

At 3 pm, just as a busload of councillors entered the quarry for a field visit, the convoy appeared once again. Activists invaded, occupying a drilling machine, which was making holes to lay explosives. The councillors got the message that people would not let this quarry be expanded.

Solsbury Hill

With the end of the full-time resistance last summer the campaign has been based around occasional days of action and weekend gatherings at Solsbury Hill. During the winter months there was no need for actions as rain flooded the construction site. Most of the workers were laid off for a month until the (very well vandalised) drainage mechanisms could clear up the water.

There were a number of office occupations: at Alfred Marks - the employment agency that vetted the security guards, Withy King and Lee - the solicitors responsible for sorting out evictions and employing Brays Detectives for the D.O.T.

The one year anniversary gathering in mid March '95 went off with a bang. A few days before, an anti-CJA event on the Hill ended up with lots of fencing pulled down, trashed machinery and security thugs in hospital, (I guess people had had enough of being used as punch bags). There were only a couple of arrests. A more peaceful day was had when 200 people gathered on the Hilltop on Tuesday 14th March and then invaded the construction sites for the anniversary celebration. Little work went on the rest of the day, much of the machinery being occupied. One security guard, Eddie, jacked in his job after being jeered on. He had been campaigning against the CJA and eventually decided his job was not justified, or worth the stress. There was one arrest for assault.

The next daytime activity on the hill was an action on June 19th during the council's Green Transport Week and the day before No Car Day in Bath. We wanted to point out what hypocrites they were being when they were building a fuck off road! Thirty people from Bristol and Bath invaded the site and stopped work for a few hours. Apparently they had decided that there was no longer much threat to the site and they were even considering firing some more security slaves. Amey's main man looked as though he was having a seizure when he saw that we were back.

August 11-14th saw around 100 people return to the hill for an action-packed gathering. On the Saturday an excellent Critical Mass took place through the streets of Bath. Around 200 people very slowly made their way along the main roads - cycling, walking, dancing, holding up traffic for about 2-3 hours. On the Sunday people left the Hill to travel to Siston Common on the edge of Bristol to hold a demonstration against the planned ring road. Monday saw a site invasion with about 80 people occupying machinery on a number of sites.

The bad news is that there is a new threat to the ecology around Solsbury Hill. Wessex Water have applied to use the old Batheaston Reservoir as a dump for spoil from the construction of the bypass. If this goes ahead an access road (yet another fucking road) will be built along Chilcombe Bottom, the valley at the back (North) of Solsbury Hill. Chilcombe Bottom is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, home to rare wildflowers, butterflies, insects and mammals. The disused Batheaston Reservoir is a breeding ground for birds. The access road will be double width and run from Upper Swainswick to the reservoir. As this is an obvious invitation back... see you at Chilcombe Bottom if the proposals get through!

For more info contact the Solsbury Hill Action Group or Avon Gorge EF!

LUDDITES ON THE MARCH

From The Bath Chronicle, 18/7/1776

"Last Wednesday in the evening a riotous mob of weavers, Sheermen, etc., assembled together and preceded to the town of Shepton Mallet with an intent to destroy, under the cover of night, a spinning machine lately erected by the clothiers, for the advancement and benefit of the main factory, and to pull down the houses and take away the lives of those persons who encouraged and promoted the use of it. The mob attacked the poor house where the machines were worked, and before the soldiery could be had out to oppose them, broke into the same, and not only destroyed the particular objects of their resentment, but committed other injuries to a very considerable amount. They had scarcely effected their purpose, when the military, proceeded by the magistrates, advanced, and secured five of the ring leaders, but in conveying them to the prison they were attacked by the whole body, with an intention to effect a rescue. Driven to the extremity, no alternative was left- the command to level their pieces was given, and one man was killed on the spot, and six were wounded, some of them it is feared mortally. This intimidated the mob and they retired with the utmost precipitation."

From The Bath Chronicle, 13/3/1995

"Protesters and security guards clashed repeatedly as fences were brought down around the bypass route. Around 150 people gathered in Alice Park for what was billed as a 'mass trespass'. They walked along the London Road to the southern entrance of the construction site, where security guards were waiting for them. While half the protesters attacked the gate, others pulled down an undefended part of the fence and streamed onto the site. Within minutes, they were wandering around the half built road near the water meadows, lights were ripped off construction vehicles and their windows were smashed. Demonstrators then turned their attention to the gate on the northern side of the A4. They hurled rocks at the guards at the other side, slid under the gate and shook the gate until it collapsed. Chief Inspector Paul Dennis of Bath police said: "Criminal damage was caused on some of the machinery. They then set about damaging fences and some were throwing rocks at security guards." He added that one protester had been arrested for criminal damage and one for assault. Last night, 20 other demonstrators were occupying Bath police station, demanding to see their friends."

Bristol Report

Ashton Court is a large park in Bristol well known for a number of community and national events. It is used by the people of Bristol for recreation and is a designated area of public space.

Pioneer Aggregates U.K. has put in a planning application to extend their existing 63 acre limestone quarry that lies on the edge of the park. They have applied to extend the quarry by 34 acres into Top Park Field. This is a calcareous meadow with rare wild flowers including Green Winged and Common Spotted Orchids, Yellow Rattle, Greater Knapweed and Harebell. Near the meadow are a number of 400 year old oak trees that will also be affected by the developments.

Pioneer have said to prevent damage to the meadow they are going to cut it up into 32,000 pieces and move it to another part of the estate! This idea has generally been laughed at. It will destroy Top Park meadow and affect the land where it is to be 'translocated'.

Avon Gorge EF! got hold of the company's annual report and found they were telling a few fibs. They had said that they were a local company with local interests etc. when in fact they are part of the multinational Pioneer Group, who have assets of £4.2 billion from destroying land all over the world.

From the Council meetings that we attended in great lairy numbers, we found out that the Council had made a deal with Pioneer. This meant that they could quarry another 21 acres. Bristol Council seriously considered challenging this agreement until Pioneer threatened legal action making councillors personally liable. So it was passed on to Avon County Council to decide whether planning permission should be granted - we are still awaiting their decision.

Meanwhile we leafleted the areas of Bristol that would be affected by the quarry and its lorries. We demonstrated at the council, in Pioneer's offices, in the existing quarry, through Ashton Court and organised a procession with FoE through the city centre to oppose the quarry... even though it had been banned by the police! The most fun was had, however, chasing the quarry's site manager and Pioneer's regional manager through the streets of Bristol, joined by fellow concerned citizens, shouting to everyone that they were trying to take our land, until they reached the safety of their hotel where we were pushed out by security.

After much embarrassment, public and press ridicule, Pioneer have now changed their application to a slightly smaller area of 21 acres, although the 34 is still a threat as they have offered the council a few nice deals including more money (per tonne of aggregate) towards the upkeep of the estate, and turning the old quarry into a "wildlife centre"!!!!!!!!!

Two large marches to oppose the CJA have taken place in Bristol, with a few thousand people on each of them. The last anti-CJA event was a party on College Green to oppose the law that clashed nicely with the local election count at the Council House, on College Green! A few hundred people turned up, the Council House was surrounded and a few bottles were thrown.

There have been a number of free all-night parties held in a warehouse in Bristol with no hassle from the police (so far) and thousands of people enjoying themselves.

Bristol Housing Action Movement have managed to house a number of homeless people in squats in the city, the CJA has not yet been used to evict anyone and Bristol City Council says it does not intend to use it unless it is to evict travellers of course (which they have been busy doing).

Contact: Bristol Housing Action Movement, Box 56, 82 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB

Siston Common is another area of public open space threatened with destruction in Bristol (there ain't many left). The meadows and remaining woodland on Siston Common would be destroyed if Avon County Council go ahead with plans to build Stage Two of the Avon Ring Road (Shortwood-Warmley).

This dual carriageway will cost at least £13 million to build and has enraged many because it will destroy part of the Bristol and Bath Railway Path. This is used by hundreds of cyclists and walkers every week. Members of Bristol Cycling Campaign have held several well attended demonstrations at the Common. They are also challenging Avon County Council on the piece of land that is being offered in exchange for the loss of the common land. For more information contact the Save Siston Common Campaign, 84 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB or Avon Gorge EF!

Shock Horror! - we had a success. An application had already been put through the council by Country Club Hotel group to build a golf course at Abbott's Leigh. It had been turned down on ecological grounds as there was semi-natural woodland where they wanted to build it. This time as the application was going through the council, the Forestry Commission decided that that part of the wood needed "thinning" or "extensive thinning" in fact you could call it "CLEARING" (anyone still under any illusions about the Forestry Commission - get a life!).

One local resident had noticed all the trees being chopped down... she also had a contact number for Avon Gorge EF! We went up to the woodland and immobilised the bulldozer used for clearing. Sadly many trees had got the chop but work was stopped and the next day a representative from the Forestry Commission met enraged local residents, councillors and crusties. The Forestry Commission were trying to make sure that they made the most money out of the land by cutting the wood for timber. There would then be no trees, the application would go through and they could then sell the cleared land to the country club. Sadly for them some trees were saved and the application was turned down on ecological grounds once again.

There have been a number of actions in Bristol in solidarity with other campaigns. We have seen this to be a very valuable tactic. Wimpey Construction U.K. were surprised and upset when their offices in Bristol were occupied three times because of the M77 in Glasgow. Many companies, even if they are not multinationals, at least have offices in major cities near YOU.

In Bristol we even met two Wimpey employees that had just arrived back from the Glasgow office - what a nice surprise for them. Wimpey were even more upset when we stumbled into their more than private conference at the snobby, out of the way, Red Wood Lodge. Here they were seen mingling with delegates from Tarmac and other such nice guests (we'll leave the conspiracy theories to you!). They quickly hid paperwork and turned off the projector. We were dragged out leaving only enough time to rant at them. They couldn't work out how the hell we had got there... "Where have you come from?"... "How did you know?"... etc.

With such hyperactivity it is not surprising that AVEF! have engendered secret-state interest and intimidation. AVEF! were blessed with a phone call from a leading copper asking about their future actions. He claimed he had received a copy of a limited circulation AVEF! action list from the Southern Intelligence Unit (keepers of the infamous Operation Snapshot traveller intelligence gathering operation). Around the same time a mysterious couple appeared at an action meeting point over-anxious to find out the location of the next hit (due to security, targets of actions are sometimes not published). One activist followed the woman of the couple into the bogs, only to hear her talking on a mobile phone telling someone the supposed location of the action, (we had given her false information). These characters disappeared when the police arrived. Coupled with obvious phone tapping and security trying to wind up activists by telling them where they had been the previous day, (on one occasion a boast that proved that someone had followed an activist over 30 miles). We can only presume that in combination with a sophisticated information gathering operation the forces that be are obviously trying to intimidate us into inaction. If they didn't want us to know we were being watched they could have done so with great ease. Surveillance's role as a deterrence for 'less hard-core' activists is often more important than the information gathering itself.

I expect Willy thought that he would escape the confrontation against the veal trade as he lived in a nice big house in the country and is an M.P. for Bristol where there are no animal exports. But...

On Sunday 15th January about 200 people decided to visit Willy's country retreat in Chewton Mendip, Somerset. There was some initial confusion as people weren't too sure which of his numerous properties to visit. However when official government documents were sighted through the window of one of his houses it was reckoned that one would do. While some people played football in front of a line of police dogs on his nice lawn, others decided to play with his hosepipe - it ended up through an open window. A week and a half later 20 people attended a picket outside Waldegrave's surgery, organised by Bristol CJA Solidarity in support of the port demonstrators. Police prevented the activists from entering the building.

On Friday 3rd February Willy had a day out at St. Werburgh's city farm in Bristol. He was mobbed while enjoying his stroll and forced to hide in the community building. Unfortunately for him, he only has one security guard and one cop for protection. By this point Willy was scared. He turned a funny sort of grey colour. The building was surrounded by shouting protesters for about half an hour. Waldegrave was impotent, able to do nothing but stand and listen. Two riot vans then turned up in an attempt to rescue him. On his way out with his new band of protectors he was nearly punched in the face by one person and was kneed in the bollocks shortly afterwards. His car was blockaded but eventually he fled to his freedom after a long struggle. The next month Waldegrave's surgery was picketed again. This time he had police to protect him. He and his car were still blocked by angry protesters. The Bristol Animal Rights Network have organised a number of demos outside restaurants selling veal and more are to follow.

Yeovil Freedom Network

Orange Communications, based in Almondsbury near Bristol, plan to build a network of radio masts for car phones throughout South Somerset to service the A303. Yeovil Freedom Network picketed their office and have been busy leafleting and holding information stalls on the issue. Because Orange rely on a shorter frequency than Vodaphone or CeIlnet, their towers have to be situated closer than other masts. Eleven such masts (approx.) are planned for South Somerset and neighbouring parts of North and West Dorset. Because of weakened planning legislation, councils have to pay large compensation costs if they oppose applications. Therefore, we are likely to see a proliferation of towers on hills across South Somerset, and elsewhere if/when Orange expand across the country.

Service 80 was a bus service that ran between Yeovil bus station and the two railway stations: Yeovil Penhill and Yeovil Junction. It was jointly funded by Somerset County Council and Dorset County Council. The service has now been withdrawn much to the public's disapproval. Yeovil Freedom Network held a demonstration involving some 35 people against the withdrawal of the service, highlighting increased car use, the dangers of walking the road between Yeovil Junction and Yeovil town (1.25 miles) and the decline of public transport. This was a success the bus route is back!

No Wells 'Relief Road'

Somerset County Council are building a £14 million 'relief road' through Wells. Though not part of the government's trunk road system this scheme is being heavily opposed. This road comes within 100 yards of a primary school and two playgroups - there will only be a flimsy fence between the road and the kids... so no danger there! The road will also trash two schools' playing fields, despite a 55% vote against this section of the road by the people of Wells. This so-called 'relief road' will also increase the number of lorries going through Wells by 500%.

Christin Neilson Ltd. have now started work on the road. Attempts to build a fence around this part of the road were prevented by protesters and by 300 school kids who left school and chained themselves together. The kids were brutally treated by the security. The protesters arrested have been given restrictive bail conditions severely limiting their ability to take part in actions on site.

Two squats were set up (through one has since been sneakily evicted!). There was a demo on the 25th of August but activists and equipment etc. are urgently needed all the time. The Wells address is in the contact section.

Cornwall

Cornwall - legendary hiding place for dissent. This traditional refuge, like all others, is under total attack. Having survived the tin mining, its brief regenerative respite is now almost over as the hordes of roadbuilders turn their greedy eye towards the west. 20,000 new homes will be needed to fulfil future projected growth (sound familiar?). A mega-port is planned for Penzance, along with a dual carriageway A30 link disguised as an eight mile 'bypass' of a small village. When all the long outfalls for sewage are finished soon, another obstacle to growth will be out of the way.

If we must have 20,000 new homes, let's fill them with EF!ers - move down here before the all-consuming scum do! Cornwall is not a wilderness, but it could be! Forwards to the destruction of the tourist industry! Further info from St. Just Earth First!

No A30

Further west the government plans to expand the A30 in Devon. There are now three road protest sites along the Exeter-Honiton section of the Folkston-Penzance superhighway, part of the EU's Trans-European Road Network (TERN). The proposed route is 15 miles long - so there is room for plenty more!

Most of the 'pre-works' contract is completed with land desecrated and trees murdered. Construction is not expected to start until summer 1996, but there's plenty of work for us to do. The two original sites at Fairmile and Allercombe are in the path of the proposed road, and both are protecting beautiful trees and land. Walkway and treehouse construction, barricading, vegetable growing and all the usual aspects of protest camp life are daily activities (even washing up!). There is a floating population of around 40 with most people at the two Fairmile sites, and less at the vegan bender community at Allercombe. An office is just being opened in nearby Ottery St. Mary, and if the sight and sound of grey men and suits doesn't provoke you to violence, people are needed to attend the ongoing public enquiry for the next section of the road at Yarcombe village hall (transport provided from Roniton). Direct actions are as and when our imaginations and numbers coincide, to date including: Weekly actions against the destroyers/contractors; a rooftop demonstration and picnic at the house of pro-road junior agriculture minister Angela Brownings; 'Carmageddon' road blockades on the existing A30 and an occupation of Highways Agency offices in Exeter (with about 70 people!). Much, much more in the pipeline. The road is being put out to private tender as part of the government's new, and to date unworkable, 'Destroy Burn Fell Obliterate', (Design Build Finance Operate) policy. [1] The state don't have the money to build this road, and seem reluctant to spend the money to evict us immediately. So we can take advantage of this time to: protect the remaining trees, reassert our occupation of the land, replant what they have destroyed, grow our own food, start a tree nursery, permaculture site, sculpture park, herb garden, healing space, exhibition, ecological education etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Simply, to make active, campaigning sites where we can live well together, put our ideas into practice and replace their desolation, lies, violence and isolation with love and respect for each other and the earth. Go to the camps and turn your dreams into reality. Exeter are showing that we really are making a difference. Contact: Allercombe - 0385 278156, Fairmile - 0385-278157.

- Complied by Anon, Avon Gorge EF!

1) Corporate Watch, the research wing of EF!, has produced a guide to the contractors involved in DBFO, see Resources section.

 

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