A Round-up of British Action Camps
Since the last issue of Do or Die (printed April 1998) there have been 34 direct action protest sites in the UK. This section lists the camps that have been set up or have continued to be occupied in the last year - some are still there now, some have won, some have been evicted. The most noticeable thing over the last year or so is that sites tend to be smaller, and they are diversifying away from roads - testament to the decimation of the roads budget. The remains of the once-huge roads programme were slashed even further in the '98 Roads Review. Only 37 schemes - including M25 widening and Bingley - are planned for the next 7 years, with over 100 scrapped, deferred, or given to local authorities to worry about. Birmingham is really the only large anti-roads camp there has been in the last year (and that's privately financed!) - Lyminge, Crystal Palace and Manchester were all fighting other things apart from roads. We tend to be fighting housing developments or leisure complexes as much as roads now. Another step forward is the anti-genetix crop squat... With camps all over the country there is bound to be one near you, so go to stay or to visit, and help barricade, dig, fortify and generally cause trouble!
marks those camps which are current at time of going to press (August '99).
Faslane Peace Camp
Despite 80% opposition to nukes in Scotland, Faslane, on the river Clyde, is home to all Britain's nuclear submarines - now including the brand spanking new Vengeance, a snip at £1000m. Faslane Peace Camp has been there for over 16 years opposing the subs, and is still going strong. As reported in the last DoD, the council were planning to evict the campers, and in July '98 eventually won their legal appeal to be able to do so. However after seeing the formidable camp defences on telly, the cash-strapped local council agreed to talks with residents to try to find an amicable (and cheaper!) solution.
Meanwhile, campers continue to cause merry hell with the laughable base 'security': breaking in to play football, blockading the gates, delaying warhead convoys and disrupting the sailing of the Trident subs. Large sections of the base fence have also vanished... So come and visit Faslane for fun and defiance by the Gareloch.
Contact: Faslane Peace Camp, Shandon, Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, G84 8HT. 01436 820 901
Victory in Derby!
Protesters who had been protecting the Bass Recreation Park in Derby city centre since February '98 came down from the treetops in September, following a council decision to change the road plans, saving Derby's last bit of green space. The council was planning to stick a road across the site and the park was under threat of sale to private developers with plans to turn it into a shopping centre. The park contains a Grade 1 wildlife site and gives many diverse species a place in common: water and land plants, kingfishers, local walkers, footballers...
Protestors had occupied the site since February '98. There were regularly about 20 people on site and there was enthusiatitic local support. A petition of over 11,000 signitures was collected. Fun days and a 'Planning for Real' exercise (to come up with a 'People's Plan' for the site) were held over the summer.
Contact: Nottingham EF! (see contacts section p. 341)
Menwith Hill Women's Peace Camp
Menwith Hill in the Yorkshire Dales is the largest US spy base in the world. Using its 27 (soon to be 29) satellite dishes, covered by radomes (the famous 'golf balls') the US National Security Agency (NSA) can eavesdrop on all national and international calls, email, faxes and telexes in the Northern Hemisphere. These communications are then sifted for 'keywords' - sorting millions of words per minute, tracking governments, armies, businesses, groups and individuals. The US needs Menwith Hill to plan, prepare and carry out wars - it played a crucial role in the Gulf War in 1991.
Activists have been protesting against the base since the early '80s and there has been a permanent women's peace camp at the base since 1994. By continuously breaking into the base, the women from the camp have found out more top secret information about Menwith Hill than is known about any other NSA spy base. The camp was threatened with eviction in November 1998 and the women complied with a court order to move all but one caravan - the camp has now been scaled down, allowing the campers to refocus onother activities...
Sellafield Women's Peace Camp (bi-monthly)
Sellafield Women's Peace camp has been a site of protest against the nuclear/military industry since 1990. The camp takes place the last full weekend of every second month and is situated outside the visitors' centre at Sellafield nuclear plant, near Seascale on the west coast of Cumbria.
After living for two years in a beautiful riverside location, the campers of the Bingley 'Ryeloaf' camp abandoned their home in November '98. The site was resisting the construction of the £64m Bingley Relief Road Scheme, which is intended to service a proposed greenbelt housing development of 10,000 properties. The camp was originally set up when the scheme was first aired in 1996 and featured walkways, treehouses, lock-ons, a communal bender, a nearby squat and a ground hut on stilts. The site suffered from a lack of people and those few that were still living there just got burnt out. The decision to build the A650 has been constantly postponed since the Tory road-building programme collapsed. But after lengthy legal processes Bingley council finally got the go-ahead for the road in 1998. In November '98 the council did a recce, and finding the site deserted, they levelled the place, taking out 16 mature trees at the same time.
Manchester: Arthur's Wood and Cedar Wood
On the edge of a valley in a beautiful beech woodland lies the camp of Arthur's Wood. On Sunday 21st June 1998 protesters set up camp in the wood, near the site of the Manchester's second runway (see DoD no. 6, p. 82) when they heard that AMEC were planning to fell trees during the bird nesting season. Contractors arrived the next day to find people in trees blocking their path!
The trees in Arthur's Wood are not even on the route of the second runway. Manchester Airport says it needs to cut them down to improve flightpath visibility and radar reception when the runway is opened, but the Inspector of the public inquiry advised that everything possible should be done to prevent these trees being felled. The wood belongs to the National Trust who are removing environmentalists (accused of "trampling on the ground") from their land in order to allow Manchester Airport to trash it. In the spring of '99 another camp was set up in Cedar Woods to prevent tree felling there. The camps' appeal against eviction was thrown out of the court in June - leaving both sites on eviction alert.
Contact: Cedar and Arthur's Woods, Meercat Protest Village, Nr. Oversley Lodge Farm, Atrincham Road, Styal, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 4LJ. Phone: 01565 873 551 / 07931 931 850 / 07957 993 456 / 07979 361 416
Park Nook Camp, Liverpool
A 3-acre inner-city green space within the boundaries of Liverpool's Princes Park is under threat from developers wanting to build 2 blocks of luxury flats, a new road and a car park. The site is an oasis of wildness in the city and is home to owls, foxes, rabbits and pipistrelle bats. Four treehouses were constructed in May, and more walkways and lock-ons are being prepared.
Phone: 0403 176 279
The Tysak site in Sheffield was occupied for a weekend in August '98 to oppose a planned supermarket development on the largest empty space in South Sheffield. The site aimed to show alternative uses for the space, with cricket and football pitches and a cinema put up, and though it rained and rained all weekend, local kids came to play...
Manchester Birley Tree
In Hulme, an inner city area of Manchester being thouroughly 'regenerated' (i.e. knocked down so the corporate scum can move in) locals got active in June '98 when the oldest tree in the area was threatened by a proposed hotel - it was soon boasting a cosy treehouse, bender, displays and a community garden. The campaign went to court to be evicted, and negotiated an agreement not to fell the Black Poplar until a detailed planning application was put in for the hotel the council so desperately want for this inner-city area.
Contact: Manchester EF! (see contacts section, p. 341)
The Green Guard camp set up to oppose the constuction of 500 houses and a 4 mile dual carriageway at Nantwich near Crewe, was evicted in September '98. Under threat were (rare) Black Poplars, an orchard and hedgerows up to 30 foot thick. The camp boasted treehouses, a tunnel, a tower, and 97% local support. However, dwindling numbers meant the last few occupants chose to move off the site the day before the eviction was due to take place. The campaign continues - when the bulldozers came for the ancient hedgerows a few weeks later, they were occupied by local people, who proceeded to stop work for 4 days.
Birmingham Northern Relief Road
The campaign to stop Britain's first privately funded toll motorway continues, despite the camp being evicted in the middle of June. The road will be a 27 mile long, 6 lane motorway bypassing Birmingham to the north and will destroy woodlands, water meadows and important ecological sites and pave the way for greenbelt expansion along its route. A new camp is promised soon.
The major evictions on the route of the £700m BNRR took place over the traditional winter eviction season of '98-'99. Over December and January the site saw three evictions of camps and squats inside six weeks. The Moneymore squats were the first to go - several hundred police, baliffs and security guards turned up on 8th December. At the same time the cops destroyed a bunker on the Greenwood site. The tunellers included one security guard defector who stayed underground for three days. The eviction of the final camp came a few days later on 13th of January - with most people bailed off route and six people remanded after a bunker eviction a few days earlier, there were only three people around to keep the Greenwood camp running, so they were fairly quickly evicted.
After the evictions in December and January, a new camp was set up at The Spinney. This was evicted in the middle of June. However, resistance to the BNRR is still going strong... And with 26 1/2 miles of route left to protect there's plenty to do!
Contact: Birmingham Northern Relief Road Campaign, The Spinney, Turf Pits Lane, Nr. Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B75 5T? Phone: 07931 161 761
A former hospital site in Norfolk was squatted on the 10th July to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the Ketts Rebellion of 1549. That summer the dispossessed peasantry of Norfolk formed themselves into a 20,000 strong army which reclaimed the commons for two months and locked up the hated landowners.
The campers are trying to use the little-known 1965 Commons Registration Act to get the site classified as a village green thus saving it as a commons for the future.
Contact: The Land is Ours, Box E, 111 Magdalen Rd. Oxford OX4 1RQ. Tel: 01865 722016 / site mobile 0961 460171
Anti-Genetix Squat in Norfolk
At 5am on Saturday 23rd of May 1998, Britain's first 'crop squat' began, as 30 anti-GE activists moved on to a release site for experimental sugar beet at Kirby Bedon near Norwich. Within a few hours gardens were established, transforming this epitome of industrial corporate agriculture into an organic garden. The campers got an eviction order after two weeks (what do you expect if you squat the land of the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk?), and packed up and left.
Contact: Norfolk EF! (see contacts p. 333).
Alvis Peace Camp
Camp set up against the Alvis factory in Coventry which makes Scorpion tanks and tank kits for Indonesia, where they will be used for internal security and political repression.
Butts Water Meadow
The camp set up in December '97 in Bury St. Edmonds to stop an access road for the local Greene King brewery was disbanded in March '98, tatting down the day before their eviction date to the surprise of the cops and baliffs who turned up the next day. Plans to take action were called off when a judge ruled that Greene King were wrong not to have conducted an environmental assessment for their planned road across the virtually untouched Butts Water Meadow. The campaign continues...
Wales and the South West
Brewery Fields/ Eithinog
Brewery Fields: a beautiful piece of common land in Bangor, unploughed for 40 years, with a marvellous view of the sea prized by local residents and potential developers alike. The camp to stop housing development on the fields was violently evicted on March 31st '98. All eight protesters needed hospital treatment. The officer in charge of the eviction claimed to be using 'approved techniques'.
A new camp was set up on an access road, on part of the site not covered by the original eviction order. Treehouses and walkways were set up. Threatened with eviction again in July '98, campers tried to thrash out a deal to avoid this last eviction. While negotiations were going on, the enemy used walkways to get up trees and cut rope bridges while unharnessed protesters were still on them; others were violently wrestled out of the trees. They tried to hack away at a tunnel with a shovel, only damaging the door, so blocking the occupant's only exit. Despite all this, campers held out for 22 hours.
Contact: Gwynedd and Mon EF! (see contacts p. 341)
Teddy Bear Woods
The camp set up mainly by locals in 1996 to stop the Weymouth Brown Route Road has avoided its expected eviction. Protesters discovered in July '98 that the Weymouth Relief Road will not go ahead - the government won't give the council the money for the road.
The camp at Ashton Court was set up in March '98 to stop the extension of the limestone quarry owned by Australian multinational Pioneer Aggregates into 20 acres of wildflower meadows and public parkland. The meadow contains over 90 rare species which are being 'translocated' (Star Trek here we come!) by Alaska Environmental to allow Pioneer to dynamite the land where they used to be. The camp has disrupted the relocation on a number of occasions and near the end of '98, 10 lorries at Alaska's Avonmouth plant were sabbed.
After some months of noisy activity the camp was taken down in March '99. But the campers did not go out without a bang - protestors visited Ian Wattle, Pioneer's planning manager and translocated his lawn on to the pavement outside his house. The daffodils from his garden were planted in his car. Later on in the week two people abselied 100 feet down on to a ledge in the quarry five minutes before the face was due to be blasted. They unfurled a banner reading "Oi! - No!" and were only removed 32 hours later when climbers were flown in specially from Dublin.
Contact: c/o Bristol FoE, 10-12 Picton St. Montpellier, Bristol, BS6 5QA. Phone: 07970 423 834
Avon Ring Road
Although the camp to stop 'Bristols answer to the M25' was recently evicted, the campaign continues. Work began on this £30m dual carriageway road through the ancient Siston Common in June '99. The road will destroy a disused railway line, large areas of fields and woodland and a beautiful section of cycle path along the route of the old railway. If it is built infill development and suburban sprawl will destroy even more.
When site clearance work started in November '98, direct action took off. Camps were swiftly set up and on 12th January '99 the campaign invaded the only building left on route, the day before it was due to be demolished, and christened it the 'Hotel Chechnya'. In the spring protesters built a camp and tree houses in a 100 year old oak tree to draw attention to the Ring Road-to-M4 Link Road. The government has since axed this Link Road.
Contact: STARR (Stop The Avon Ring Road) c/o 84 Colston St. Bristol BS1 5BB Phone: 0797 999 0389
A camp was set up in summer '97 in an area in which Bath and North Somerset council are planning to build high cost fortified executive housing, shops and industrial units on top of a piece of naturally regenerated railway line - an open space that local people want kept that way. Served an eviction order as of Oct 7th '98 the camp was on constant eviction alert throughout the end of '98.
Contact: Bath EF! (see contacts p. 341)
Swindon Greenbelt Housing
The camp set up against the construction of greenbelt housing outside Swindon was evicted in January. The site was set up in opposition to a proposed £2.5 million scheme by Beaufort Homes. A public right of way was closed and an ancient hedgerow flattened, trees were felled and wildlife eradicated. Development then increased from 12 houses to a further 750. Swindon Town Council has been quoted as saying: "Swindon will become a city, no matter what the cost." After the eviction, 80 people took part in a protest walk around the site.
Contact: The Rational Trust c/o 49 Holbein Rd. Swindon, SN5 8AQ Phone: 0788 059 2370 / 0836 743 581
Victory Against Greenbelt Housing!
And in a related Wiltshire greenfield battle: Plans have been dropped to trash Hagbourne Copse - a neglected woodland by junction 16 of the M4. The woodland was up for sale and the agents dealing with it just love industrial development. However, after the Rational Trust threatened direct action, the sale was dropped.
Contact: The Rational Trust c/o 49 Holbein Rd. Swindon, SN5 8AQ Phone: 0788 059 2370 / 0836 743 581
In August '98 a camp called 'Toytown' was set up to defend woodland and playing fields in the centre of Cheltenham from two new roads, 1,500 car parking spaces, a Waitrose supermarket, a drive through fast food restaurant, a 10 screen cinema shed, a petrol station, a nightclub, a bowling alley, a theme pub and a private health and fitness centre, all of which Cheltenham already has.
Local people were angry because their children will lose the only playing field in the area. It's also one of the last green spaces in the area, a riverside wildlife habitat, that is home to bats, two potential brownfield housing sites, and the historic Alstone Spa. After 2 years, the campaign to protect the area moved into direct action, setting up camp and also organising high-profile stunts to embarrass the council and the 'developers'. Campers built treehouses, a compost toilet, a covered kitchen, office and benders. They also helped with activities for the young people who use the woodland as a play area, and built a permaculture garden as well as taking action against the builders Waitrose and Morrison Construction.
The camp closed down but action continued: in early spring a plucky band of five 'Toypeople' effortlessly stopped bulldozers and shredders who had come to level the 'Toytown' site by climbing on top of them and telling the drivers to "go away and take your machinery with you". And to everyone's surprise they did!
The South East
After a couple of years battling against the Rank organisation, who want to build a massive 'holiday village' on top of 500 acres of greenbelt land in Kent (see DoD no. 6, p. 72), the Lyminge campers have almost won their battle against the entertainment giants. Rank seem to have lost interest, but there's a rumour that planning permission may be sold to Center Parcs.
Camp for Justice
After Britain's first animal liberation action camp - 'Camp Rena' (see DoD no. 7, p. 56), camps outside the notorious vivisectors Huntingdon Life Sciences have continued. HLS get paid by medical and cosmetic companies to cut up cats , dogs, rodents and monkeys for them. The 'Camp for Justice' is the fourth outside HLS, and was set up on the anniversay of the showing of Channel 4's 'It's a Dog's Life' which blew the scandal of HLS wide open. The programme caused the company's share price to drop dramatically and campaigners are hoping the camp will have a similar effect.
Contact: HDSC (Huntingdon Death Sciences Campaign), PO Box 325, Cambridge, CB1 2UF. Phone: 0589 026 435
Oxford Railway Squat
The old LMS railway station in Oxford was squatted on 2nd May '98 to prevent a six lane road and a university business school (to be paid for by an arms dealer!) being built in the city centre. The £1m road will destroy trees and slice through one end of the Grade II listed old railway station. The building was decorated and used by the communtiy for free events. Treehouses were built (including one thatched!) in the 8 mature trees.
Wednesday 9th September '98 saw the start of the eviction of the old railway station by Oxford University. The baliffs took 60 hours to evict the building and it is believed to have cost more than half a million pounds. It was an inventive, creative, full-on fun-packed anarchic pisstake of an eviction thanks to snug treehouses, cargo-nets, barricades, lockons, bunkers, and the world's first Sofa-Lock-On! The last tunneller was removed at dusk on Friday 11th, ending an eviction which saw 17 arrests, the confiscation and destruction of personal property by police, damage to the (listed) building by police, 3 extra trees illegally felled, one cop injured when he fell through a roof (pigs might fly!) and one protestor get 2 broken fingers. Legal proceedings have begun regarding the illegal fellings, the damage and the injured protester.
The poplar trees that had been occupied since November '97 at Kingston in London were evicted in March '98 with helicopters and riot police at 5:30 in the morning. The forces of Babylon had a 53ft tower, a tree village and tunnels to contend with. The local Council and developers Fairclough Homes wanted to cut down the 76 trees to 'enhance the view' of the Thames for dwellers in a posh new estate (£100,000 for a riverside view anyone?) Over a hundred police, 140 security and 35 sherrifs officers arrived on the first day of the eviction. Two people were still down the tunnels two days later. The police offered them a deal - if they came out then 30 people would be allowed on the site for a media stunt. One protester reported the response was "100% fuck off."
Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp
The peace camp is held on alternate weekends outside the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment near Reading. In March Trident Ploughshares 2000 activists invaded the base, where they manufacture nuclear weapons. They scaled the fences and blockaded the gates. Campers also organise shareholder campaigns, awareness raising and direct action protests.
Contact: 33 Heron Road, Bristol, BS5 0LT Phone: 0117 939 3746/ 01703 554 434
The Crystal Palace site was evicted in March '99 at a cost of over £1m, after a year of resisting the construction of a huge cinema multiplex on park land in South London. The eviction only finally ended after the final two protestors voluntarily came out of the underground bunker they had been in for the past two and a half weeks (see article on page 189). The campaign is far from over.
Phone: 0181 693 8200
In June 1998 activists set up camp in Epsom in London to stop a relief road and car park being built on top of local woodland. They occupied some prime (stockbroker belt) development land, woods, and squatted a house. The camp seems to have been in a top location - the council offices, police station, ambulance service, fire brigade, courts and baliffs were all just minutes away! One local councillor took to threatening campers with violence, saying: "We can't afford to evict you. Fuck off while you've still got time." However the council did finally manage to stump up the cash and in January '99 the camp was evicted (see article on page 193). Up to 500 cops, baliffs, the FIT team, scab climbers and tunnellers and the Under Sherrif of Greater London all stormed on to site in a dawn raid operation believed to have cost £100,000. However, the camp had been abandoned and partly burned out a month before and when the forces of darkness arrived there was only one man in a van occupying the site. A local councillor justified the operation by saying that they "didn't know how many people were going to be on that site" - despite it being right next to the police station!
ICC Genetix Squat
After loads of hassle from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Inter-Continental Caravan (ICC) finally got their visas to enter the UK in June. There were 600 activists in the caravan, from many countries in the Third World, including loads from India. They came to the UK to bring the concerns of the South directly to the heart of the North. Their visit to Europe was to coincide with the G8 summit on June 18th. Inspired by the genetics crop squat that took place last year in Norfolk, British activists planned a crop squat to welcome the caravan to the UK. However on 27th June they were busted while attempting to squat a field where the mutant crop had already been trashed. They had to very quickly move on to a new site in Essex. The site was swiftly turned into a permaculture garden with an info centre focusing on the dangers of genetic engineering. (see articles on page 28 and 97).
St Mary's Churchyard
In July '98 Camp AARDVARK (Arboreal Activists Reinforce Decent Values Against Redevelopment Killing) was set up to protect St Mary's Churchyard - "the very last green open space in Southampton" - from being redeveloped by the Church of England and the usual property speculators. Their plans were revealed to involve covering most of this beautiful churchyard in buildings and tarmac. Campers quickly established a base camp and houses in some of the 40 mature trees. Aardvarkers were all from Southampton - one was christened in the church - and there was loads of local support. The camp was attacked one night by organised thugs not from the local area, who trashed tents, badly bruised someone's back and broke someone else's finger. The camp was disbanded in August as the Church scaled down their plans and were sent back to the drawing board. The camp will set up again if needed.
Hockley Housing Camp
A new protest camp was set up in July to resist a housing development of 66 luxury homes on 11 acres of ex-greenbelt land at Hockley near Southend. Seeing as the adults in the area weren't doing anything, the camp has been put together by a group of teenagers aged between 14 and 16. The site is next to a designated wildlife area featuring great crested newts, badgers, adders, shrews and more...
Contact: 01702 206 181
Diggers Land Occupation
On the 3rd April, St. George's Hill was briefly home to a camp in memory of the 350th anniversary of the original Diggers' land occupation, when, at the end of the English Civil War, Gerrard Winstanley and his chums set up camp on common land the landlords were trying to enclose. St. George's Hill now boasts a golf course and one of the country's most exclusive housing estates, home to Cliff Richard among others. Three hundred people marched to the hill and then went on to a nearby site to establish a communal settlement - aiming to increase public access rights to the hill.
Contact: The Land is Ours, Box E, 111 Magdalen Rd. Oxford OX4 1RQ. Tel: 01865 722016
A new anti-road camp was set up in Essex in May '99 to stop the A170 bypass from Chelmsford to Southend. The road is going to be paid for through the infamous Private Finance Inititive - the same scheme that brought us the A30 extension. The bypass, which is to be built by Laing construction, also seems to be part of a grand plan for a future London outer orbital motorway. It will pass through several fragments of bluebell woods and aquatic habitats and threaten others by its proximity. Fifty people set up the camp and had erected two treehouses in the first week. Work on the road is expected to begin in August.