Prescott launches £1bn package but avoids row over Hastings bypass

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The Independent Online
The government ducked a pre-election confrontation with the green lobby yesterday by quietly shelving a bypass bitterly opposed by environmental campaigners.

The government ducked a pre-election confrontation with the green lobby yesterday by quietly shelving a bypass bitterly opposed by environmental campaigners.

The controversial £150m project to build roads around Hastings in East Sussex failed to appear in a £1bn package of transport schemes unveiled by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. Environmentalists who started a nationwide campaign against the project said the Government had been forced to recognise its "devastating" impact.

The project ­ two interlinking bypasses to the west and east of Hastings ­ would pass through three designated sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Tony Bosworth, transport campaigner for the Friends of the Earth, said: "This is a case of so far, so good. The Hastings scheme would have a huge environmental impact and, were it to go ahead, it would be fought every inch of the way. It is time to consider alternatives." A coalition of conservation and environmental bodies, including FoE, the Royal Society for Protection of Birds and Transport 2000, has already voiced opposition to the by-pass, much of which would be carried on raised viaducts.

Ministers admitted the scheme had "severe environmental implications". Lord Whitty, a Transport minister, said a report on the bypass was still being considered. "It is a complex report with not very clear recommendations which ministers will need to take some considerable time assessing," he said.

The Government is pressing ahead with other integrated public transport and road building schemes, including a £107m toll-free tunnel for A3 to protect Hindhead Common in Surrey.

Other improvements planned are the £487m supertram project in Leeds, and the £190m South Hampshire rapid transit light rail scheme.

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