Dear Robert Key: The writer and broadcaster challenges a minister to debate his road-building plans face-to-face with those affected rather than dismissing them with gratuitous insults

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I know you to be a genial and civilised man. I've talked with you over a convivial glass of wine and remember your humour. That's why I'm sad to find myself across the barricade. On your side there is the Department of Transport, as well as the powerful roads lobby. On my side there are the protesters against the Swainswick and Batheaston bypass scheme in Bath, whom you have just denounced as 'rent-a-mob'. 'They are causing a great deal of aggro and not adding anything to the quality of the debate,' you said.

Do gratuitous insults to decent people add anything to the quality of the debate?

You see, I am a part of that rent-a-mob - and I have not been rented. I watch each day as (a short distance from my home for 14 years) the slopes of the Iron Age hill-fort called Solsbury Hill are desecrated by diggers.

You've accused us of 'scaremongering'. That's because we say this dual carriageway, costing a profligate pounds 75m for two miles, is part of a piecemeal plan for a trunk-road system from Wales to Europe. You say it's not. Well, I simply don't believe you. Economy with the truth is not beyond a Department of Transport with a mania for road-building and such a lot at stake.

You praise the 'democratic process', because a public inquiry found in favour of this scheme. Well, it would, wouldn't it? The inquiry was into two local bypasses, not part of a vast road system that will bring 600 extra cars a day into the area, increase pollution levels well beyond safety guidelines and fail to solve local traffic problems. And that's just the start of our arguments.

But who can we put them to? Young people (and middle-aged fogeys like myself, who bang on about Latin and the Eng Lit curriculum]) despair when nobody wants to hear, when everybody cries, 'Too late'. No wonder we want to hold hands in front of bulldozers.

Where is the 'debate'? Who in this Government is proposing a coherent transport policy which addresses the fact that if we neglect public transport and the railways, this beautiful land will be a wall-to-wall traffic jam? Why do people jeer when we want to argue the case for badgers, birds, trees, wildflowers and the human spirit?

I wish you would debate with me in public, or at least explain why the public inquiry can't be re-opened. Is it just because the contracts with Amey's have been signed? Shame, shame, shame.

Why don't you come here and talk to us? I'm moving into a tent at the Save Our Solsbury camp and starting a symbolic fast for a few days to show how seriously people take this rape of the countryside. Please stop being patronising and insensitive and show us the respect we deserve. Come and visit, Robert. I'll be a bit hungry - but I'll lay on a glass of decent wine.

Yours hopefully,

Bel Mooney

(Photograph omitted)

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