Bailiffs swoop on road protest camp

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The Independent Online
Environmental protesters who camped on the route of a pounds 65m road scheme turned the rural site into a "waste dump", according to the official who led their eviction yesterday.

The Under Sheriff of Devon, Trevor Coleman, removed the five protesters in an early morning swoop on the camp at Allercombe, east Devon, with the help of 20 bailiffs and 30 police.

The protesters were asleep in treehouses when the authorities moved in at the spot known locally as Sleepy Hollow. A man and a woman were arrested.

"I am disappointed that for so-called environmental protesters they have taken little care of their immediate environment, and the site resembles a waste dump," Mr Coleman said.

Around 100ft of tunnels dug by the protesters were excavated by a mechanical digger after being inspected by an expert, and Mr Coleman admitted: "They were more extensive than we expected."

A climbing specialist was on hand as trees carrying the network of aerial walkways and "twigloo" dwellings were cut down.

A few miles away at the more extensive Fairmile and Trolheim camps, protesters took to their treehouses when news of the Allercombe operation filtered through. A spokesman at Fairmile said the camps were on full alert, and the call had already gone out nationwide for more support.

The eviction followed the refusal of protesters to comply with a notice issued by the Under-Sheriff in November, giving them 48 hours to move voluntarily.

Possession orders for the sites were granted to Connect, the road construction consortium, and the Highways Agency in October.

The three camps were set up more than two years ago on the route of the 13-mile Honiton to Exeter A30 scheme - part of the 65-mile upgrading and improvement of sections of the A30 and A35 road between Exeter and Bere Regis in Dorset.

The protesters claim the road will destroy ancient trees and animal habitats, as well as blight the countryside, and increase air and noise pollution.

But local residents, who have been promised a bypass since 1929, back the scheme.

The road builders say the scheme will relieve local communities of the effects of heavy traffic. They anticipate that up to 3,600 road casualties - including over 100 deaths - will be avoided over the next 30 years. They have pledged to provide extensive landscaping, more than 200,000 new trees, and ecological measures including bat boxes, badger tunnels and setts and the preservation of rare plants.