Bell touches down for flying visit to runway warriors
Thursday 22 May 1997
Mr Bell, who has been criticised by some protesters for not taking a stand against plans to build the runway in Bollin Valley, which straddles the Greater Manchester-Chester border, said his priority was the safety of all involved, and refused to take sides.
After a tour of the site, where the eviction began at 4am on Tuesday, Mr Bell told former media colleagues he supported the right to demonstrate peacefully and the right of bailiffs to remove people from the 1,000-acre wooded land, part of which is in his Tatton constituency. "I hope it will be a model eviction," he said.
He has reported to have raised with deputy under-sheriff Randall Hibbert allegations that a documentary-maker was hit on the head by bailiffs in Tuesday's operation, and claims by protesters that they had been kicked and some hit with batons.
Mr Bell said he would fight to ensure Manchester Airport did not become a "Heathrow of the North" and made it clear he disapproved of the airport in principle. "I do not see the volume of traffic merits the runway." But he said it was a "done deal" and he could not support breaking of the law. Although 40 people, including 11 yesterday, have left the protest voluntarily, plus 15 arrested on Tuesday, organisers claim there are now more demonstrators on the site than before as new protesters arrive, swelling their numbers to more than 100.
Tunnel engineers and tree-climbers among the sheriffs' officials yesterday removed people from the Jimi Hendrix camp, but the larger camps on the Cheshire side of the Bollin river, called Flywood, Live Rats, Wild Garlic and Sir Cliff Richard, are so far untouched, including the 70ft-long Cakehole tunnel. The specialist teams, which may take a month to complete their work, are trying to isolate the camps from one another by removing walkways.
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