On the other side is Tarmac, bloodied by previous battles, and trying what strategists would call an indirect approach. The firm's chairman, Sir John Banham, has formed a 'high- level panel of independent experts' to review the firm's 'environmental activities,' while two of his executives have held peace meetings with their counterparts from the objectors, the Earth First movement.
The jaw-jaw was interrupted on Thursday when another army, Greenpeace, moved in its heavy armour, in the form of earth-moving machines mounted on low loaders and manned by a hit squad of 120 activists, all wearing 'Rainbow Deconstruction Company' T-shirts. Whistling while they worked, they started to fill in the earthworks designed for the motorway. But Tarmac's own equivalent of the SAS, the men from Group 4, promptly invented their own form of obstruction by sitting down in the excavator buckets and refusing to move.
At the moment, all is quiet. As a Tarmac spokesman put it: 'We still want to cut that last tree down, and they still don't want us to do that. But at least we are talking to each other.' But an outsider might wonder if the road - 12 miles of motorway costing pounds 142m and linking the M65 in Lancashire to the M6 - is necessary. It had been shelved for 20 years, and it was only pressure from Lancashire County Council that got it built.
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