Ex-SAS take on eco warriors

BAILIFFS WITH specialist military training will face ex-Army eco warriors in close-quarter battle over the building of Britain's first toll motorway.

Former SAS troopers are among bailiffs recruited to evict scores of eco protesters opposing construction of the Birmingham Northern Relief Road (BNRR).

They are part of an elite squad the protesters call the "Men in Black" because they wear black overalls and balaclava masks. The "Men in Black" work underground, forcibly removing the hard core of eco protesters buried deep in labyrinths of tunnels secured by reinforced steel doors.

Many protesters are also ex-Services, so the imminent struggle is likely to be a match of sophisticated martial skills. Following a recent High Court decision giving the legal go-ahead for the BNRR, the "Men in Black" arrived last week at a protest camp by the start of the new road in Staffordshire, signalling that the battle is about to begin.

Chris Kells, of the Birmingham Friends of the Earth, said both sides were on "red alert". The under-sheriff of Staffordshire, John James, is said to be poised to order an assault on the camp. Mr James said writs and eviction notices were ready, but refused to say when he would order in his mini army.

The former soldiers who have turned eco warriors believe they have created an "impregnable" defence system to stop the pounds 700m motorway.

Their co-ordinator is a former infantryman, Muppet Dave, 32, a veteran of several big road protests. His most publicised stunt was a 12-day stand- off underground in the protest against the runway extension at Manchester airport. He believes many former Servicemen are attracted to the alternative lifestyle and idealistic commitment offered by the road protest movement.

"One of the reasons for that is because when you leave the Army it is very hard to get back into normal life," he said. "Many also embrace pacifism because of their Army experience. When you are in the forces you really get to see what the Government is like."

Muppet Dave said an esprit de corps had evolved between the adversaries and there was an understood code of practice.

"The irony of this situation is that I was trained by the Government and I have put that training to use here. We have used our house defence training and they use their training for fighting in built-up areas.

"We talk to them down in the tunnels and some tell us about their past and others don't. We tell them we are defending our country and we ask if they are." He said the "Men in Black" were committed to safety and non-violence. But other protesters claim they can be threatening and abusive.

The "Men in Black" are recruited by a secretive company named Specialist Group International, based in Redhill, Surrey, which is headed by another former military man, Peter Fauldings. Several companies have capitalised on the recent big anti-road protests. Authorities spend millions of pounds dislodging the environmental activists from fortified tree houses and underground bolt holes. Their specialists can earn up to pounds 850 a day apiece. Total bailiff costs for clearing the route of the BNRR are likely to exceed pounds 17,000 a day, and the eviction could take many weeks.

Another company, Richard Turner Ltd of Chesterfield, provides climbers to help remove protesters isolated high in trees or on flying walkways.

But Mr Turner said he feared his highly lucrative niche could itself be in danger, because the Government's decision to suspend or cancel many of the biggest road schemes meant the era of the direct action anti- road protest was closing.

"This [the BNRR protest] is the last of the big ones," he said.

Work on the 27-mile BNRR, linking the M6 at Cannock, Staffordshire, and the M42 at Coleshill, Warwickshire, is due to start next year and motorists will have to pay pounds 2.50 to use it.

The road is designed to ease congestion on the M6, but protesters say it will cut a huge swathe through greenbelt countryside, cross two protected nature sites, destroy scores of homes, blight many others and threaten local jobs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable