Meadow will vanish under Dome car park

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VETERANS from one of Britain's most successful environmental campaigns have been incited to protest once more - by plans to build a giant car park for the Millennium Dome. Campaigners who battled in the early 1990s to stop road construction from devastating Oxleas Wood, Eltham, south London - near the Dome site in Greenwich - have been infuriated by the proposal.

The New Millennium Experience company plans to create a 1,350-space tarmac "park and ride" site in Falconwood Field, a wild meadow next to the ancient woodland they cherish. Dog owners use the field to exercise their pets and children to play football. The site has been designated an Area of Special Character of Metropolitan Importance by Greenwich Council.

Activists have so far raised a 1,000 name petition and packed a public meeting held by local Labour MP Clive Efford.

Many protesters cut their political teeth in the campaign against a trunk road through the wood, to an east London Thames crossing. So tenacious were the People Against the River Crossing (Parc) that they took ministers to the European Court of Justice over claims that the government had failed to assess the road's environmental impact - and won. Today, another minister is in their sights - Peter Mandelson, boss of the New Millennium Experience.

Mr Efford - a former Eltham taxi driver who was elected to Parliament for the first time last year - warned that the Dome builders could face a tough time, if they proceeded. Jennifer Bates of Friends of the Earth said: "Having defeated the river crossing, we're now threatened by the the Dome. What sort of Millennial forward thinking is that?"

The campaign has had some initial success: the council has so far refused planning permission. Meanwhile, the Dome company said it is still reviewing how it plans to move 36,000 people a day through Greenwich's congested streets.