One week on, Swampy comes out blinking into the television lights

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The Independent Online
After almost exactly a week underground, the anti-roads protester known as Swampy emerged from his 35ft-deep tunnel in triumph last night.

To whoops of delight from fellow demonstrators waiting beyond the barbed wire and fencing, he ended his sit-in after repeated pleas from bailiffs worried for his safety.

Emerging to a scrum of media attention, Swampy, 23, said his 167-hour ordeal had been "all right - I had plenty to eat".

Asked whether it had been worth it, he said: "Absolutely. I feel its the only way to get a voice these days. If I had written a letter to my MP, would I have achieved all this? The amount of publicity achieved? The amount of cost it achieved for the Department of Transport? I think we achieved our aim."

He said he had stopped digging because the point had been made, and he added: "I believed in coming out. It was safer for all involved."

His decision to return to ground level came after negotiations between the Devon under-sheriff, Trevor Coleman, and the A30 Action Group.

The group has been organising protests at three sites along the route of the road improvement scheme between Honiton and Exeter - Allercombe, Trollheim and Fairmile. Swampy and four others took up positions in a labyrinth of tunnels dug over the past two years when the eviction of the Fairmile site began at 9.30 pm last Thursday.

The emergence of Swampy, whose real name is Daniel Needs, follows the earlier capture of protester "Muppet Dave" and the negotiated exit of a protester known only as Ian.

Dave, who had been hiding beneath a steel door, gave himself up at 11am yesterday after professional tunnellers sank a shaft alongside and broke through. Although he initially ran further down the tunnel, he then gave up peacefully.

Ian, who bailiffs described as being disheartened by Dave's capture, later agreed to come out if he was given a cigarette, cup of coffee and a chance to speak to the press. Ian said his protest was "to defend the land.

"I just feel very sad that this area has been destroyed for future children and that they are being asked to pay an unknown cost".

One of the protester's principal objections to the A30 improvement programme, although it was wanted by the local community, is that it is being built under the Government's Design Build Finance and Operate scheme.

A consortium called Connect is privately funding and building the pounds 75m road and the Government repays the cost over the next 30 years based on the number of cars that use the road up to an agreed maximum level, an arrangement that opponents claim will encourage car use.

The Fairmile eviction was completed with the assistance of up to 150 police and security guards. Devon and Cornwall police said the operation had cost them pounds 500,000.

The war goes one, page 4

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