Roads protesters plan their next site of action

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The Independent Online
Anti-roads protesters evicted from three camps on the route of a major road improvement scheme in Devon vowed yesterday to carry on fighting - both on the A30 itself and at new sites around Britain.

Carol Johnston, local co-ordinator of Devon Friends of the Earth, said: "This is not by any means the end of the battle."

Dave Howarth, 30, known as Muppet Dave, who spent seven days underground at Fairmile, near Honiton, Devon, said he had already informed police of his likely next steps. "I've already told the police intelligence unit that I may be at Guildford and at Manchester ...I will continue in my efforts to fight against the needless destruction of my country."

He anticipated that fellow tunnel-builders Swampy and Ian Williamson would also be fighting the road-widening scheme in Guildford, Surrey, and the proposed extension of Manchester airport.

Swampy, the last protester to emerge from the tunnels on Thursday night, appeared under his real name, Daniel Hooper, at Exeter magistrates' court yesterday, charged with obstructing the under-sheriff of Devon. Mr Hooper, 23, of Hazlemere, Buckinghamshire, was granted conditional bail, but was immediately rearrested under a non-bail warrant issued by Newbury magistrates and was due to be transported to Newbury today or tomorrow morning.

The group is determined not to give up its campaign and some are expected to raise objections to adjoining road improvements between Honiton and Ilminster, Somerset, which were announced earlier this week.

Ron Bailey, the parliamentary officer for Friends of the Earth, praised the A30 Action campaign yesterday for their efforts. A Private Member's Bill intended to reduce traffic by 10 per cent by 2010 passed its second reading in the House of Commons last week. Mr Bailey said its success so far was due to the change in the political agenda created partly by the FoE's "wheeling and dealing" with MPs and 90 per cent by people such as the Devon campaigners. "What these people have achieved is not just making the insanity of roads a major issue, but [winning] the support of Middle England."

Trevor Coleman, the under-sheriff of Devon, hopes to secure the Fairmile site within a week and hand it back to Connect, the consortium building the road under the Design, Build Finance and Operate scheme whereby the Government repays the cost over 30 years based on the number of cars using it.

Security guards were glum after the successful eviction and claimed they were being laid off after only a week despite being promised two and a half year's work during construction.

Robert Price, 22, from Bristol, swapped sides and joined the protesters, for whom he had "a lot of respect". "It doesn't pay the rent, but when this happened it was just the last straw," he said.

At Exeter prison and Eastwood Park women's prison in Gloucestershire, four protesters arrested last Tuesday for going to Fairmile in breach of bail conditions continued a hunger strike, still demanding a new inquiry into the A30 scheme.

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