Protesters demand public inquiry into road scheme: Ministers are facing opposition from residents in the Tory heartlands of Surrey over plans to widen the M25. Christian Wolmar reports

VILLAGERS in the Tory heartlands of Surrey are threatening to revolt over Department of Transport plans to widen the M25 from eight lanes to 14.

Veterans of former protests over the planning and building of the motorways in the county 20 years ago have joined forces in an attempt to block the proposals.

'We know what it is like to live next to motorways and we can't cope anymore. Our backyard is full,' Eiry Price, a local independent councillor, said.

He and his fellow protesters are not seeking to have the motorway extension in someone else's backyard. They want the plans dropped and are seeking a public inquiry into the matter.

And they have enlisted support from people on the left and right of the political spectrum, including local Tory MPs - among them former ministers Kenneth Baker, MP for Mole Valley, and Sir Geoffrey Pattie, who represents Chertsey and Walton.

Such is the groundswell of opinion that more than 700 people packed two meetings at Manorcroft School in Egham this week to protest at the plans.

On Thursday night more than 350 people, mainly from the nearby village of Thorpe, filled the school gymnasium to join the campaign against the widening of the M25. Two nights earlier another 350 protesters, mainly from the town of Egham, had braved a storm to hold a similar meeting.

'They think (the Department of Transport) we are a soft option,' one speaker said. 'We have to show them that we are not.'

If Thursday night's meeting is anything to go by, the campaign will cause a few nightmares for the men from the ministry and their political masters. The residents intend to ensure that it is an 'all-party or non-party campaign', bringing together everyone from the local Labour Party and Friends of the Earth to Sir Michael Grylls, Tory MP for Surrey North West.

There is a general feeling that whatever the national interest, Surrey has done more than enough for it. 'We've got the M3, the M25, gravel pits all around us and the proposed Terminal Five at Heathrow,' Mary Abrahams of Thorpe Ward Residents' Association said. 'Thorpe used to be a lovely village and it's already cut in two by the motorway.'

If the plans go ahead the motorway at Thorpe will be 20 lanes wide. The residents are aware that this is not just a local issue and there were representatives at Thursday's meeting from other groups which will be affected by the next set of proposals.

The Department of Transport's plans, called 'Improvements' and published last month, are the first part of the pounds 1.8bn scheme to add six lanes to most of the length of the M25. The first section will link the M3 and the M4 and cost pounds 144m. If it wins the battle over these initial 12km (71 2 miles), which involves demolishing 24 homes, the department's arguments for a general widening will be irrefutable.

According to Howard Langley, the Tory leader of Runnymede Borough Council, 'they will be able to argue that it is ridiculous for a 14-lane motorway to feed into eight lanes'. Mr Langley said the plans were being issued in a piecemeal way because 'if they had produced the whole scheme at once there would not have been halls big enough for the protesters to meet'.

The new lanes, originally called collector-distributor roads but lately renamed link roads, will cater for local traffic. Half the cars entering the M25 leave within a couple of junctions. These, then, will be local motorways aimed precisely at the type of people protesting about them.

Although the residents are demanding a public inquiry, Roger Higman, transport campaigner for Friends of the Earth, told the meeting that it would be wrong to focus solely on the public inquiry.

'The campaign needs the support of lots of people and musn't just focus its efforts on the technical arguments because the department always has more experts and barristers at its disposal than the protest groups do,' he said.

Sir Michael Grylls is confident of success in the campaign because of the need for public expenditure cuts. 'I can save them pounds 144m straight away,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen