Woodland campaign hopes raised

(First Edition)

CAMPAIGNERS protesting against the destruction of Oxleas Wood in south-east London by a motorway scheme have had their hopes raised by a 'green' minister within the Ministry of Transport.

They are preparing to make further protests against the 'arrogance of government' in the woods next Sunday, pending action in the Court of Appeal and an appeal to the European Court of Justice.

But some of the campaigners hope that the lead taken by Kenneth Carlisle, the Under-Secretary of State in charge of roads outside London, will put pressure on Steven Norris, the Minister for Transport in London, to heed their appeals.

Some of the campaigners have appealed to the Government without success for the road to be put through a tunnel as a last resort to protect the ancient oak wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). That idea has been refused on grounds of cost, estimated at more than pounds 10m.

But Mr Carlisle was instrumental in ensuring that another SSSI, the Devil's Punch Bowl in Surrey, was protected from a road development, with a tunnel adding an estimated pounds 20m to the project. He also favours protecting Stonehenge by rerouting the A303 to the south. Before moving to Transport, Mr Carlisle was responsible for 'greening' the Ministry of Defence with a policy document on environmental protection.

Leaders of the Campaign Against the East London River Crossing, who are taking the legal action, have been told that the Government is preparing to start the work next January.

They are meeting the European Commissioner for the Environment on 26 April to seek European intervention to halt the scheme.