Any consultation about new roads begins only after the decision to build has been made. The dice are loaded from the start. The whole apparatus of spin doctors, PR consultants and glossy brochures is wheeled in to comfort a local population whose chief interest is to take the horrible noise and pollution into somebody else's backyard.
Objectors cannot match the resources that the Department of Transport can deploy, not least because the latter charges for access to its documents. Expensive QCs are on hand to clobber into the ground any witnesses on the side of doubt. The Highways Agency which steers the scheme is a quango. The inquiry which follows is a piece of theatre which the public can witness but not influence.
Our son lived for more than two years in the magnificent old oak at Fairmile, which was demolished so casually in the view of millions of television viewers earlier this month. He would like the "strong institutions which thwart corruption" that Mr Webb finds praiseworthy. What he gets are political leaders focused on the voters of about 100 marginal constituencies, who will determine the outcome of the next general election. He sees greed, selfishness, narrow-mindedness, blinkered vision and political cowardice, and has turned away. He takes no financial benefits from this society, other than what his parents earn. The meagre benefits we provide as taxpayers to his colleagues are a good deal less than those taken from us by the DoT's lawyers. His and Swampy's moral base, it seems to us, is secure, and their judgement understandable.
RICHARD and ELIZABETH COOK