Letter: 'Lost souls' join road protests

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Sir: In a report on the violence at the Newbury bypass protest (13 January), Jojo Moyes asserts that much of the publicity surrounding the "battle" at Newbury was due to the "high-profile" support of people like myself. To set the record straight, I have never been actively involved in any protests at Newbury. I was, however, deeply involved with the protests against the Swainswick/Batheaston bypass in 1994, and am sympathetic to the aims of the Newbury protesters.

To address the point, I do not believe that high-profile support by people like myself and the Marchioness of Worcester has "sanitised" road protest in the eyes of Middle England. Here in Bath (as indeed at Newbury) local opposition to the bypass was always broad-church, long before any publicity. The huge numbers of people, of all ages and social groups, who refuse to stand by and witness the destruction of the countryside are not so timid that they need to be led into action by so-called celebrities. There is a tremendous amount of frustration out there at a system which, favouring the road lobby and big business, calls a biased system of public inquiries 'democracy'.

However, there is a downside to the breadth of any road protest. Among the students, teachers, civil servants, artists, business people, housewives, committed and full-time environmental campaigners, and all the others who joined the protests in Bath, were hapless young people who represented the Government's policy of "care in the community", drifting alcoholics and drug addicts, travelling toughies, squatters and others who formed a disturbing mini-community of lost souls. There were one or two whose aim was to stir up violence, but they were restrained by more responsible protesters.


Bath, Somerset