Fwd: Help us turn the tide of concrete and carbon - a personal appeal

Simon Fairlie chapter7 at tlio.org.uk
Mon Jan 5 21:05:35 GMT 2009

For the many years I have known him  Pat Kinnersley has worked  
virtually full-time fighting off the endless onslaught of road  
schemes that threaten the axis between Bath and Southampton. It is a  
thankless task, like painting the Forth Bridge, but without the  
creativity. He deserves all the support he can get.



Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Pat Kinnersly" <patrick at patkinnersly.plus.com>
> Date: 4 January 2009 18:56:55 GMT
> To: "simon Fairlie" <chapter7 at tlio.org.uk>
> Subject: Help us turn the tide of concrete and carbon - a personal  
> appeal
> Hello Simon
> We are determined to make an example of the Westbury bypass: it is  
> such a bad and damaging scheme that it deserves to be notorious as  
> a national folly waiting to be perpetrated in the cause of business- 
> as-usual, Keynesian economic stimulus, job creation or some other  
> inane 'idea' (so that they don't have to admit that they have  
> destroyed the machinery for funding any real improvements to the  
> railways, or building affordable housing, etc).
> If the govt decides to ignore all the evidence and to approve and  
> fund this road, we are determined to challenge them in the courts  
> and be ready and organised for a protest/ climate camp if we lose.  
> All this will be just talk if we don't have the money and the  
> public awareness to back these threats.
> The ramblings below are an attempt to connect this struggle to the  
> larger scheme of things - though the war on Gaza makes me  
> embarrassed to solicit support for any other cause just now.
> Perhaps you could forward it to a few appropriate contacts on your  
> network when you have a mo?
> All the best for a better year in 2009
> Pat
> [A36/A350 Corridor Alliance and White Horse Alliance]
> Dear Friends,
> I have been trying to write to you since June. It is now the winter  
> solstice. The shortest day must have drifted into night many hours  
> ago. I should be writing cards for Christmas and all the other  
> midwinter festivals  -  May the turning of the year bring peace and  
> justice for all  -  but here I am, driven back to a task that I  
> have struggled with for nearly six months, composing a begging  
> letter to friends and relatives, fellow campaigners and former  
> colleagues. There is a card attached to the message but it is not  
> exactly a festive greeting: a glance at it - which might be quicker  
> than waiting for me to get to the point here - will show that its  
> only seasonal feature is that it asks you to donate to yet another  
> good cause: the White Horse Alliance.
> What follows will be a collection of apologetic attempts at  
> explaining why this particular cause is so important to me and why  
> I think it should matter to you, indeed to everyone.
> In the larger scheme of things our campaign is so small and  
> apparently unimportant that I am embarrassed to ask for your  
> support. Even I can think of ten causes more urgent than trying to  
> stop a few miles of road being built through an unspoiled valley  
> that you may never have heard of, nestling beneath the western edge  
> of Salisbury Plain. What I want to do is connect the fate of that  
> tranquil place to the larger picture, to show you why on a frail  
> planet rushing towards a collision of disasters - ‘peak  
> everything’ - money, oil, land, food, water, carbon capacity,  
> human rights - stopping a few miles of road being built in the  
> fourth richest country in the world might deserve more than a  
> moment of concern, a column inch or two, a news-in-brief well down  
> the page, fifty pence in a collecting tin …
> It’s certainly a difficult pitch to make. I remember what a doddle  
> it was to write appeal leaflets for the London Hazards Centre more  
> than 20 years ago: case histories from the factory floor and the  
> tower block; welding fumes and asbestos; cockroaches and chemicals;  
> life and death - let’s just shame the bastards into coughing up  
> the cash to fight such inexcusable contempt for human health and  
> wellbeing!
> ‘The Environment’ was a different matter then and to a large  
> extent it remains different today. It would have been much harder  
> in those days to come out fighting for that larger environment. In  
> several ways it was an altogether different class of concern,  
> something that nice liberal folk did for wild creatures and wild  
> places in which humans were scarcely visible except as competitors  
> for habitat and food.
> There was a gap in politics between our campaign, confronting the  
> fundamental economic conflict that created environmental hazards  
> for working people, and an environmental movement that tended to  
> regard the struggles of trade unionists and tenants as too  
> ‘political’.
> Twyford Down began to narrow that division. As soon as  
> environmental action threatened the state, the state struck back,  
> hiring private detectives and violent security guards and finding,  
> conveniently, that ‘the rule of law’ would oblige by imprisoning  
> protestors. The state won the physical battle - the M3 was cut  
> though the chalk downland east of Winchester - but  
> environmentalists won the moral victory. With it came an  
> understanding that there is only one ‘environment’ and - still  
> to be fully grasped - a single conflict between those who feel duty  
> bound to extract profit from every resource, including human  
> health, and those compelled to resist them and to salvage a  
> habitable planet for all. Today's campaigners against climate  
> change and airport expansion have shown that we can put a price on  
> the pursuit of ‘business as usual’, that another world is  
> possible.
> Writing a begging letter: Scene 1:  One evening in June I thought I  
> could get my message across by writing about bats in terms of the  
> canary in the coalmine. A planet where bats cannot survive will  
> soon not sustain human life either. The fate of these extraordinary  
> creatures had become central to the campaign against the Westbury  
> bypass. My head was full of them. (You get used to people  
> muttering ‘bats in the belfry’ and wondering how on earth nasty  
> flying mice could be allowed to stand in the way of whatever it is  
> that developers want to do with bats’ roosting sites and foraging  
> grounds.) I wanted to convey the vulnerability of creatures that  
> are on the edge of survival, and the succession of changes, small  
> and large, that can tip them into extinction:
> I am writing to you towards the end of another perfect summer’s  
> day. Across the lawn the ripening cherries fade to black against  
> the glow of the setting sun. Soon the stag beetles will be cruising  
> for partners, back and forth across the lane, improbable survivors  
> of an aerodynamic design so marginal that flight must not be  
> contemplated until an evening such as this, warm and dry and  
> utterly still. Soon a bright banana-shaped moon will free itself  
> from the cherry tree. Along the lane the bats will emerge to show  
> how flight should be done, swooping and turning on a sixpence - too  
> fast to follow except against the brightness of the western sky.
> On a night like this you might be tempted to think that all’s well  
> with the world. The aroma from honeysuckle and elderflower is  
> intoxicating, as is the sense of wonder at the way everything fits  
> together - the scent of the woodbine timed to bring the moth; the  
> moth timed to be there to feed the bat.
> And so the bats and the stag beetles will be on the wing together,  
> two creatures with the most extraordinarily specialised lifestyles  
> improbably surviving the slow suburbanisation of a commuter village  
> on the edge of the New Forest. Enough of the great oaks have  
> survived; not all the ivy has been tidied up, nor all the fallen  
> branches. The stumps of felled oaks were not always grubbed out.
> Well, that’s as far as I got that night. I was going to write  
> about the road that was planned to come through here in the 1990s  
> and then work back to the ‘canary in the mine’, but it felt like  
> the long way round. Instead I gave up and wrote,
> Oh dear, you’ll be thinking, the poor old sod’s gone soft and  
> started doing pieces for the Guardian’s ‘Country Diary’.
> Also, I expect there were more urgent things to do. The start of  
> the planning inquiry into the Westbury bypass was nearly upon us.  
> By threatening a judicial review we had forced the planning  
> inspectorate to postpone it from the April start date favoured by  
> the county council, giving us time to retain expert witnesses on  
> most subjects, from bats, dormice and badgers to traffic modelling,  
> groundwater pollution and landscape conservation.
> Writing a begging letter: Scene 2: By September and the second  
> adjournment ordered by the inspectors, I was ready to have another  
> go. This time, inspired by a sense of outrage at the feebleness of  
> the evidence advanced for building this pointless and destructive  
> road (and anxious about the tens of thousands we had already spent  
> on legal fees and our formidable team of expert witnesses, I went  
> for a slightly more direct approach:
> The landscape of the Westbury White Horse is a magical place, where  
> Salisbury Plain drops away with breathtaking suddenness into the  
> tranquil seclusion of the Wellhead Valley. Just above the White  
> Horse is the iron-age hill fort where Alfred's army is thought to  
> have set upon the encamped Danes in 878. This was the decisive  
> battle of Edington that led to the Danes abandoning their hold on  
> Wessex and eventually on England as a whole. Had it gone the other  
> way, the inscription on the nearby sarsen stone commemorating the  
> battle might be in Danish, not English.
> This is a designated Special Landscape Area beneath the western  
> escarpment of Salisbury Plain; white horses cut into the chalk are  
> the emblems of the uplands of Wiltshire. The Wessex Ridgeway and  
> the White Horse Trail run along the edge of the escarpment  
> overlooking the proposed route.
> The road would climb up from the flood plain of the River Biss,  
> three lanes wide at this point, to pass beneath the White Horse at  
> a distance of 1km before entering the Wellhead Valley. This is an  
> unspoiled place containing an ancient drove road through prime  
> farmland, a protected water source and some of the rarest and most  
> endangered species in Europe.
> I hope you will share our sense of outrage that Wiltshire County  
> Council regards this historic and unspoiled countryside as a  
> suitable place for a road, and that you will be equally shocked  
> that none of the statutory environmental watchdogs were at the  
> public inquiry this summer to defend protected landscape and  
> ancient monuments, endangered wildlife and water resources. Even  
> the county wildlife trust withdrew its trenchant objection to the  
> scheme.
> In their absence it has fallen to a coalition of local objectors,  
> parish councils and environmental campaigns to raise the money to  
> do the job for them.
> The White Horse Alliance was formed in August 2007.  It is now a  
> coalition of 12 organisations committed to stopping the Westbury  
> eastern bypass being given planning permission or funding. With a  
> membership ranging from national environmental groups, including  
> the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Woodland Trust, to  
> local objectors led by the formidable fundraisers of the Westbury  
> Bypass Alliance and three parish councils, we speak for a  
> constituency of at least 5,000 local people opposed to the eastern  
> bypass scheme.
> The Wellhead Valley is one of the last unspoiled places in what  
> Natural England has called the 'degraded' landscape of West  
> Wiltshire. It provides habitats for numerous rare and endangered  
> species accorded the highest levels of protection in European law.  
> The 12 species of bat include all four of those scheduled in Annex  
> 2 of the Habitats Directive. The dormice - we had to prove to a  
> skeptical county council that they were here at all - are also  
> covered by Annex 2. The road would pass through the protected  
> catchment for the Wellhead Springs drinking water source.
> While an eastern bypass would reduce the number of large lorries  
> passing through the town itself, it would make things worse in  
> villages to the north which already have heavier and faster HGV  
> traffic. The real local bottlenecks on the A350, at Yarnbrook and  
> West Ashton, would become even more congested. As a road-only  
> scheme the proposed bypass would simply encourage further growth in  
> traffic and emissions. It would do nothing to help motorists switch  
> to trains, buses, cycling and walking. The plan contains nothing to  
> enable full-size buses to get to the station - a regional railway  
> junction - and there would be no link to the site of the proposed  
> rail freight interchange.
> If we lose this battle, the bulldozers could start to carve a great  
> scar into the chalk some time in 2009. An ancient landscape will be  
> scribbled over by the executive housing estates and tin-shed retail  
> parks made possible by such roads - developments that are often the  
> undeclared reason for building new roads in the first place.
> Writing a begging letter: Scene 3:  We are back where we started in  
> more ways than one:
> It is the night of the Solstice. The year may be turning, but  
> everything feels the same. In the 15 years since Twyford Down and  
> Newbury we have seen off many miles of roads that the government  
> and local councils hoped to build along the A36/A46 corridor  
> northbound from the M27 at Southampton to the M4 near Bristol and  
> southbound on the A350 from the M4 through Wiltshire and Dorset to  
> Poole.
> But the national road building programme never actually stopped  
> after the moral setbacks of the 1990s. Politicians learned nothing  
> except the new ‘greenspeak’ of sustainability. While ‘0ld’  
> Labour clung to Thatcher’s vision of ‘Roads for Growth’,  
> ‘New’ Labour talked of ‘transport integration’ and paved  
> Whitehall with great green slabs of policies, and guidance full of  
> good intentions - while continuing to expand motorways and letting  
> local councils get on with reviving dud road schemes that even the  
> Conservatives had abandoned for want of cash or courage.
> Tonight, in a 400-year old wood in an area of outstanding natural  
> beauty to the south west of here, protesters are defending the last  
> of the trees, waiting for the bailiffs and the chain saws that will  
> clear the way for one of those dud roads shelved in the 1990s - the  
> Weymouth ‘relief road’.
> These shire highways are like vampires - you kill them off but they  
> always come back. I am left wondering once again if we have been  
> wasting our time and money and if our years of struggle at Westbury  
> must also end in tears and the growl of chainsaws felling the trees  
> of Wellhead Wood and White Scar Hanging. Somehow we must stop it  
> before it comes to that.
> Writing a begging letter: Scene 4: It is now the first night of  
> 2009. The White Horse Alliance has entered its third year; the A36/ 
> A350 Corridor Alliance its sixteenth. Six months after starting  
> this personal appeal it is time to stop searching back and forth  
> across the topic looking for the scent. In the lengthening days  
> since the Solstice, I think I have found what I am looking for:
> The Westbury bypass must become a test case for sustainable  
> transport and development in the 21st century.
> The shocking truth about this project is this - that if an almost  
> pointless road can be built here, in a protected and regionally  
> distinctive landscape, over a protected source of pure drinking  
> water and through the habitats of some of Europe's most strictly  
> protected species, then anything can be built anywhere; nowhere is  
> safe. And government plans to fast-track all the heavy  
> infrastructure of growth, such as airports and power stations, can  
> only make things worse.
> On the basis of the evidence they heard - at what could be one of  
> the last full-scale planning inquiries - the inspectors should find  
> it almost impossible to recommend in favour of this scheme. But,  
> whatever the inspectors say, a government supposedly committed to  
> promoting sustainable development and cutting carbon emissions  
> could still make the purely political decision that the road should  
> be built anyway.
> Ironically the global economic collapse makes it more, not less,  
> likely that ministers could decide to throw more than £30m of  
> borrowed money at ‘a major infrastructure project’ to stimulate  
> an economy sated on debt and years of dumb investment. Never mind  
> the climate crisis or the global shortage of food and land, the  
> here-and-now of political survival could yet trump both law and  
> common sense.
> Our legal advisers warned the county council in May 2007 that a  
> decision to approve its own planning application would be open to  
> legal challenge. The evidence presented at the inquiry has served  
> to strengthen the case for judicial review of any government  
> decision to approve or fund it. And beyond the High Court there is  
> the European Court of Justice. The ECJ is unlikely to accept the  
> premeditated breach of the European Habitats Directive implicit in  
> the council’s admission that its new road would have an adverse  
> impact on species scheduled in Annex 2 of the directive.
> It is clear that we must be prepared to fight this all the way to  
> the ECJ. But if UK and European courts cannot ensure that  
> environmental law means what it says, the government must be in no  
> doubt that we will have the resources, the organisation and the  
> commitment needed to make the landscape of the White Horse, and the  
> fields and woods of the Wellhead Valley, a Twyford Down for this  
> century. Contempt for the environmental limits of this country and  
> of the planet as a whole must be made to carry a high price.
> I hope you will feel that this is a battle worth supporting and  
> that you can help us make Westbury one of those places where the  
> headlong rush towards the limits of growth and carbon emissions  
> will be halted in its tracks.
> Please pass this message on to anyone who might agree with us that  
> the year of peak oil and peak food is not the time to be building  
> in more oil dependency – building more roads, paving over more  
> farmland, endangering already rare wildlife, or encouraging more  
> traffic, more out-of-town sprawl, more food-miles.
> If you could spare a fiver or a tenner for this campaign and if all  
> your friends and all their friends could bung a fiver in the post  
> or flash the plastic on our web site, and pass this message on to  
> their friends, we will raise enough money to ensure that this  
> hideous and destructive road never gets built. Don't worry if you  
> can't spare any cash or have more urgent things to do with it -  
> just spend a few minutes forwarding the message to people who might  
> be able to help with money or by spreading the word to other networks.
> Unlike Bernie Madoff assembling his dodgy pyramid scheme, I offer  
> the more ethical - and seasonal - activity of helping to build a  
> giant snowball to throw at the roadbuilders of Wiltshire, Whitehall  
> and Westminster!
> With apologies for the length of this letter, and all good wishes  
> for better things in 2009,
> Pat
> Patrick Kinnersly, Secretary, White Horse Alliance,
> Bramfield, Slab Lane, West Wellow, Romsey, Hants SO51 6BY.  Tel.  
> 01794 322505
> Please note my, new-ish, email address and delete the old one.
> There is a lot more information on our web site  -  www.corridor- 
> alliance.co.uk
> You can see a short film we made last year as part of our  
> successful campaign to force the government into ordering a full  
> planning inquiry. The site has a link to Google Earth. And you can  
> donate on line with a debit or credit card.  Thank you.

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