Those behind the campaigning, mainly members of the Conservative Party, like to present themselves as champions of local motorists. They paint the whole issue as one of "reducing congestion" and even try to suggest that building new roads could in some way be good for the environment! But a closer look shows that all of this is nothing but window dressing for policies that serve the interests of parasitical Big Business.
The origins of the current Tory push for roadbuilding at Arundel and Worthing can be traced back to a press release issued by Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert on September 13 2005 and still displayed on his website. Government plans to build a bypass of the Arundel bypass were dropped in 2003 on environmental grounds, after a protest camp was set up in the ancient woodland at Tortington Common which would have been trashed by the new road.
An angry road lobby immediately called for the decision to be reversed and when, in September, there was a further delay in this process, Mr Herbert and his friends decide it was time to up the ante. He declared: "As we feared, there has been yet another delay to the Arundel bypass. I think the time has come to step up local pressure for action." His press release added: "Mr Herbert hopes that an alliance of businesses, MPs and councillors of all parties, councils and other organisations could be persuaded to support the campaign, which would then aim to recruit widespread public support via a petition and a website. He has already discussed the idea with West Sussex County Council and hopes to meet SEEDA shortly."
Note here the use of the phrase "recruit widespread public support". While the road lobby claims it is responding to pressure from the public, it is in fact manufacturing that opinion itself, even organising petitions to give the false impression of some kind of grassroots movement. Also note the proposed involvement not only of Tory-run West Sussex County Council, but also SEEDA, the South East England Development Agency, an undemocratic pro-business quango.
Mr Herbert’s campaign met with some success when he persuaded the West Sussex Gazette, which traditionally markets itself as a custodian of olde worlde rural Sussex, to adopt his road-building campaign and even publish petition forms for him. He has also muscled in on a quite separate issue, affecting the village of Storrington, north of the Downs. Residents there have long complained about heavy lorries speeding through their narrow streets, with all the dangers that presents. Mr Herbert and fellow Tories are trying to persuade villagers that what they really really want is new bypasses on the A27, which would supposedly draw all this nasty traffic away from Storrington.
At a public meeting held on February 18, the county council’s chief road lobbyist "Lt Col" Tex Pemberton even invoked protection of the countryside as a reason for laying tarmac all over the errr... countryside, when he said of the A27: "We need to improve it so people don’t leave it to rat run through our areas of outstanding natural beauty." (West Sussex County Times, February 24).
But despite this rhetoric, he and Mr Herbert also carelessly let the cat out of the bag about the real reasons behind their passion for road building. Mr Pemberton announced before the meeting: "It is an awful road which is having a serious impact on business opportunities in the area." (West Sussex County Times, February 17). And Mr Herbert said at the event: "The A27 is a major coastal artery and the Government has a national responsibility for this major link along the coast which is important for trade and economic development." (West Sussex County Times, February 24).
To understand where Mr Herbert is coming from on this one, it is useful to glance at his recent past. Before becoming MP in May 2005, he was the co-founder and director of Reform, which describes itself as an "independent think tank". A glance at its website reveals that this is the Thatcher/Blair kind of "reform", loosely translated as privatising everything, from schools to hospitals. The names on the Advisory Board of Reform also make interesting reading. Alongside a certain Nick Herbert MP sit the likes of Sir Christopher Gent, chairman of GlaxoSmithKline plc and non-executive director of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc; Sir Richard Sykes, the previous chairman of GlaxoSmithKline plc; Oliver Pawle, vice chairman of UBS Investment Bank; Derek Scott, economic consultant to KPMG and Jeremy Sillem, former chairman of Bear Stearns International Limited, the European arm of the New York based investment bank.
These, of course, are exactly the kind of individuals for whom "trade and economic development" - otherwise known as even more profits for the wealthy- are more important than the environment or our quality of life. So whose views and interests is Nick Herbert really representing in his campaign to trash our precious countryside with new A27 bypasses? Local people or his chums in the world of big business and finance?
Feel free to come to your own conclusions!
BUILDING new bypasses just creates more traffic, a new study has shown. The research involves the Newbury bypass, which went ahead ten years ago despite a massive anti-road protest. The Atkins Movement Framework for Newbury study, commissioned by West Berkshire Council, revealed that the bypass has resulted in traffic growth of just under 50%. Said the campaign group Roadblock : "Figures also show that congestion is as bad at rush hour as it was prior to the bypass opening, and that the new road has encouraged more traffic."
Speaking on the Today radio programme, Newbury businessman and Friends of the Earth member Adrian Foster Fletcher said: "This road was never built to solve Newbury’s traffic problems, and this report shows how the bypass has failed Newbury and encouraged more traffic and pollution. Ten years on we hope that the lessons of Newbury will be learned."
Hello? Anyone listening in Arundel or Worthing?
And why is this the only road in the country Mr Mayes wants built? Could it be because it would handily take him at top speed from his home to anywhere he wants to go? Who gives a jot about the South Downs countryside when what is at stake is nothing less than the personal convenience of Mr Tony Mayes himself?
WB/05/1402/FULL covers roads, drains, etc - the main infrastructure for a development which has not actually been approved yet! Can this be right? Case officer is James Appleton on 01903 221333. Comments by April 6 by post or to firstname.lastname@example.org (include your postal address).
Titnore landowner Clem Somerset also seemingly can’t wait to get proper planning permission before he starts tearing apart the countryside his wealthy family have been fortunate enough to own. Durrington readers have contacted us in dismay at the site of hedgerows being ripped up behind Tesco on the land earmarked for the vast money-spinning housing estate.
* DURRINGTON Tories want to know in which roads residents would like to see traffic calming introduced. They list a number of possible measures and some possible locations, helpfully leaving a blank space for your own nominations. We recommend voting for speed humps, speed limits and plenty of pedestrian crossings in Titnore Lane. Send your suggestions to Durrington and Northbrook Conservatives, 4 Union Place, Worthing BN11 1LG or email email@example.com
After a long delay, she finally received a reply from Mark Lowe, a man with the wonderful job title of Scrutiny and Improvement Officer. He claimed he had "now had an opportunity to investigate the complaint", but unfortunately doesn’t seem to have got anywhere at all. It seems there are "no specific standards" on councillors replying to members of the public and "it is not possible to comment any further upon the circumstances of this case". His two helpful suggestions for what she should do next?
1) "I would suggest that you should take up the non-response with the Councillor concerned in the first instance on this occasion". Errr? What? The ones who hadn’t replied to any of her emails??
2) "You might utilise the Council’s complaints procedure, details of which are set out in the leaflet which you were given." But that was how she came to contact Mr Lowe in the first place and what had led him to, as he put it, "investigate the complaint"!
Nice to see local democracy is in such fine condition.
* FOLLOWING our call last month for people to stand up for their freedom in the face of an impending police state, we are pleased to hear that an event on this very theme is being held in Worthing town centre. The Rally for Civil Rights, staged by the Worthing Civil Rights Group, will be held at Montague Place (near Woolworth’s) on Saturday May 6 at 2pm and will be voicing opposition to everything from ID cards to new police powers and car tracking. See you there!
* Latest titles from The Kate Sharpley Library include: Santos - the
Barcelona of Brazil by Edgar Rodrigues; Konstantinos Spears - the Life
and Activities of a Greek Anarcho-Syndicalist by Leonardos Kottis and
Beating Fascism, Anarchist Anti-Fascism in Theory and Practice. Info: BM
Hurricane, London WC1N 3XX.
2pm, Saturday May 6 2006
Montague Place, Worthing
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