1 March 2009
Veterans of the 'Save our Solsbury' campaign 15 years ago have warned that plans to divert Bath's lorries through Wiltshire could revive the kind of environmental protests battles provoked by construction of the Batheaston bypass and the M3 at Twyford Down in the 1990s. The concern was expressed as an exhibition of photographs by Adrian Arbib depicting the Solsbury Hill protests, opened at Bath Central Library on 1st March.
Bath And North East Somerset Council believes that neighbouring Wiltshire County Council would approve a lorry ban on the Cleveland Bridge if long-distance through-traffic could be diverted along the M4 and down the A350 through West Wiltshire. This idea is opposed by Adrian Arbib, who photographed the Batheaston bypass campaign for national papers and captured the sometimes violent confrontations between protesters and security guards. A stunning book of his photographs, "Solsbury hill: chronicle of a road protest" from the protest is being launched as part of the Bath Literature festival.
View photographs online at: www.solsburyhill.org.uk
'Protesters were fighting against building a road through the protected landscape of Solsbury Hill and against the whole idea that building more roads could ever solve traffic congestion,' he said. 'Now here we are 15 years later and Bath still thinks it can get rid of traffic by building another road. But this time the road is somewhere else and the beautiful protected hillside is not part of the city's landscape. But it is one of the most famous and best-loved landscapes in the South West - the hillside and valley below the Westbury White Horse. It is wrong for Bath to try to save its historic heritage by promoting a road that would wreck a heritage landscape somewhere else.'
Opposing Westbury bypass plan
'It's a delusion to think that Bath's traffic problems could be solved by using a congested road through the towns and villages of West Wiltshire as an outer bypass for the City,' said Patrick Kinnersly of the White Horse Alliance.
'These communities have enough trucks already and there is no way that everyone can get rid of the pollution and danger they cause and at the same time preserve their treasured landcapes.
'The Westbury bypass would be the first of many roads that Wiltshire and Dorset councils want to build or enlarge between Chippenham and the South Coast. Westbury would waste £40 million of public money to build a three-lane highway right under the nose of the iconic White Horse, through a protected landscape, protected water resources and the habitats of some of Europe's most endangered wildlife. Meanwhile the service on the railway through these towns and into Bath and Bristol is a disgrace and cities like Bath and Bristol cannot get the money they need for trams and a transport system fit for the 21st century.'
The Alliance fought the Westbury bypass through a long planning inquiry last year and is waiting for a decision from the Government this spring.
'We expect it to be rejected because it is bad transport planning and would be in breach of European wildlife law,' said Kinnersly. 'It the Government ignores the evidence and gives the go-ahead we will challenge them in the High Court and the European Court of Justice.
'If we lose I am sure there will be national outrage as the bulldozers move in on one of the best-loved landcapes in the South West. I can foresee protests on the scale of Twyford Down, combined with the growing climate change movement against airport expansion. We hope the government will see sense before it comes to that.'
The Solsbury Hill road protest photography exhibition, from 1st - 8th March is at Bath Central Library.