Twyford Down: Roads, campaigning and environmental law

Twyford Down: Roads, campaigning and environmental law
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In the paper edition, this article appears on page s This book has a relevance far beyond the specifics of the Twyford Down campaign. Barbara Bryant's experiences during the campaign, and the conclusions that she draws from those experiences, reflect in microcosm many of the questions still facing the green movement in As Peter Kunzlik puts it in his "Lawyer's Assessment", it is the story of a "struggle within the law to stop the desecration of [a] local landscape and about the frustrations Understanding the law - who makes it, whose interests does it serve, what does that tell us about our society, and thus what strategies for social change should we adopt - is the crucial question here.

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On the evidence of this book, Bryant flunks the test. There is no doubt that her feelings are genuine. She says that her opposition to the DoT grew out of "an instinctive love of the countryside, rather than any technical background" p. Of work starting on the Down, she says: "That really hurt, when they first stripped off the topsoil.

But I've got used to it now. You've got to - otherwise you'd go mad. That level of connection to a place is very healthy, something to be cherished, nurtured and acted upon. That love drew her to take extraordinary action in its defence, pushing her personal allegiances to the limit. And yet, it is a question of how that love is expressed - unlike David Croker, and some of the other members of the Twyford Down Association TDA , she proved unable to take that last step, and transcend the constraints or rather the priviledges of her background.

Twyford generally, and the experience of those who took the legal route to opposing it in particular, is THE textbook example of how the 'usual channels' simply don't work - the state will always move the goalposts if you come close to beating it at its own game. Bryant talks of her "well-known monetarist, free market approach to most issues" p. Later they put forward a proposal for a toll tunnel through the Down - the " immaculate 'Tory' solution This instant access to the elite, of which they made great use, relies upon the disproportionate influence of the upper classes - their 'cultural capital'.

This in itself is a perversion of the 'democracy' Bryant professes such devotion to - what chance of the residents of say Pollock being able to draw upon such networks of influence? And yet they still got stitched up at every stage of the game - by Winchester College, their erstwhile allies largely responsible for the choice of the route through the Down - eg.

There is now strong evidence - not explicitly referred to in the book - that one of the main conditions for British acceptance of the Maastricht Agreement was for the European Commission to drop the Twyford case. If somewhere as "well-connected" p. Rather than opting for mass action - mobilising the great unwashed - Bryant clung to a faith in the 'charmed circle' of the elite.

She at least has the honesty to acknowledge her own mistakes in this regard - until the High Court hearing she simply had no idea of the existence of other anti-road groups eg. Oxleas Wood, the M11 - p. Likewise, due to their exclusive focus on the Winchester clique, "It was not until the Tactical Voting campaign [of - and they began fighting the M3 in ! I guess it's a case of "live by the establishment, die by the establishment". Given all of the above, it is hard to explain why Bryant still fails to question all that she had held most dear, and to see through the big lie.

The way in which she remains a prisoner of her background, despite the punishment inflicted on her and her beloved Down by a vindictive state, is more than just inexplicable, it is tragic. Even now she laments the "widespread disaffection with constitutional campaigning" p.

She warns that "Conservationists in Britain are in danger of falling into an over-adversarial mode.

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Surely it is not a battle which is the objective, but the securing of environmentally sensitive solutions. But why not choose a different tack if experience demonstrates as Bryant's surely must that "constitutional campaigning" is largely useless? She appears to be suffering from 'cognitive dissonance' - in this debate, SHE is the idealist ignoring the facts and clinging to some rosy notion of hallowed 'democracy' and us the pragmatists. Likewise, can she not see the connection between the capitalism she so ardently supports and the destruction of 'special places', not just in Winchester's backyard but all over the world.

She was always instinctively averse to direct action, and uncomfortable with these grubby, pungent 'tribespeople' who were - both literally and metaphorically - muddying the controlled environment of her natural habitat, the committee room.

8 Twyford Downs, M3, site occupation 1994

Democracy is, to an extent, about keeping any issue at one remove, abstracted, defused - let's not get physical. Heaven forbid that the British stiff upper lip should tremble, the mandarin mask crack, and we should admit to some emotion.

Andy Beckett meets the Tory who failed to save Twyford Down

Unlike David Croker and Chris Gillham, I don't recall ever having seen her at the Dongas camp - she always kept her polite distance. She was one of the main figures behind the stance of the last Twyford Down Association meeting, in the summer of Here, they shrank from throwing their weight behind the direct action campaign, apparently because, in the words of the TDA President, "to become involved in anything illegal Doubtless they were exhausted after their long fight, but they resolved instead to go out with a whimper, not a bang: with the TDA relegating itself to laughing-stock quibbling with the DoT over whether the 'inevitable' new road should have a tarmac or a blacktop surface.

See her account of how the DoT even betrayed them over this one - p. Thus they consigned themselves to the ludicrousness of all lobbyists - fiddling while Rome burns. It is intended not to be the views of any one person, nor an academic analysis, but the story of the people who were there in their own words.

They want personal memories, poems, songs, photos and drawings. Send any material to the address below - photocopies of written material, and copies or negatives of any photos black and white preferred. They can also arrange interviews with those who wish to contribute, but don't want to write anything down. Donations very welcome! None of this would matter, if it wasn't for the fact that, as a consequence of her own "glorious defeat", Barbara now has pernicious influence - peddling her wrinkled nose distaste for direct action to new 'learner-driver' anti-roads groups, such as the A27 Action Group, Lewes.

Now, Barbara's view of events may be enshrined as the definitive historical text, with direct action largely written out of the main picture and into a much less troublesome footnote. This makes the upcoming 'Friends of Twyford Down' book see below all the more important, if only to redress the balance away from Bryant's saga of the Great and the Good.

In one sense, reading this book was an education. Much as I may pour scorn on their approach, I have to acknowledge the courage of their actions, as far as they went - for example, if you are a member of Thatcher's 'property-owning democracy',then the prospect of losing your house over court costs is probably at least as terrifying as a beating from a security guard.

Without the herculaean efforts of Bryant and co. They laid solid foundations at the very least, in making it "An Issue" in the public consciousness , and to mangle metaphors, we picked up the baton that they fumbled.

Twyford Down

Therefore, given that other campaigns largely flowed from Twyford, I'd like to bestow a most unwelcome title upon Babs: she is the "Mother of all Anti-Roads Battles". Swampy's your foster son Babs! One last thought: Babs' husband - Dudley - is a chartered surveyor. M11, anyone? The title is offensive. I thought of all the people present at the Battle of the Beanfield, the Molesworth eviction, Yellow Wednesday, the poll tax demo in Trafalgar Square, the Newbury evictions and the countless other landmarks of our "cultures of resistance".

Most of these events were not inspired by "senseless" people. Some were far from beautiful. A book claiming to chronicle and analyse our "cultures" should be one of two things: a pure academic analysis, or a personal account of one person's adventures in subculture land. Unfortunately, "Senseless Acts of Beauty" is neither.

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