Essential Wessex: Winchester Road Protests

Wessex's natural environment, particularly in its overdeveloped eastern half, is under constant pressure from new construction. Beginning in the 1970s but peaking in the 1990s, this has led to direct action to protect it, mainly (though not exclusively) centred on protests against new road building in the area of the region's historic capital, Winchester.

The first of these came in 1976, when the M3 Action Group, with help from veteran anti-roads protester John Tyme, author of Motorways vs Democracy, successfully fought off a plan to extend the M3 across the water meadows near St Catherine's Hill. Unfortunately, the victory was temporary, as the extention later cast a scar across the landscape at Twyford Down, despite vigorous local opposition. Protestors were brutally evicted by police and security guards on 9th December 1992, known as Yellow Wednesday from the hi-vis outfits worn by the guards. Protestor Paul Kingsnorth later successfully sued the police for using unreasonable force.

Winchester is also the origin point of the A34, whose Newbury Bypass, 20 miles away, was the site of another protest in 1996. Since then, traffic levels on the A34 have continued to increase, suggesting that any benefits arising from the destruction of the Wessex countryside are temporary at best.

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