Rally marks 20 years since Twyford

Campaigners from around the country have joined a rally to mark the 20th anniversary of a protest which changed the landscape of Government road-building policy for a generation.

The fight to save Twyford Down, near Winchester in Hampshire, from the diggers in the 1990s was a watershed moment for campaigners battling against road expansion by the then Conservative administration.

And protesters are now warning that the country faces a major new programme of nationwide road-building.

Twyford Down caused such emotion because it had been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, was recognised as a gathering place for ancient tribes and was criss-crossed by "Dongas" - a network of ancient pathways.

Veterans of the original protest were joined on Saturday by members of current campaigns from across the country at the rally held at Twyford Down. About 100 people took part in the reunion where a 98ft (30m) banner was unfurled on top of the down which read: "Twenty years since Twyford Down. Don't go backwards, no new roads."

Dr Chris Gillham, who returned to the site where he protested 20 years ago, said of the proposals for new roads: "Plans for these roads have already been fought and defeated. But, like zombies, they keep coming back. Their impacts haven't changed and local opposition will be just as strong.

"This weekend's event at Twyford Down will let people know what's coming. It will embolden and connect those who do not wish to see local environments destroyed and their towns and cities made even more car-dependent. And it will remind people that collectively taking action can change things."

The Campaign for Better Transport has identified 70 projects across the country and expects hundreds more to emerge from local authority and Local Enterprise Partnership plans.

Chief executive Stephen Joseph said: "Government has forgotten the lessons they were taught at places like Twyford Down. Major road-building is slow, expensive and disastrous for the environment.

"By allowing a programme of road-building by stealth to develop, the Government is setting itself up for long and vociferous fights up and down the country. We need to deal with the real transport problems being faced by local communities. This means fixing potholes in existing roads, investing in decent public transport services and getting freight off road and on to rail."