Two new petitions and new energy for road campaigning have already come out of our Roads to Nowhere 2014 conference at Toynbee Hall in London.
Held on Saturday 18 October, and hosting campaigners from across England and Wales, it was a busy day filled with workshops around social media, campaigning tactics, alternative solutions and much more. New materials were published, including our new Campaigner's Guide to Stopping Damaging Roads and a conference handout packed with useful facts and information (get your own copies of these materials from us here).
To start the day, there was a look back in time to see what lessons we could learn from past achievements and how they could be applied in today’s circumstances. Stephen Joseph, John Stewart formerly from ALARM UK, Ralph Smyth from Campaign to Protect Rural England and Andrea Needham from the Combe Haven Defenders all gave insightful views on past campaigns and successful tactics, even if a few of the haircuts in the photos were somewhat dated!
In the afternoon, there was also an opportunity for campaigners to bring and raise their own topics in Open Space discussions and a number of interesting topics were kicked around.
Looking forward there was very much a sense that the public has yet to appreciate the scale of the threat to our green and pleasant land. Many road schemes were still in the pipeline and not really in the public domain.
In this respect, there was a lot of concern expressed about the undemocratic nature and lack of accountability of the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) who were driving many road schemes forward, many of them zombie roads that refuse to go away. The idea of "LEP Watch" was floated and received strong support and something we will look to take forward.
Aside from all the useful content, one of the biggest benefits of such conferences is the meeting of minds, the creation of new alliances and the sharing of ideas and enthusiasm. A lot of campaigners went away reinvigorated to take up the challenge.
Kate Fielden of the Stonehenge Alliance has already organised a petition for a minimum of a 4.5km tunnel to protect Stonehenge, if the Government is going to widen the A303 there. It’s already attracted over 2,000 signatures in just a few days – you can sign here too.
Meanwhile, Christine Shine who is campaigning on the A417 which passes through The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has written about it and started another petition – find out more and sign here.
With the expected announcement of investment for a number of road schemes in the Autumn Statement and with the forthcoming General Election, campaigners were preparing for a busy time next year and looking for new people to join them too.