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Roads to Nowhere

Combe Haven rally brings home the damage caused by new roads

Sian Berry's picture

25 July 2013: Campaigners from across the country joined us at the first national Rally Against Road-Building and saw the damage already being done by preparations for the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road.

Combe Haven rallyThe rally was held in the village of Crowhurst in East Sussex, on the edge of the Combe Haven Valley, on Saturday 13th July. The village's quiet roads and the tranquillity of the valley that lies between Bexhill and Hastings are both threatened with devastation by the £113 million link road.

Before the rally, three groups were taken on guided walks through the valley to see the preparation work being carried out, which is already starting to affect wildlife and disturb the peace of the area.

Combe Haven rally bannerSpeeches and music followed at Crowhurst Recreation Ground, with Chris TT performing and speakers - introduced by Sir Ian Bowler MP (comedian Nathaniel Tapley) - including Stephen Joseph from Campaign for Better Transport, Andrea Needham from the Combe Haven Defenders, Derrick Coffee from the Hastings Alliance, Michael Bernard from Bexhill Link Road Resistance, Georgia Wrighton from CPRE Sussex, Tony Whitbread from Sussex Wildlife Trust, Alex Phillips from South East Green Party, Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport Campaigner for CPRE, and transport campaigner John Stewart from HACAN who co-ordinated the ALARM network of road campaigns in the 1990s. 

Combe Haven rally placardsThe most moving speech was from the residents of Crowhurst themselves. Their local group's spokesperson Sonia Plato read a joint statement that conveys incredibly clearly the effects on their community of the road-builders moving in, and the long-term damage the new road will cause to the valley that means so much to local people.

This is the full text of the statement made by the Crowhurst Road to Nowhere Action Group:

Combe Haven rally speechWe welcome you to our little village of Crowhurst .  We are grateful for the interest and support you have given our village and our struggle in the fight against the Road.

Like Bexhill, we have been under siege for months  - ancient oak trees and woodland cut down, hedgerows  and habitats destroyed and footpaths closed.

For 20 years Crowhurst has fought this road – first as a bypass, then a relief road, now as a link road. Some in Crowhurst wanted a different route for the road – some were against it altogether.

Combe Haven rally - BHLR worksAt Christmas, the tree felling began and the terrible threat to our natural environment hit home.  It revived and strengthened the resistance of 20 years.

Combe Haven Defenders opened our eyes with their valiant stand against the destruction in our valley, or as we call it - The Marsh.

We couldn’t stand by and watch – leave them to fight alone. Villagers started to meet up wanting to help in practical ways. Reality was staring us in the face.

For the first time Hastings Alliance, BLINKRR, CHD and Crowhurst Villagers came together against the Road – any road across the Marsh. Together, our collective protest hit the national headlines - the first of many.

Combe Haven rally - BHLR worksSo for us, began the Battle of Crowhurst.  Since January, we have held 8 Village Meetings against the Link Road.

Over 100 villagers have come along to be informed, plan, keep vigilant and take action. And we have met as smaller groups to write letters, discuss, report and take action to:

  • Defend the Environment
  • Defend ancient archaeological sites
  • Fight longstanding vested interests – both local and national
  • Work together to make our feelings and concerns heard in the Village.

Combe Haven rally - survey posterWe sensed the Village was against this road To nowhere and carried out our own door-to-door survey.  This showed that 81% were against the Road and the destruction and developments that come with it and the speculators that profit from it.  £100 million pounds of our money and now £113 million pounds and rising.

We discovered villagers were angry, deeply upset, wanted to talk, write letters, take practical action and keep vigilant to mitigate the destruction and despoiling of the Marsh. Many spoke of their tears and anger as they came and went through the once familiar lanes of Crowhurst.

Combe Haven rally - bikeNow the Silence of our Marsh as we knew it has changed and future generations will not know what we had. The pound of pile drivers and trucks have destroyed the tranquillity of our walks and of our village life.  North Bexhill is suffering the same.

The one time tranquil tunnel of trees at Upper Wilting which greeted you as you enter Crowhurst has been obliterated and will be replaced by a concrete flyover. Our history, Neolithic, pre-roman, saxon and norman settlements are being destroyed.

We will continue to be vigilant and fight the onslaught of the impact of the road.  
We will continue the fight to protect the environment and our history and we will not give up.

We thank you for coming to support us in our fight today.

13th July 2013