grant to develop a small ex-mining town in South Wales?
Give it to a major construction firm to build a road that no
one wants, of course.
"I got involved two weeks ago because this road is
coming right by my house. But now I realise that its about
more than just my house. It's about the system that has
allowed this road to be built. It's about capitalism."
"It's not the bailiffs I have a problem with, although they
have been pretty rough with the girls, it's Costain, who
are consistently breaking the law."
"My nan told me that they were coming to destroy the
woods. These are our woods, where we hang out and
Quotes from local teenagers
As we arrive on Friday afternoon, there's clearly a stand-
off between the kids and the bailifs. The kids, in their
baggy jeans and Ozzy Osbourne sweatshirts, are still up
the trees or clinging on to the fallen branches. The fat
bailiffs in their yellow flouros and white hardhats are
standing around a flatbed, mobile phones in hand. In his
cab, the man operating the giant Caterpillar 'trash
grapple', has put his feet up. The police and local dog
walkers are watching from a safe distance.
And then the giant machine swings around towards the
compound and rumbles home. Like a dragon, defeated,
crawling back to its lair. Again, today, Costain have barely
been able to touch the woodland.
For eleven years, environmental campaigners have been
fighting the two mile 'feeder road' which passes through
five acres of ancient semi-natural woodland and right by
residential areas, to provide a new access road to
industrial developments at Blackwood. These industrial
developments include Nordam, a company which
provides military aircraft overhaul and repair. Despite
4500 written objections from locals, Caerphilly County
Borough Council pushed ahead with the private finance
initiative (PFI) scheme with multinational building
After local poet, Patrick Jones, brother of Manic Street
Preachers lyricist, Nicky Wire, put out a call for poems to
be pinned to the trees in mid-January, some local
activists went down to have a look and stumbled upon,
and managed to halt the first day of felling. Soon more
local people got involved as experienced activists shared
their skills at stopping tree felling and building tree
Costain and Caerphilly Borough Council retaliated with a
High Court civil injunction against any person entering or
remaining in the woodland under the so-called 'Harry
Potter ruling'. This is the first time the 'Harry Potter ruling',
which does relate to a case involving books about the
famous boy-wizard, has been used against protestors. It
can be contested in court, and it may well be illegal under
the Human Rights Act.
Campaigners, in response, highlighted the presence of
hibernating dormice in the woodland. Dormice are
protected by law and should be 'relocated' before work
continues. The Welsh Assembly made Costain stop work
on site pending an application for granting a licence to
move the dormice. In response, Costain fenced off areas
where it said the dormice were living, and have continued
work around it. As 1000 meters of dormice habitat has
already been trashed, criminal proceedings are in the
process of being started against whoever signed the
order to start work.
The road is also under review at the European
Commission - the Enforcement and Implementation of
the law for conservation section- over the bat habitats en
route. Now the dormice habitat information has been
added to this review.
Walking through the beautiful and irreplaceable ancient
woodland on the outskirts of Blackwood, it's hard not to
be overwhelmed by sadness and rage. This woodland is
doomed for woodchip so that privileged commuters can
drive their fast cars to the local industrial estate quicker.
And the hibernating dormice and the bat colonies and
other animals that make their homes here; the kids that
camp and play here; the families that walk their dogs
here and everyone whose lives are enriched by this
beauty and serenity... sacrificed for corporate profit and a
After the anti-roads campaigns of the mid-1990's and a
war that was so clearly being fought over oil, it may seem
disheartening to old-timers that we are still fighting the
same battle. But something extraordinary is happening in
Blackwood. In two weeks, this camp has sprung out of
nowhere and local people have become empowered to
take direct action against a proposed road that is so
obviously wrong. The energy from the anti-war protests
has not dissipated, rather people are finding new
avenues to express their frustration with our increasingly
People are making the connections and starting to take
back power, and finding, that in fact, its not difficult to be
effective. Costain's budget for dealing with protesters was
£30,000. Rough estimates from the protesters
themselves are that they've already cost them over
£200,000... and counting.
Extra note: Big up to all the Oxford folk who've made it
down to Blackwood!