Page last updated at 20:22 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Work restarts on Olympic road

The current main road into Weymouth and Portland
Some residents support plans to upgrade the existing road

Work to clear ancient Dorset woodland ready for a new 84m relief road ahead of the 2012 Olympics is to restart after a legal challenge was resolved.

A legal bid by The Woodland Trust halted work at Two Mile Coppice a day after clearance work began on Monday.

Dorset County Council said the work would now restart on Thursday after "reaching an agreement" with the trust.

The Weymouth relief road aims to ease traffic around Weymouth and Portland, which are hosting the Olympic sailing.

"We have accelerated the relevant paperwork and work to clear the narrow strip of coppice will now restart on Thursday 11 December," a county council spokeswoman said.

Council leader Angus Campbell said: "We are very pleased that we have been able to resolve these issues so quickly and continue with the advance works ahead of building the relief road."

Operations on site were suspended while the local authority consulted with a barrister on "whether there was any foundation to the challenge".

The Woodland Trust said it had threatened to take legal action if work was not halted by noon on Tuesday.

We are very pleased that we have been able to resolve these issues so quickly
Dorset County Council leader Angus Campbell

Environmental groups lost a High Court legal bid to stop the road in 2007.

Work on the road is due to start in spring 2009, if the Department for Transport (DfT) decides the project is value for money by the end of 2008.

Trees and other vegetation were being removed from woodland on the western edge of Two Mile Coppice, when Tuesday's legal challenge halted work.

The coppice contains trees dating back 400 years, but the county council said they were only in a 0.4 acre (0.15 hectare) area - less than a tenth of the total woodland.

Earlier, the council's natural environment manager, Phil Sterling, said: "We are losing a small area of ancient woodland, but overall this route offers the most possibilities to ease the effect of the road on local wildlife.

Local support

"We are doing everything we can to salvage and reuse materials taken from the woodland."

In September, the government gave Dorset County Council permission to buy land with compulsory purchase orders in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), following a public inquiry which ended in March.

Archaeologists then began a 12.5 acre (five-hectare) excavation of the Ridgeway area to recover and record anything found of historical importance.

Environmental pressure groups, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), fought the decision to build the road but lost their legal challenge at the High Court last year.

The judge refused permission for a judicial review of Dorset County Council's decision to grant itself permission for the 84.5m project.

Many residents and businesses in the area have said they support the new road.

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SEE ALSO
Relief road excavation to start
24 Sep 08 |  Dorset
High court approves relief road
15 Aug 07 |  Dorset

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