Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Ancient tree sit-in against road

One of the protesters
The protesters said they did not represent a particular group

Two protesters are sitting in trees in ancient Dorset woodland to try to stop clearance work taking place ahead of the building of a new 84m relief road.

Work to clear part of Two Mile Coppice restarted on Thursday after a legal bid by the Woodland Trust temporarily suspended work on Tuesday.

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

Dorset County Council said work would continue despite the protesters.

A spokesman said trees would be cut down around the demonstrators and that the council hoped to complete the work by Christmas.

Once it's gone, it's gone forever, it can't be recreated because the climate was different 400 years ago
Steve Marsh
Woodland Trust
"The council is now discussing how the protesters can be safely and legally removed," he added.

One protester, 35-year-old Nicky Baines, came down from the trees on Friday.

He told the BBC the two remaining men, Nick Pepper, 41, and a man known as Noddy, had both lived in Weymouth in the past.

He said they did not represent any particular group but the idea was to "stick it out as long as possible".

"We've been having a bit of trouble with the amount of equipment - food, water and staying warm.

"But at least one person has got a lot of stuff they can keep going with."

Work restarted

Trees and other vegetation were being removed from 1.5 acres of woodland on the western edge of Two Mile Coppice, when Tuesday's legal challenge halted work.

The Woodland Trust, which owns the land, said the county council had failed to provide a Notice to Enter document.

The coppice is among land in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) that Dorset County Council was given permission to buy, using compulsory purchase orders, in September.

But until the orders are processed, the land still belongs to the trust. The correct documentation was later provided and work was allowed to restart.

Steve Marsh, of the Woodland Trust, said the legal challenge was started to make sure the council was following the correct procedures.

Clearance work at Two Mile Coppice
Some of the trees at Two Mile Coppice are 400 years old
"We didn't think we'd ever be able to stop the work in the long term," he said, adding that the trust was against the road.

"This is the last remaining ancient woodland in the Weymouth and Portland area. It's a very much-used wood and a much-loved wood.

"Once it's gone, it's gone forever, it can't be recreated because the climate was different 400 years ago.

"Ancient woodland is the richest habitat we've got in Britain - it's our equivalent of the rainforest.

"We feel the road is a near act of vandalism on the environment, all to help cut people's journey times by five minutes."

Environmental groups, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), lost a High Court legal bid to stop the road in 2007.

A public inquiry followed, which ended in March 2008, but many residents and businesses said they supported the plan for the road.

Work is due to start in spring 2009, if the Department for Transport (DfT) gives the funding.

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09 Dec 08 |  Dorset
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