Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Relief road agreed despite demo

Whinter said he had taken part in two consultations over the plans

The Government has given the go-ahead to a controversial 87m relief road scheme in Dorset.

Clearance work at the site near Weymouth started last week and sparked a tree-top protest.

The demonstration, which began last Thursday, was continuing and has delayed work at Two Mile Coppice.

On Thursday, Dorset County Council secured an order for possession of the land in a legal action at Weymouth County Court.

The order will take effect on Friday afternoon and the council said it would be enforced against anyone found to be trespassing on the land.

Central funding of 79.2m was announced on Thursday. South Dorset MP Jim Knight MP said it was "a fantastic day".

"[It] means Weymouth will definitely now get our long-awaited relief road," he added.

"The confirmation of government funding for the scheme really is the perfect Christmas present for the town."

Protesters are still occupying an ancient tree at Two Mile Coppice, where Dorset County Council has obtained a compulsory purchase order to start clearance work.

Noddy up one of the ancient trees
Noddy left the protest on Monday after going up the tree last Thursday

A man, calling himself Whinter, joined the protest on Monday and has remained at the site. He has since been joined by another man.

One campaigner, 41-year-old Nick Pepper, came down from one of the trees on Saturday morning, while 35-year-old Nicky Baines ended his protest on Friday.

A man calling himself Noddy came down on Monday after starting the demonstration last Thursday.

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

Work to clear 1.5 acres of Two Mile Coppice - which contains 400-year-old trees - restarted last Thursday after a legal bid by the Woodland Trust temporarily suspended work for two days.

The council said about 60% of felling had been carried out and it hoped to complete the work by Christmas.

Whinter said he had taken part twice in county council consultations about the road.

He said: "They've not listened to a word of the public consultations."

'Act of vandalism'

In a Dorset County Council report it stated: "There was full public consultation as part of the planning process."

A spokeswoman said the public inquiry found that non-road alternatives had been thoroughly investigated.

None of the men represented any particular group, they said.

The Woodland Trust has said the road is a "near act of vandalism" on the environment, and that ancient woodland is Britain's equivalent of the rainforest and cannot be replaced.

Trees and other vegetation were being removed from the western edge of Two Mile Coppice, when a legal challenge by the Woodland Trust halted work last Tuesday.

The Woodland Trust, which currently owns the land, said the county council had failed to provide a Notice to Enter document when it began work a day earlier.

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.

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SEE ALSO
Two men continue sit-in protest
15 Dec 08 |  Dorset
Work restarts on Olympic road
09 Dec 08 |  Dorset
Relief road excavation to start
24 Sep 08 |  Dorset

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