Page last updated at 17:15 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

Relief road tree sit-in continues

Winter up one of the ancient trees
Protestors are occupying a branch over neighbouring land

A technicality has meant a tree top protest against a new 87m relief road scheme in Dorset has continued despite a legal ruling.

The government has given the go-ahead for the Weymouth relief road and Dorset County Council secured a land possession order to evict protestors.

But the demonstration, which began last Thursday, was continuing on Friday and has delayed work at Two Mile Coppice.

Protestors have now occupied a tree branch overhanging neighbouring land.

In the morning, Dorset County Council served a compulsory purchase order on the land which meant the protestors were legally required to leave.

While the oak tree they are in is on land covered by the notice, the branch they occupy overhangs adjacent Woodland Trust land.

We are concerned about the additional and needless disturbance to wildlife caused by the trespassers
Miles Butler
Dorset County Council

Work to clear 1.5 acres of the coppice - which contains 400-year-old trees - will continue.

Miles Butler, the council's director for environment, said the action of a "very few is now diverting us from delivering the economic, social and environmental benefits of the relief road".

"The clearance of the western edge strip of Two Mile Coppice has been undertaken carefully," he said.

"We have protected the best of the woodland soils, by spreading cut branches on the ground for machinery to track over.

"We have also been searching for bats in any holes, splits or cracks in living and dead wood with a view to relocating them."

He added he was concerned about the "additional and needless disturbance" to wildlife which had been caused by the protesters.

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

The Woodland Trust has said the road is a "near act of vandalism" on the environment.

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