Tuesday 17th November 1998
After many years of public debate and argument, the 9 mile Newbury (A34) bypass, Berkshire (England) was officially opened. Between January 1996 and April 1996 the clearance of approximately 360 acres (150 ha) of land including 120 acres (49 ha) of woodland, and the felling of nearly 10,000 mature trees to make way for the construction of the road, led to some of the largest anti-road protests in European history. Around 7,000 people demonstrated on the site of the bypass route in some way and over 800 arrests being made. The cost of policing the protest (known as ‘Operation Prospect’ and run jointly by Thames Valley Police and Hampshire Constabulary) had reached approximately £5 million by December 1996. An additional £30 million was spent on private security guards, security fencing, and security lighting while the works were in progress, of which only £7 million was budgeted for in the original contract. The protest was known in some quarters as the Third Battle of Newbury, a name which was also adopted by one of the main protest groups. The name was chosen in reference to the English Civil War battles that took place close to the town in 1643 and 1644.