Protesters occupy trees to prevent work starting on the Metrobus project
On 2nd February 2015, with work due to commence on a new motorway junction for a controversial new bus scheme in Bristol, protesters took to the trees in a last ditch attempt to protect wildlife and agricultural land.
The land in question is adjacent to the M32 near Stapleton in north Bristol and was in use by local people as allotments and a community project called ‘Feed Bristol’, managed by the Avon Wildlife Trust. The protesters set about building tree-top camps and asserted that they intended to stay on the site as long it took to fight the scheme and prevent it from happening.
Over the following six weeks the protesters continued to build their camp both for comfort and to resist eviction. The camp had compost toilets, a kitchen and sheltered platforms in the trees. The protesters continued the occupation despite freezing temperatures, heavy rain and high winds. Bristol City Council applied to the High Court to evict the campaigners on 11th February but made errors with the application which meant they needed a further court order before they could repossess the land.
The evictions finally started on 12th March when security guards, a specialist eviction team and enforcement officers arrived at the site at dawn. It took four days for the evictions to be completed with protesters using locks to prevent easy removal from tunnels, tree-top platforms, a concrete-filled barrel and derelict buildings on the site. The specialist evictions team used ropes and ladders to reach protesters and brought them out of the trees one by one.
Since the evictions, the council has paid a contract security firm to maintain a constant presence on the site to prevent reoccupation. In the following weeks, the occupied trees have been felled. At the end of April, two old oaks that had been occupied by protesters were felled. Some of the campaigners watched from behind security fencing.
The Metrobus project continues to be implemented. At a cost of £200 million, the council says that scheme is a good investment for the city and will provide public transport that is reliable, integrated and value for money.
Bristol is the 2015 European Green Capital, so it would seem appropriate to see a large investment in sustainable public transport but it is more than a little ironic that this is at the expense of prime agricultural land and wildlife habitat.