Cleared protesters’ trial ‘a waste of public money’

AN ANTI-Link Road protester has branded his trial ‘a waste of public money’ after he and five others were cleared of trespass at court.

Kim Harrison, 30, Valerie Archer, 34, Alistair Cannall, 24, Tom Druitt, 35, Maria Gallastegui, 55, and Christopher Hopkins, 29, were all released following a trial at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

The six were charged with trespass following high-profile protests against the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road.

The protesters were arrested in January 2013 after occupying trees along the route of the controversial road in Crowhurst.

The campaign against the BHLR hit the headlines nationally, with protestors taking to treetops, tunnels and even the top of a telegraph pole to protest.

Miss Harrison, of Grand Parade, London, Miss Gallastegui, of no fixed abode, Ms Archer, of Mornington Grove, London, Mr Cannall, of London Road, Brighton, and Mr Druitt, of Osmond Road, Hove, celebrated as they left court, unveiling a banner reading ‘Save Our Valley - Stop The Road’.

One of the acquitted defendants, businessman Tom Druitt, said the trials were a waste of money.

He said: “£113m of public money is being wasted on the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road, a road which will increase traffic, increase carbon emissions, and destroy the beautiful Combe Haven valley.

“Spending tens of thousands of pounds unsuccessfully prosecuting us for peacefully opposing this road has simply wasted more public money.”

East Sussex County Council did not comment on the verdict, but defended the BHLR, maintaining that it would create more homes, jobs and bring economic benefits valued at £1bn to the region.

Cllr Carl Maynard, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for transport and environment, said: “This road is absolutely crucial to the regeneration of Hastings and Bexhill.

“It will bring better access to jobs, opportunities for housing and business development and reduce congestion along the busy coast road.

“This is a road to prosperity making it possible to build a new 50,000 sq m business park and provide between 1,200 and 2,000 much-needed new homes.

“It will create more than 3,000 new jobs and bring economic benefits valued at £1bn.

“Work on the link road continues and this spring will see a significant increase in the work taking place at the East end of the road, with a new railway bridge being constructed and Chapel Path underpass and Woodsgate bridge due to be completed by mid-April. We appreciate the work is causing some temporary inconvenience for some residents and businesses and we are grateful for their co-operation.”

The Bexhill-Hastings Link Road is due to open in May 2015.