Twyford Down is a small area
of ancient chalk downland lying directly to
the southeast of Winchester, Hampshire, England.
down's summit, known as Deacon Hill, is towards the north-eastern
edge of the area which is renowned for its dramatic rolling
scenery, ecologically rich grassland and as a Site of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSI
). It is a part of the
AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
1994 a highly controversial road building project was—despite
vigorous objection from many quarters—completed and a new stretch
of the M3 motorway
created, running through a significant section of the down, which
was excavated and removed to create a deep cutting.
The M3 motorway extension
Winchester had been a traffic bottleneck for many years as
several major routes passed through the historic city centre,
including the A31, A33 and A34, as
well as smaller routes like the A272. In the 1930s, a by-pass had been built to the
east of the city, passing immediately west of St. Catherine's
Construction of this had been controversial
as it affected the Itchen Valley and offered only a partial
solution to congestion, with some people calling instead for a
by-pass to the north and west of Winchester. With increasing
traffic, the by-pass itself became a bottleneck, particularly at
its junction with the A333 Portsmouth Road. Eventually it became
the last missing link in the M3 motorway
between London and
Transport (MoT) had trouble purchasing the land required to
complete the route past Winchester. The land required,
east of the city on Twyford Down, was owned by Winchester
College, which refused to sell the land to the government
because part was a water meadow.
desired route, however, had been chosen to avoid St. Catherine's
Hill, an ancient hill
Proposals were made for a tunnel through Twyford
Down, but the estimated cost for this was £
75 million more than the estimated cost for
a cutting, and the government dismissed the plans. The final route
chosen ran through important chalk
, and of a
Site of Special
(SSSI) were lost. In 1990, a link between
Southampton and the southern end of Twyford Down was completed and
soon afterwards work began on clearing the route across the down.
The Twyford Down cutting in August
"Twyford Rising": A button badge worn
by supporters of the Twyford Down road protest.
Stencil-painted, graffiti versions of this logo appeared
around Winchester during the early 1990s.
For 20 years, a coalition led by local businessman David Croker
had been trying to save Tywford
Down. Environmental organisations including
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, took the by-now
renamed Department for Transport to the High Court, stating that the road was against the Government's
own environmental protection laws.
The case failed, but
Commissioner for the
Environment, Carlo Ripa de Meana
looked into the case and ordered the project be stopped because he
found that it did violate British and European laws .
In 1989, the Conservative government published its Roads for Prosperity White Paper
detailing 500 road schemes billed as
“The biggest road-building programme since the Romans” with a
price-tag of £23 billion at 1989 prices (equivalent to about £40
In December 1991, Twyford Down became the site of the UK's first
road protest camp
when environmentalists, including members of
and Earth First!
gathered to hinder work. After a
year this first camp was evicted on Yellow Wednesday
named after the uniforms of the Group4
security guards who performed the
eviction in December 1992.
Resistance to the road intensified and Earth First! set up a new
protest camp nearby in Plague Pits Valley and continued to obstruct
the work both on the water meadows and up on the Down itself. In
addition to many direct actions
was a mass trespass in which over 5000 people attended the protests
and occupations, and six people were sent to prison for some weeks
for defying an earlier injunction not to enter the site.
The motorway section that was eventually constructed through
Twyford Down completed the route of the M3 motorway. Prior to its
completion, traffic travelling from nearby Southampton and
Portsmouth (major ferry ports) and from farther west to London and
the north had to exit the truncated M3 and travel on the heavily
congested 1930s Winchester Bypass. Once round this bypass, traffic
could either rejoin the M3 in order to proceed toward London or
join the A34 road
. Completion of
the link in 1994 removed the traffic from the existing Winchester
Bypass allowing its closure and significantly reduced heavy traffic
volumes from the village of Twyford. To redress the loss of of SSSI
land, the old route of the A33 road
planted with of species-rich grassland under the supervision and
monitoring of The Institute of Terrestrial Ecology.
In 1994, a government committee concluded that building more roads
encourages more traffic and that the way to ease congestion and
pollution was to take measures to control car use rather than
accommodate more. When Labour came to power in 1997, most of the
road schemes were suspended.
2000 Campaigners mounted legal action to preserve an area of
grassland created on the route of the old A33 Winchester bypass in
mitigation of the land lost to the motorway which was threatened by
a Park and Ride
site. The legal action
failed and Greens claimed that they had been betrayed for a second
time. Land was provided elsewhere in mitigation.
Cathedral received £86,000 from the Highways Agency in
compensation for increased traffic noise from the M3.
Rev. Michael Till explained that "the noise comes beaming straight
across The Close. It does change life having a perpetual background
Also in 2004, veterans of a Tywford Down protest threatened a new
campaign of direct action in response to 200 new road-building
proposals in the government's recently unveiled ten-year transport
plan and one of them went on to found Road
in 2005, which became part of the Campaign for Better