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Road Block protest dogs A4146 bypass

Anti-roads activists occupy site of new route before contractor is even selected

CIVIL engineering contractors could face chaos on road projects after a new protest group was formed to fight highways schemes at all stages from planning to construction.

The campaigners, known as Road Block, are already protesting in Linslade, Bedfordshire, where bulldozers are poised to start preparatory work on the A4146 bypass to Stoke Hammond in Buckinghamshire.

Protesters have swooped on the site before tenders for the work have even been returned.

Preparatory work contractors are the target but bidding firms Costain, Alfred McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Morgan Est and Birse will be hoping to see the problem quickly resolved.

Road Block spokeswoman Rebecca Lush told the Government and contractors to 'expect protests from the planning stages right through to standing in front of bulldozers' One estimator who is pricing the project said: 'We are used to protesters causing problems but we need this to be sorted sooner rather than later.The scheme is already delayed and residents have been asking for the bypass for 20 years. Contractors are getting increasingly annoyed with looking like the bad guys.We're not the decision-makers and very often it's the contractors who are far more environmentally aware than the client.'

Road Block is also targeting the M6 expressway linking Birmingham and Manchester, widening projects on the M25 and M1, the M4 relief road scheme, the Weymouth relief road in Dorset and the Bexhill to Hastings link road in West Sussex.

The demonstration on Monday attracted 50 people including veterans of previous protests at Twyford Down and Newbury, which cost months of delays and eventually brought about a rethink of road-building policy.

Buckinghamshire County Council is playing down the problem. A spokesman said: 'The contractors bidding the scheme will be well aware that there has been some longstanding opposition to the scheme and this will no doubt be reflected in their bids.We're working closely with the police to ensure the project gets under way.'

The five bidding contractors will return tender documents on January 31 and expect a decision to be made in late February.