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NEWS FLASH! - Global Anti Incineration Day Protest in Chineham

Click here to view other images of the action.
Greenpeace and anti-incineration activists from all over the UK,
join forces to halt construction of the Chineham Incinerator.
Photo: Courtesy of Greenpeace (Copyright 2002, Greenpeace) 

View photographs of this action, in the BBAC photographic gallery.

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View images of this action throughout the day on the Greenpeace website

Dateline: Monday 17th June, 2002.

Greenpeace, together with an alliance of anti-incineration activists from all over Britain, have halted construction of the Chineham incinerator near Basingstoke.

At approximately 6:30am, some 100+ protestors representing anti-incineration campaigns from all over Britain, took direct action as part of a global protest against incineration, by moving onto the Chineham incinerator site en-masse. Three separate groups of volunteers then climbed to the top of the incinerator and occupied the roof-tops, unfurling a colourful selection of banners along the north face of the site, bearing a range of anti-incinerator messages. 

Small selection of the many banners hung from the site by activists.
Activists display banners bearing a range
of anti-incineration messages.  
Photo: P.McKenzie (BBAC) 

Some protesters strapped themselves into cargo nets, suspended from the unfinished third roof. Other protesters climbed crane equipment and parts of the building substructure. Others even chained themselves to fixtures and railings.

Shortly after 8:00am, Greenpeace issued a Press Release. In it, Greenpeace stated that the Chineham incinerator is just one of of 43 incinerators currently under construction or in the planning stages, throughout Britain. They point out that if the incinerator opens, it will shower the people, animals and farmland of Hampshire with hundreds of toxic chemicals every day, contaminating local food such as milk and farm crops. These chemicals include heavy metals such as arsenic and cancer-causing dioxins - the most poisonous chemicals known to science. One in three of us already takes in more dioxins that the Governments own scientific advisers say is safe.

The news that Greenpeace had chosen the Chineham incinerator site for the national day of action was welcomed by the BBAC.

'As today is Global Anti-Incineration Day, the BBAC and its supporters had planned to visit the site in the afternoon, to show our concern over the massive size of the Chineham incinerator and to voice our continuing opposition to this ridiculous development', said Chris Tomblin, chairman of the BBAC and it's principle spokesman.

'We believe the application process to be fundamentally flawed and we continue to voice our very real health concerns regarding this application. Chineham previously had an incinerator for over 20 years, which is widely believed to be responsible for the contamination of soil with heavy metals and a background dioxin level higher than the most industrialised parts of large cities such as Birmingham'.

'Since the old incinerator was closed in 1996 for violations of EU emission standards, the housing development in Chineham has been greatly expanded, with the bulk of new residents being families with very young children. Hampshire County Council has even sanctioned the building of a new primary school less than half a mile from the incinerator site; a decision that defies common sense and makes a mockery of the concept of best practice.'

Protesters point out that a wide range of scientifically-proven alternatives such as industrial composting, together with more aggressive recycling campaigns render the idea of incineration as outdated,dirty, dangerous and in the long term, far more costly. They also point out that the mere presence of incineration facilities such as the one being built in Chineham will discourage further recycling initiatives, since clauses in the contract between Hampshire County Council and Onyx make the council financially liable for any shortfall in incineration throughput. 'The only problem with these alternatives is that they don't allow companies like Onyx to make huge profits at our expense', one protester commented. Another protester echoed this sentiment by wearing a T-shirt which read: "Only when the last tree is chopped down, the last river polluted and the last fish taken, will we realise that we can't eat money".

Basingstoke police, responded fairly promptly to the action with the first police appearance on site occurring at approximately 7:30am. During the next 6 hours police increased their presence but made no attempt to remove protesters, though they did attempt to restrict site access to both the media anti-incinerator campaigners on the ground. The mood between police and protesters remained good-nature through most of the day however and no arrests were initially made.

Construction workers on the site watched bemused from the sidelines, refusing to enter the site. Others watched the unfolding of events from inside the compound but took no action to move the protesters on. Shortly after 11:30am the bulk of the construction staff, realising that they would be unable to continue work, abandoned the construction site and withdrew to the car park.

A spokesman from Hampshire Waste Services, the division of Onyx responsible for the construction of the Chineham incinerator declined to comment, but later branded the protesters as "industrial terrorists".

Hampshire Waste Services have been criticised by the BBAC and local residents for their handling of the early viability studies on behalf of the Hampshire County Council, which many local residents believe constituted a conflict of interest and for their alleged failure to properly address health and safety issues in their application to operate the new incinerator (which has yet to be approved), made to the Environment Agency.

"Industrial Terrorists" - at least according to Hampshire Waste!Just after 1:00pm, Greenpeace activists unfurled a huge skull & crossbones banner over the west face of the construction site to the delight of campaigners on the ground and in full view of the media representatives present.

Shortly after 4:00pm, a group of 50+ local residents, mostly comprised of concerned parents together with their children and led by Chris Tomblin, marched to the site to voice their concerns and to support the protesters on site. By this time, the police - reinforced by the DSU - had cordoned off access to the site and refused to allow the local citizens to proceed.

Left: Local children make their feelings clear.
Photo: P.McKenzie (BBAC) 

The long arm of the law...under the direction of corporate interest?Local independent councillor Martin Biermann was also in attendance and was particularly concerned that the protesters be given a reasonable opportunity to express their feelings and if they so wished, to show solidarity with the coalition of activists on site.

'Sadly, Hampshire Waste Services showed themselves to be frightened of the orderly and non-intimidating group of local protestors and undertook several manoeuvres in order to gain an exclusion zone around the incinerator site', he said.

Councillor Biermann has also expressed concern that the commercial activities received such vigorous police protection, 'when the key issues, core to the campaigners concerns are so much centred on public safety'.
Above: Councillor Martin Biermann engages
in dialogue with the police, in a valiant but
failed attempt  to gain access to the site for
the residents of Chineham to voice their
opposition. 
Photo: P.McKenzie (BBAC)

From their vantage point on the rooftops, protesters chanted: 'No more burning! No more dust! More recycling is a Must!' and were rewarded with cheering from local residents, who also spontaneously applauded a trio of activists on the ground as they withdrew from the site.

Although the bulk of the protesters withdrew from the site late on Monday afternoon, 25 UK anti-incineration activists spent the night suspended in cargo nets from the framework of a new incinerator in Basingstoke. Served with a possession order on Tuesday morning, they have vowed to stay until construction is permanently halted.

Basingstoke MP Mr Andrew unter visited the site on Tuesday afternoon and was granted permission to approach the site, where he spoke to representatives of the media and reiterated his opposition to the policy of incineration and his concerns regarding the health issues, associated with the this method of waste disposal.

BBAC representatives were present outside the site throughout Tuesday, to offer what support and assistance they could to the activists. Despite the possession order, a number of protesters remained on the rooftops of the site on Tuesday evening. 

On Wednesday morning, aerial bailiffs moved onto the site to remove the remaining activists, still chained to the incinerator structure and at approximately 9:30am the last of the activists were taken from the site in police vans. By this time however, a group of mothers and children, together with representatives of the BBAC had again gathered outside the site with banners and placards and cheered the activists as they were driven away by the police. Throughout the morning, drivers travelling up and down the A30 honked their horns and waved to show their support.

REAL Girl Power!

Above: Local Mothers and BBAC members return to the site to again
show their solidarity for the activists as the police remove them from the site.
Photo: P.McKenzie (BBAC)

Local protesters thanked Greenpeace and all the members of the anti-incineration coalition who took part in the action and have pledged to continue the struggle to permanently shut down the Chineham incinerator and to support the growing number of other anti-incineration groups throughout the UK, wherever possible.

'We hope that this action will be the first step in mobilising the general public to turn their backs on the whole concept of incineration, in favour of more sustainable, cost-effective and cleaner alternatives to the whole issue of municipal waste disposal', said one protester who added: 'it's not a matter of being NIMBYs...we don't want to see this in ANYONE'S back yard'.

---oOo---

 

Groups represented at the Chineham Incinerator Action

  • Greenpeace

  • Action for a Sustainable Bradford

  • Ban the Burn

  • Communities Against Toxics

  • Derby Against Incineration

  • Essex Against Incineration

  • Guildford Anti Incineration Network (GAIN)*

  • Hull Against the Incinerator

  • *

  • Reigate Community Waste Action Project

  • Sandwich Action Group for the Environment

Thank you all, for your effort and support!

Download Greenpeace News Release: basingstoke.zip (46 kb)

This zip archive contains a copy of the official Greenpeace News Release relating to this action. The document is available in Word, PDF and RTF format within the zip file.

 

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