Artist to stand trial over search for secret transport documents

October 8, 2013 by combehavendefenders

Emily Johns (centre in green scarf) attempting to enter the Department for Transport on 8 April 2013.

Emily Johns (centre in green scarf) attempting to enter the Department for Transport on 8 April 2013.

Press Information Note
Combe Haven Defenders [1]
7 October 2013


10am, Friday 11 October, Westminster Magistrates Court [2]: An anti-road campaigner arrested during a peaceful attempt to search the Department for Transport (DfT) for its then-secret recommendations about funding for the controversial £113m Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR) will stand trial in London this Friday.

The campaign against the BHLR – the ‘first and the worst’ of over 200 new road-building projects that the Chancellor, Big Business and local councils are currently pushing throughout England and Wales [3] – has already led to 30 arrests and attracted national media attention [4].

Emily Johns (48), an artist from St Leonards, was arrested on 8 April after trying to enter the DfT to search for the documents [5]. Her actions were part of “Operation Disclosure”, a two-day initiative to search for, copy and distribute the recommendations, which were being withheld from the public [6]. Two months later she was charged with “aggravated trespass”.

The recommendations, which were finally released on 29 April, revealed that “possible, alternative road-based solutions ha[d] not been fully worked through and tested” at the time of the decision to fund the project (in March 2012) [7], and that the DfT had assessed the BHLR as being of “low or medium value for money” – and that it was therefore not a project that the Department would normally consider funding [8]. A recent £13m increase in the cost of the BHLR means it is now a “low value for money” project [9].

Emily Johns said, “”Far from obstructing the work of the Department for Transport, I took action in support of Transport Department civil servants, whose conclusions – that the road was “low or medium value for money” and that East Sussex County Council had dramatically overstated the number of jobs that would be created if the road were built – should have dealt a death-blow to this environmentally disastrous white elephant project.”


[2] Westminster Magistrates Court, 181 Marylebone Road London London England NW1 5BR
[4] See for an online map of the proposals. For background see the Campaign for Better Transport’s October 2012 briefing ‘Going backwards: the new roads programme’: The latter lists 191 projects (more have come to light since then), conservatively costed at £30bn, including 76 bypasses, 56 widened roads, 48 link roads and 9 bridges and tunnels. It also notes that ‘Many of the roads would affect areas protected for conservation, landscape and heritage reasons
incl[uding] three National Parks, the National Wetland of the Norfolk Broads and at least seven Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

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