Homes before roads The "Homes before Roads" movement was formed in 1970 for one purpose only, to publicise more widely the Greater London Development Plan. At that time it was felt by many in the environment lobby that only very few Londoners realised the appalling implications within the Greater London Development Plan. The story of HBR is to be publicised elsewhere although much mention was made of it in an article by Michael Gurstein "Environmental Politics in Britain" (EcologistApril 1971).
Nevertheless the success of the HBR campaign in 1970 should not be underestimated. The economics staff of one national newspaper estimated privately the cash value of the campaign at £1,670,000. This was an estimate based upon the cost of all the space in the local and national press and on the television networks. The two major political parties were forced at this election to discuss the plan and the motorway proposals before the TV cameras and in public.
Many HBR people decided that it was worthwhile continuing with the movement after the election was over, since it had become almost overnight a nationally known campaign and was synonymous with the motorways fight.
Accordingly in the last twenty months HBR has developed and widened its sphere of operation. HBR members have been particularly preoccupied with the Inquiry in the London Plan but have nevertheless been able to help and advise others as far a field as Warwickshire, Herts, Suffolk, Hants and Kent.
One of the problems is that people get in touch with HBR when it is almost too late. The constant refrain is, 'Why didn't they get in touch before?'
The problems which HBR have helped with have not been confined to Motorways. The operation has gone further afield into almost every aspect of planning. Most of the problems which have been considered by HBR would better have been fought on the broader base rather than the parochial. The planners' tactics, like those of the road engineer, are to fragment the opposition by presenting the problem in small pieces. In the case of a road this is done village by village, town by town along the line of the proposed motorway, rather than face an Inquiry into the logic or desirability of the whole. Oddly enough when the whole is considered, more often than not there is very good reason to believe that the road proposed is the wrong road, in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
In the writer's experience this has happened more than once. In these instances what has happened is that thirty years ago someone thought it would be a good idea to widen a particular road. The idea is then carried forward, into "present trend planning logic", to imply that there must be a motorway along this line on the map. In fact no more thought has gone into it than just that.
HBR have provided speakers for meetings, expert witnesses for Inquiries and have arranged local, national and
Motorway development at Reading.
TV coverage for problems both inside and out of the London area. There can be no guarantee to be able to help everyone. HBR is, after all, an ad hoc collection of friends, acquaintances and likeminded people, some 150 in number who believe passionately in their declared defence of the environment and the quality of life.
Members of HBR pay their own expenses since there is no national funding or public subscription. I f the growth of activity continues some other arrangement may become necessary. The strength of HBR may well lie in this since there is no individual search for power.
"Homes before Roads" welcomes all who may have a "similar fight on their hands". They can use the HBR banner and have other HBR friends beside them rather than continue their fight in hopeless isolation.
Anyone or any group, who feel that their case could be strengthened, could do with publicity or technical assistance, are always welcome to get in touch with HBR through Derrick Beecham, 28 Grove Park Gardens, Chiswick, London W.4.