COVENTRY City Council is appealing to the High Court for an interim injunction to remove campaigners from a Spon End site so trees can be knocked down to widen a road.
The protesters are opposing plans to make the B4106 from Hearsall Lane to Windsor Street four lanes. The proposal is part of the authority’s Air Quality Action Plan to reduce pollution and prevent the introduction of a congestion charge similar to London, Birmingham and other cities.
But campaigners say as well as impacting on residents’ lives by bringing traffic closer to their homes the ‘quick fix’ will ‘simply move air pollution around’ rather than solving the issue.
Protestors climbed trees and set up camp, leading to work being temporarily suspended.
A Coventry City Council spokesperson said, “We have made it absolutely clear that if we don’t complete this work to help improve air quality on Holyhead Road we will be mandated by government to implement a charge zone.
“This would mean that people, including residents, would have to pay £12.50 to drive in to the zone – having a negative impact on local people, businesses and visitors.
“No-one wants this so it’s really important that we get on.
“We want to ensure we improve air quality, while enabling people to move easily around and through the city.”
The authority added a range of approaches were needed to achieve the aim and the Spon End changes went ‘hand-in-hand’ with improved walking and cycling routes from Butts Road through Junction 7 to the city as well as average speed cameras to reduce speeds, flood alleviation and street scene improvements.
Environmental campaigners criticised the council, saying it failed to take into account residents’ concerns about worsening air quality, noise, and climate change.
Haydn Chick, from the protest camp at Spon End, said: “Already, Spon End has bad air quality very close to the legal limits.
“We know enlarging roads, just draws in extra cars and trucks – it’s accepted that you cannot build your way out of congestion.
“If the road is enlarged and more traffic is routed into the road, air quality will get worse – and there is a primary school very near this road.
“Children on their playtimes, will be sucking in poison air.”
He added local GPs had reported increasing asthma in recent years as traffic has increased.
Ann Wilson, vice chair of Coventry Tree Wardens, said: “It’s crazy to cut down trees to enlarge roads when we need the trees to absorb carbon and to filter out particulate toxins and we should be discouraging traffic, not facilitating it.
“Outrageously, the trees felled in recent years, in Warwickshire woodlands, at Bennetts Road Keresley, along the A45 and in our city centre are all going for biomass fuel, which exacerbates the climate crisis – burning them puts carbon in the atmosphere now, whereas if we left them standing, the carbon would stay locked up for decades.”
Read our previous story on the campaigners’ views on the project here .